I awoke this morning to find a deep sense of grief had seeped into my blood and bones. And a chaotic mix of emotions sparking through my brain’s axons and dendrites. I sought comfort in like-minded folks on Twitter and returned to Facebook after a period of self-imposed exile. I listened as my 18-year old told me, while readying herself for school, that she feels like she’ll see WW3, and that hers will be the last generation because of humanity’s assault against itself and the planet. A certain consternation settled upon me for the day.
I pondered the mind-blowing nonsense that has Trump winning the Presidency despite having garnered less of the popular vote than his opponent. I pondered the antiquated Electoral College system of voting as a vestige of the ‘American’ Antebellum era, a symbol of the racism underpinning the USA and its foundation as a nation, and a symptom of a society still largely fuelled by white privilege and supremacy as well as a subversive kind of elitism. And I pondered the label evil – I’ve seen it waved about today and applied to the President-elect – and the way in which it rings hollow.
We use the word evil to whitewash situations that leave us feeling uncomfortable. It helps us distance ourselves from any culpability we may have in how events have transpired. It creates more space so we can continue shoving the undesirable stuff under the rug, and ignore the growing elephant on the table, the one sucking all the oxygen from the room. Because when we call someone evil, we excuse ourselves from having to call them on their shit and take the opportunity to create a teaching moment in which we can effect real change and progress. If someone is evil, then we are victims, rendered helpless. And we have let ourselves off the hook. That seems far too easy. And quite problematic, in the sense that this very thinking has got us to this point, where drug-resistant TB and end-stage Syphilis became Presidential candidates and end-stage (i.e. irreversible) Syphilis wins. When we use the word evil to describe someone, we relieve ourselves of any personal responsibility we have to effect change. Evil means we’ve failed to realise that each of us has the potential for heroism and villainy, and that, at any time, we can alter our own course on this path.
So, I refuse to dismiss the President-Elect and his Vice-President-Elect as evil. I think of them as misguided, ignorant, lost in the clutches of greed and self-aggrandisement. I think of them as products of a certain culture which forged their characters. And I think of their supporters as disenfranchised, and perhaps also misguided. What of myself, then? Well, being a Canadian and living in Canada, I had no vote in this election. Still, I had friends who did have votes in this election. And my failure lies in the fact that I remained silent while one friend said that the US government ought to place Muslims in internment camps the way they did with the Japanese during WW2, cited Benghazi as a reason for Clinton’s unworthiness of office while ignoring the 13 consular attacks and 60 associated deaths that occurred during Dubya’s administration, and then openly expressed support for a candidate who did not know what Aleppo is and said that Obi Wan Kenobi was his favourite foreign leader. I cringed on hearing each of these statements, they left a foul taste in my mouth.
Yet, fear of reprisal for speaking out and fear of rejection of my friendship kept me silent. And continued to keep me silent as I listened to further statements dripping with racist undertones and underscored by the sentiment of white privilege, such as refusal to feel any guilt or responsibility for the situation of African Americans, feeling slighted by the notion of white privilege, wishing for the Antebellum era, because of the so-called civility that defined it. As the descendant of indentured peoples, I had a great deal of trouble reconciling these statements with those individuals who voiced them. I have always naively believed that love could be enough. And today, well I find myself calling that into question.
How can I respect someone who extols the virtues of values which diminish the worth of people based upon skin colour and ethnicity? How can I love a person who hates? I think I am probably supposed to, however, I find I cannot. To do so would seem a betrayal of my values and of my identity. Because, my father descends from indentured peoples, and not from plantation owners. Because, as a person of colour I have spent a lifetime digging myself out from under the hatred piled upon me by racists. So much racist hatred have I endured that I internalised it, coming to loathe my own ethnicity and wishing to trade my Indo-Caribbean heritage for an Anglo Saxon one.
I feel like I need to cut away connections to those in my circle who have decided to hate, who have chosen to deny the existence of white privilege and who live their lives revelling in the supremacy of their whiteness. It hurts me right now to maintain a personal connection with these individuals. I don’t know that I will always feel this way. I only know that self-preservation dictates the actions I must take. And so my circle has become smaller. And so much more valuable. Still, I struggled with this decision. In the same way I struggled to accept the realisation that it was misguided to love the man who tried to kill me. Know that I feel this crisis of conscience that deeply and intensely.
I came across a few social media posts that took quite a dismissive tone toward those of us who feel deep grief, betrayal and rage at the election results and their societal implications. Despite what good intentions may underlie these rallying cries to stop whining and press on, they seemed to me like a kick in the gut. Because, when you’ve spent a lifetime struggling to belong and gain acceptance, and when you have begun to believe that maybe this time you just might get it, only to have people you considered friends throw you under the bus for some asinine and mythical cultish political rhetoric, you maybe need a day or two or five to grieve and regroup before donning your warrior outfit and sending yourself back out to battle.