Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Don't Look Away


Don’t look away. I know how hard it is to say this but don’t look away. All of those images, recordings, and other horrific accounts of the deplorable, sickening, and unconstitutional events at the camps they have set up along the southern border need to be your fuel to take action, get fired up, and take back this country from those that would want to destroy everything we hold dear.

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I’ve written a lot about how the 2016 election has impacted my family. If you want to catch up on any of those posts, you can click here:
I didn’t think I’d be writing a series about my family post-2016, but if I learned anything, it is that the personal is political, and sadly, things don’t seem to be getting any better.

In the third volume of this ongoing series of misfortunate events, we start back at the very beginning except for this time, involving another family member that voted for Trump (I know, I don’t know how or why I have so many members of my family that voted for that Nazi). In what has become a news story and crisis to shock the world, many people have been taking to their personal social media accounts to spread the word of their outrage, distress, and heartache over children being ripped away from their families at the border. For days I did not see one post that was not talking about the humanitarian crisis at the border or calls for action and ways people could get involved to help.

While I was happy to see so many people trying to find a way to organize and take action, there always seems to be one person who calls on people to look away. Look no further than a member of my family, who voted for Trump, to comment on a status expressing outrage over the recordings of children being ripped away from their families stating: “Why can’t fb just be positive and fun. Why spread the negative?”

Why can’t social media be fun anymore? Why can’t we spread happy pictures of puppies, babies, and rainbows? While the answer may be simple to many of us, let me state it plainly to my relative: Because the world is on fire and we have a racist in the White House creating edicts that call for babies and children to be placed in ‘tender age’ facilities.

52% of white women voted for Trump. While that number still continues to shock many of us, my relatives are part of that statistic, and that is something that I have had to grapple with in order to make sense of this new world order we seem to be experiencing. However, what really is behind that statistic is the real monster responsible for both so many actions we have seen lately and ultimately the reason why someone would state: “Why can’t fb just be positive and fun?”

White privilege is the monster ripping children away from babies. White privilege is the beast that causes white mothers simply look away and find something more pleasing to look at on social media than the horrors going on throughout the world. White privilege is the invisible knapsack that 52% of white women are going to have to unpack if we are to ever get our country back.

Following the comment on social media, my relative reached out and said she wanted to: “save the welfare of our family” because as many of you have read, there has been a little bit of drama. However, before any action could be taken to “save the welfare of our family” (she literally wanted us to each post a cute photo of a baby or puppy to help make sure HER Facebook timeline was filled with cute photos rather than the news) she blocked my other relatives on social media.

So, that leaves me with little but nothing else to say than this: If you want to save the welfare of our family, then you start by not voting for and supporting the policy of a known racist. However, most importantly, you do not look away when you see something that upsets you. Question yourself as to why it upsets you.
Grandpa Jim - Holocaust Article
If we learned anything from history it is that those that looked away were not favorably remembered by history. From people that looked away when women fought for the right to vote, when the Nazis took Jews to concentration camps, to when African Americans were (and still are) beat up, attacked, and killed for wanting civil rights and equality, people that look away are part of the problem.

I never really talk about my grandfather that much. To be quite honest, he was a very quiet man that I didn’t get to know that much. What I do know is that he did not look away. My grandpa was part of the first U.S. anti-aircraft battalions that arrived at Dachau Concentration Camp the morning after being liberated by the U.S. Army’s 42nd and 45th infantry division.

In a time where two-thirds of millennial and 4 out of 10 Americans overall don’t know what Auschwitz was, we need to make sure people do not look away from the tragedy and horrors around us for the sake of seeing something that comforts them. The scene that my grandfather discusses in the article (photo attached) is forever etched in his memory and while I don’t offer to speak for anyone but myself, what I have seen over the past few weeks (let alone the last two years, remember Charlottesville? I do!) will never leave my memory.

So, to my family member that is craving, albeit pleading, for people to look away, I say this: history will not kindly remember you.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Happy Anniversary

It has been quite the year.  From the Women’s March in January, the Resist March in June, to the #MeToo Survivors’ March in November, we continue to drive the conversation of the “resistance” forward and shed light on important issues and movements that have taken over the American zeitgeist since the early stages of 2016 Presidential election until now.  While many of the actions to come out of the Trump administration have forced both myself and many others, to grow as both people and activists, there is still one thing that I cannot get over: my non-existent relationship with my Aunt and Uncle (who are also my godparents).

Much like I promised on that fateful day where we finally had it out, I swore I would never speak to them again until I received an apology.  Now, while you may be assuming that the apology I want is a result of their voting for then-candidate Trump, I must say nothing could be further from the truth.  Although I do understand that people have lost and ended numerous relationships with family members, friends, partners, or lovers as a result of a person’s private voting booth decision, I am not in that camp. 

Yes, I’m sure I have retweeted or posted stuff that said: “defriend me if you actually voted for this man,” or something of that nature, I can assure you that the feud I am having with my Aunt and my Uncle is not a result of their decision to vote for President Trump (no matter how much it bothers me).  The real reason for our fight stems back to an article I shared on Facebook from the South Florida newspaper the Sun Sentinel titled: “Voter anger over Trump’s election goes deeper than Clinton’s loss.”  The only addition to the long quote that I pulled from the article was: “This pretty much sums up ALL of my feelings regarding friends/family that voter for Trump.”  While the fight would soon consume our family, the facts, much like with the 2016 Election, quickly got away from everyone and were itself a parody that even I couldn’t have made up. 

I was walking back into work at my old job at West Hollywood City Hall when I noticed that my Aunt Mary Lou, who, I had spent most of my time with growing up as most of my mother’s other family lived in Florida, commented on the aid Facebook post.  Her comment was as follows:


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I want to mention that I had not spoken to or talked with my Aunt and Uncle (whom I know we're always going to vote for Trump) about the election.  I knew we did not see eye-to-eye on it and it would only cause discord.  For those of you that know you, know that this almost seems like an anomaly.  I am not one to hold back and I have no problem telling people how I feel.  However, when it came to my Aunt and Uncle, it wasn’t worth the strife that would come up as a result of me commenting on her posts on her Facebook page (most of which were made up of fake news stories that Russians used to target vulnerable people in swing states like Wisconsin but I digress).  I even would tell my sisters, who are much better people than I could ever hope to be, that she has a right to say whatever she wants on her own personal Facebook page and not to worry as I was almost positive, much like everyone else, that Hillary Clinton would win. 

While I do not intend to rehash the devastation the 2016 election had and continues to have over myself (you can more about that here), all I will say is that I continued to not engage with her or her posts because I was hurting.  However, it was in that moment when I got the notification that she had commented on the article I shared that all bets were off.

What followed was a long, drawn-out, nasty fight online (where most fights seem to occur these days).  I will be the first to say that I too am guilty of saying mean things; however, they were a direct result of a comment made by my Aunt’s sister Nancy that I said such things:


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What really made me mad wasn’t that they were attacking me online after I had never said a thing to them (don’t get me wrong, this hurt) but the sheer fact that they were equating my sharing the article as me critiquing them on who they voted for. 

I want to be really clear: I never told them who to vote for because I never spoke to them until after the election.  I agree with Nancy that as an American citizen she has the freedom to vote for whomever she wants.  To make matters worse, my Aunt, and subsequently her sister, much like the fake news that is now part of our daily vernacular, thought that the article that I shared was actually written by me.  They were too busy to actually read the article and see that, although I wish I had written it, was a letter to the editor of the Sun Sentinel. 

Now, do not get me wrong, I clapped back to Nancy’s comment.  It has since been edited as a result of constant pleas from family members to not make private family business public but I refuse to take down the post or the subsequent comments down.  While I thought the post was old news after a few days of no activity, it wasn’t until I was walking around Disneyland, you know, the “happiest place on the planet,” and felt my phone buzzing.  Aunt Mary Lou had commented:


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Although I won’t go further into the details of the back-and-forth, all of this sums down to the fact that I no longer speak to my Aunt (and subsequently my Uncle) because I was attacked, online by both her and her sister.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not happy they voted for Trump.  However, what makes them different from my other family members that also voted for Trump is, they did not attack me on my personal Facebook page. 

I’m mad.  I’m upset.  I’m still very hurt.  I’m not happy that two people that watched me grow up, supported me, and loved me choose to go this route.  However, I am, if anything, a man of my word.  When I said, that I would never, ever, speak to them again until I got an apology, I meant it; and I’m still waiting. 

I was recently asked: why don’t you just give up?  My answer: because I still believe in them.  I still know, that although they voted for the vilest human being, I still love them and hope that one day they will see the light.  This past election has destroyed so much, but I refuse to let it destroy the one thing about me that I believe in the most: love.  I will continue to “do all the good I can, for all the people I can, in all the ways I can, as long as ever I can” no matter what.

It’s their move, and it begins with I’m and ends with sorry. 

*This post was originally published on the Engaged Gaze

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pride

If you’re anything like me you not only hate opening up your Twitter feed each morning but also feel compelled to in order to make sure you didn’t miss whatever new atrocity to come out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After the Women’s March, I felt charged. I felt that whatever this administration threw at the proverbial “us,” I knew we could and would overcome it. Although that charge kept me going for a few months, there came a time where I just couldn’t go on anymore and that I was completely drained; then walked in a man named Brian Pendleton.

After the Women’s March on January 21, I didn’t know what to expect. The event was truly so successful that many of the organizers and coordinators were on an activist high as a result of what was a truly magical and divine moment. A few months came and went and the 45th President of the United States continued (much to our surprise) to be as awful as we all knew and expected. However, while I am able to exist in a world, no matter how oppressive, as a cisgendered white male and the full on privilege and power that comes along with that territory, many of the individuals and communities being attacked did not have those same freedoms; and like with the Women’s March and how that all took shape, in walked Brian Pendleton to my life to talk to me about the #ResistMarch.
Cover Photo

Although my involvement during the 120 days or more that led up to the #ResistMarch happened in a flash, one thing is for certain: miracles exist not because of divine intervention but because G-d places people on this Earth to make positive impacts. The beauty of the #ResistMarch was not just the passion of the organizers but the beauty of the rainbow that came out in full force on June 11.

The strength shown by our community was one that, for all intensive purposes, proves that love does conquer all. RuPaul couldn’t have expressed the common and conquering theme better than when he said: “It’s all about love; giving love and being able to receive love. That’s our secret weapon; that’s the one thing they don’t have: our love and our music. That is our activism. That is what we use and what we always use to fight the ugliness.”

That is the one experience that I took most out of the #ResistMarch: the power of love and friendship; the beauty in the unexpected conversation that leads to changing the world, again.  Thank you, Brian. Thank you, for bringing us all together to resist, recharge, and love.

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When we come together, we are the Divine.  I didn't think I could experience that twice in one year; clearly, I was wrong.