America: Great for Golden Girls and White Nationalism

One of the interesting things about living away from your home country is that when you come back to visit, you notice how things have changed. Not just little things like new buildings or stores in your local hood, but larger trends and societal changes.

For example, this time around I really noticed a change in TV. The cable channels have really adapted to the Netflix viewing model, and allow their viewers to binge watch their favorite TV shows. That was kind of great. I got to watch Fresh Prince, Golden Girls, and Forensic Files pretty much non-stop whenever I was in my hotel room. I was totally okay with that.

I picked up on some fashion changes too. Nothing major, but I did see a slight rise in floral patterns and colored cuffs on men’s shirts. Considering both those things are very Japanese, that surprised me a little bit. Not a big fan of that style, but whatever.

Oh yeah, I also noticed the rise of ethno-nationalism, white supremacy, and fascist ideals being put forth in mainstream discussion.

I was a lot less okay with that.

When Trump won last year, I vowed to my friends and family that I would not be returning to the States for as long as he was president. That ended up being a hollow promise. For all my blowhard statements and defiant attitude, I’m still beholden to my mom. And if she wants me to come out and see her because she’s having a pretty tough year, then that’s what I’m going to do.

So along with my boyfriend, I spent the past week in the States. And what a week I picked to go, with violent clashes in Charlottesville between white neo-nazi motherfuckers and people who aren’t complete pieces of shit leaving one poor woman dead and several more seriously injured. Of course, as you probably know, as tragic as that was, Trump’s ongoing response to the attack just made it all the worse. First refusing to mention white supremacy or nationalism in his response, then halfheartedly doing so a few days later, then doubling-down on his original statement by insisting that “both sides” (remember, one side included literal Nazis) had “very fine people.”

That was sickening. It made my stomach do somersaults and my blood boil. But then it got somehow even worse, as many of his staunch defenders still took his side – even has he was literally defending actual Nazis. People on TV were actually debating the merits of Nazi ideas and white supremacist beliefs in America in 2017. And they were doing it like it was okay.

Made me pretty happy that I could watch Golden Girls at a moment’s notice.

I knew that America would change  from the one I knew the longer I spent away. And that’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a thing. That’s life. But to see it take such a turn, and so quickly, it’s frankly incomprehensible to me. I just don’t understand it. You Americans reading this, you do realize just how quickly things have changed, right? How this shit wouldn’t have flown just eight months ago? How quickly the standards have plummeted thanks to that orange asshole’s unbelievable idiocy and hatred?

It boggles the mind and fills me with emotions that I can’t process or deal with in the least. First and foremost I have anger. It’s an anger with seemingly no bounds. Just when I feel that I’ve reached my limits, something else happens and I get even angrier. And the anger has no place to go. It just festers. I give money to charities and organizations that I feel do good in the world, but aside from that, my anger is entirely impotent, without recourse or resolve.

So the anger gives way to frustration, and the frustration morphs into confusion. How did this happen? How did we let it happen? How can we fix it? What the hell is wrong with everyone?

Where the fuck did empathy go? Sympathy? Humanity? What’s become of us?

Have we (we being Americans but also humanity as a whole) ever truly been good? America is a country founded on theft, built on slavery and maintained thanks to an unofficial caste system based largely on race and ethnicity. This is who we are. But somehow we’ve been able to convince the world that we’re the moral authority of the globe, that we’re a shining beacon of hope and equality.

That’s now obviously not true, but I don’t think that it’s ever been true, the more that I think about it.

The changes I’ve seen in regards to fascism, nationalism and racism aren’t really changes in attitude, they’re changes in acceptance. America has always been a place full of vile, hate-filled monsters, they just used to hide it just enough to make us feel good about our country. But in the few years since I left, they’ve obviously decided that they don’t need to hide it anymore. And they’re right. They’re taking over. Shit, they’ve taken over.

I was in a hotel in Portland buying something from the front desk when I noticed the guy next to me checking in. He was white, with a bad goatee and unkempt hair. He had on jean shorts, and a red t-shirt. The back of the shirt read “proud to be in the basket of deplorables,” a reference to Hillary Clinton’s speech where she dubbed a large portion of Trump’s base as racists, sexists and/or homophobes. There he was, proclaiming he was one of them, happily so.

For a second, I wanted to speak up. First, I thought about just harassing him. Maybe throwing a “heil Trump” his way, or just calling him a fucking Nazi piece of shit. Then I thought that might be too much. They always say that we need to change hearts and minds if we’re going to make the world a better place. So I thought about engaging him, trying to discuss my feelings in a rational and sane way.

Then I thought about grabbing him by his deplorable shirt and pounding his face into a pulp, tearing his nuts off, and then throwing him out the window.

Instead I did nothing. I was complacent. Because I knew that nothing I could say or do could make him change his mind.

And that’s what depressed me the most about all of this, how unbeatable it seems. It’s really easy to tempt someone over to the darkside, to blame minorities and immigrants for their problems, to show them that their fears are real and that hatred is the only solution. But it’s really fucking hard to sit them down and talk to them, to explain to them that the world is a bit more complex than they thought it was, to show them the importance of hope and tolerance, or even just to kick their face in until they can’t spread their bigotry anymore.

I just feel that it’s going to get a hell of a lot worse before it even has a chance of getting better. So if you’re trapped in America, I feel for you. If you’re up for it, get in the streets and fight for what’s right. But if you just can’t face the world, I’m not going to judge you if you decide to hunker down with some Little Caesar’s Pizza and a Golden Girls marathon instead.

One Response to America: Great for Golden Girls and White Nationalism

  • Oliver Twitt says:

    I was at Gencon over the week. Largest board game and hobby convention in the States. 80,000+ people in attendance. We met up with some friends of a friend (let’s call him Friend A), people I’ve never seen before, and spent several hours joyously chatting and drinking before sitting down to play a game. That game was “Secret Hitler” a social deduction game where some players are secretly Fascists and the others Liberals. The Fascists are trying to enact fascist policies while pretending to be Liberals. The liberals are trying to find out who Hitler is and either kill him or enact liberal policies. Nobody, except the Fascists, know who each other are.

    This game is a hit in my group as we’re all like minded individuals. We joke about enacting Fascist policies, pretending we’re Trump killing the EPA or banning transexuals from the military. We teach the rules by saying “just like in real life there are two kinds of people: liberals and fascists.” We do our best impressions, enacting “tremendous, tremendous” policies. It’s a needed laugh riot to us who were devastated last November and need something to blow some steam off.

    We split up and my friends return to the hotel room to play something else. One of my friends, let’s call him Friend B, turns on Friend A and says that while everyone was away the friends of Friend A started to have a conversation about how they supported Donald Trump. Friend B, a gay man with a problematic history of homophobic family, simply got up and left while announcing he wouldn’t talk to that group anymore. This man loves a good argument, he will challenge anyone on any viewpoint and can talk for literal hours about a single subject but here he simply got up and walked away.

    I couldn’t help but say that I was similarly disappointed in hearing this. Friend A’s friends were gracious and friendly and I was under the assumption they thought like him. Maybe they waited to speak their true opinions when I, a black man, left the table. Maybe I would have engaged them if I was there at the time. I thought about what to say the next time we met, if I was going to crack jokes or shun them but I just didn’t have the heart. They continued to be friendly, I continued to be friendly. After all, they sat through 2 hours of me literally asking them “are you Hitler?” I can only hope that my presence changed their perspective.

    America hasn’t changed. We live an hour from Charlottesville, where the presence of the Klan and Confederate nostalgia has always existed. We also live an hour from D.C. where the richest Americans, almost entirely Liberal elite, live. It’s a southern state that voted Blue in the last three elections. Last week wasn’t anything new, it was just a boiling point where the rest of the country can finally see what has remained in the shadows since the 60s.

    Perspective shapes our lives. Most people have never left their country, let alone their hometown. Most people are a-political, the voter turnout is proof of that, and the most politics they involve themselves with is every 4 years. And most of us live in an echo chamber. We surround ourselves with like minded individuals, sever connections with people who fundamentally disagree with us, and assume everyone will think and act like us. You’ve seen this change firsthand having lived in another country, but most people aren’t capable or willing of seeing things from a fresh perspective.

    But what’s happening now is the best possible reaction to current events. You can’t really change minds with conversation, you change minds through action. You have to be better than the opposition, because the opposition will divide you among your like minded peers. They’ll create terms like the alt-left and pick out your flaws. But the downfall of Fascisms is the same. Nazis running over people in the streets, marching with their flags, getting chased down by crowds of thousands is actively harming the people they’re trying to rally. In a week since Unite the Right dozens of cities have passed legislation to remove their Confederate memorabilia. Steve Bannon was fired, and let me tell you he is a man who holds a grudge and will be Trump’s strongest opponent on the alt-right platform. Trump himself has two Grand Jury inquiries and all it takes is a threat of indictment and he’ll resign within a year.

    I guess this long ass post is just me saying “America is getting better.” My dad remembers when he couldn’t go to a white school, and that he thought it was the worst times, but that civil rights also skipped a generation. The 80s and 90s were such a time of excess that the structural racism America was built on was ignored. But now we’ve seen the buildup from Obama’s era, and the forceful rise of extremist in the wake of Trump and the country is finally waking the fuck up.

    That man with the deplorable shirt is on the wrong side of history. He’ll either recognize it before it’s too late, or he’ll join that group of 100 in Boston surrounded by thousands of woke folks shouting him down.

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