Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Welcome to the Resistance

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to make important decisions. What do I believe in? Who do I want to be? What and who will I stand up for? There has been a lot going on in the world lately and a lot of it, sadly, is pretty awful. While people are learning pretty quickly that elections have very real and long-lasting consequences, what is critical to overcome the next 4-years of this fascist regime isn’t just that we are taking to the streets to make our voices heard but we are willing to disrupt society at every turn to make sure that people on the other side of the proverbial political coin know we will not go gently into that good night.
I’ve been questioning G-d a lot lately; wondering what has happened to that shining “City on a hill” that John Winthrop called for in his 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.” The idea that the United States of America is “G-d’s country” due to the American exceptionalism present but not only the rich bounty of land and resources many would soon land upon but also the potentiality that America represented in a world full of monarchs.
Many Presidents have often recited the very same idea to the American populous. From John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, America, although diverse and full of various communities from all walks of life, always presented a rich idea that we would be a beacon for prosperity, freedom, and dreamers. For myself (and many others I’m sure), that idea was called into question on November 8, 2016. We had come so far in the struggle for and the potential achievement of the “American Experiment” to fall before we got to the top and, as we have all felt since then, hit every jagged rock on our journey back down to the bottom. However, what we need to remember is that we’re not anywhere close to the bottom yet; all the symbolic bruises and scars we each have will only continue to grow as we keep tumbling down the rabbit hole.
Although the hits keep coming I refuse to let them get me down. I refuse to sit back and watch the country and communities I love be attacked by a tyrant and his cronies looking to cash in on people’s lives.
On January 21, 2017, I saw the resistance rise. For me, the Women’s March was more than just 750,000 people from all walks of life taking part in a communal action across the world, it was an accumulation of what is not only possible but also the hope and dream of what is still to come.
What a lot of people do not know is that while I too, was a part of the crowd, I was also behind the scenes working on the march here in Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to be 1 of the 13 co-organizers of the march which consisted of a group of women I now call my heroes.  Although I do not think that I’ll ever be able to put into words what the march or being part of its organization means to me, the one thing I do know for sure, now, more than ever, is that we are always stronger together.
At the march, we went from “I” to “We.” We became part of something that we will never be able to understand. If that isn’t G-d, I do not know what else it would be. While November 8 had me questioning my faith, January 21 brought it back full force.
The night before the march, I was with three of my closest friends. We laughed, we cried, we shared in the love that we have for this country and most importantly, the love we have for each other. Falling asleep that night, the following quote kept me awake at night and I didn’t understand why until I got home after the march. The quote is:
The Devil whispered in my ear,
“You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.”
Today I whispered in the Devil’s ear,
“I am the storm.”
While I believe the quote is perfect as it is, the only thing that I’d change is that on January 21, “I” didn’t just whisper in the Devil’s ear, “We” did.
Welcome to the resistance, my friends. The march happened. We all went home changed and more awake than ever before. Now, the only remaining question I have for you is: what’s next?
John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University and holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies.  His areas of focus are women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, LGBT history, American religious history, and 20th and 19th-century American women’s history.  John is currently the Community Events Technician for the City of West Hollywood where he works on community events related to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues.   

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Letter to those I’ve Lost

Dear [Insert Name Here],
Something died on November 8, 2016, and I do not think I’ll ever be able to get it back. I sat there, walking back to my house, in disbelief and utter shock and scared for the next 4-years of my life.
For weeks leading up to the election, I had found myself praying in the copy room at my work almost daily. I would sit there, silent and alone, having just read some misleading article or alt-right post from a family member that called Hillary Clinton the devil, and wonder: when did everything go so off the rails?
Although we’ll spend years trying to figure the answer to my above question out, for me, it is a question I have been asking myself ever since election night and specifically knowing how certain members of my family would, and ultimately did, vote.  
I’ve always known that I had Republican family members (don’t we all?). However, what made this so troubling is that the election of Donald Trump was not just a normal Republican that they were voting for. This was the election of a man who would not only go after my rights as a citizen but also the rights of my female family members, friends, and a large-majority of people in my life that have always and were certain to become the main targets for further bigotry, hatred, and violence. I thought, at least for a second, that when they entered the voting booth, this would be in the back of their mind. They’d sit there, before selecting their nominee, and think about how Donald Trump would ultimately hurt a member of their family, directly and indirectly; boy, was I wrong.
I expressed my concern to my sisters; having told them I was deeply troubled by certain members of my family having voted for Donald Trump having known and supported me as an openly gay man my whole life. How could someone that proclaims to love me, vote for a Presidential ticket where the Vice-President had advocated for electrocution of LGBT people to “correct” them and cure their homosexuality?
From that simple conversation, life in my family only got more complicated and much more contentious. If you know me, I’m not one to not directly engage with those that disagree with me. However, in this case, I never directly engaged any of my Republican family members out of the respect and sheer ability to see what would (and did) happen if I did. The situation only seemed to get worse. I shared an op-ed that I did not write stating that it “pretty much summed up how I felt about family and friends that voted for Trump.” The article stated that although I respect your choice to vote for whoever you wish, if you think for a second that I’ll forget that you voted for a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic demagogue hell-bent on destroying the very fabric of America, then you have another thing coming. Upon sharing this article, my Republican family members confirmed that “we will not be coming together ever again” while members of their extended family proceeded to also viciously attack me.
In the sense of full disclosure, I did fight back and engage with these family and extended family members in a not so cordial way after their bombardment of attacks made it almost impossible for me not to while also casting doubt if I could ever look them in the eyes, let alone ever speak/see them, again. Having fully known what was occurring, I demand and still to this day await an apology for my family members attacking me without provocation. I refuse to speak or see them ever again until they own up to attacking me for my political beliefs, something that I never did to them.
The worst part of this election is that it has completely destroyed my wiliness to further engage with “those people.” I no longer care to make it a top priority of mine to reach out beyond the proverbial political aisle to hear about what they have to say; especially after they shared fake news articles about Hillary Clinton running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a pizza place or the countless other horribly vicious things they said.  
Maybe, our country is doomed after all. Maybe, our country deserves a ruthless dictator who will lie, cheat, and steal his way into the White House and destroy the very lives of those people that ended up putting him there in the process. Maybe, this is the type of President my Republican family members, who all benefit from the Social Security and Medicare programs likely to be on the chopping block in the next 4-years, deserve.
Out of all of these things, the one thing that has kept coming to my mind is G-d. What is he (or she) thinking? I feel like I’m back in one of my Old Testament classes discussing the harsh and cruel G-d that thrust so many horrible things onto their believers. Maybe, the worst part about the election isn’t Donald Trump, but it is the realization that G-d may be dead after all.
Whatever happens, the only thing that I know for sure is that I will never stop fighting. I will never stop fighting the bigotry, the hatred, and lies, the slander, and most importantly the fear that is going to be washing over the communities I care most about throughout these next four (and G-d forbid) or eight years of a Trump Presidency. I will never forget the lies and attacks thrust upon me by family members that I once took pleasure seeing and interacting with. I will never forget the hatred you endorsed with your vote and I will make sure that countless others like myself hold their family members that voted in similar fashions accountable as well.
I vow to never stop fighting and believing that we are stronger together both now and more so in the future. I vow to do all the good I can, for all the people I can, in all the ways I can, as long as I can.
John Erickson
John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University and holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies.  His areas of focus are women's, gender, and sexuality studies, LGBT history, American religious history, and 20th and 19th-century American women's history.  John is currently the Community Events Technician for the City of West Hollywood where he works on community events related to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues.   He is, and will not be over, the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election for a very long time.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The End is Nigh

When I was a little boy I was terrified that I would live to experience the end of the world.  Whether it was by an asteroid, Y2K, or a zombie plague, I would make myself sick by picturing these horrible things that could befall me and my family.  Although I was a precocious child, the crippling fear that would lurch its way up my stomach and into my head would sometimes make it impossible to sleep at night.  While I like to think I grew out of that phase, I now sit here feeling that way again.  I’m crippled with fear that the end of the world is at hand and there may be nothing we can do to stop it.   How will the world end? No, it isn’t Lucifer himself coming from hell to bring in the end times, it is someone far worse, and his name is Donald Trump.
By the time you’re reading this post, the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will have occurred and, no matter where you look, the aftermath will haunt us for weeks to come.  We will either be sitting here, coaxing in the sunlight that Clinton has, in proper fashion, just goaded Trump into revealing to the 100 or so million viewers that will have chimed in to viewing how completely dangerous he truly is, or will we be scurrying to uncover decade old bunkers that were used during the 1950s and the Cold War to take shelter from the fallout to come should, Donald Trump become the next President of the United States.
Clinton, Trump pick up big wins
However, as I sit here and write this, I wonder what levels of prognosticating can I accurately do?  I predict Trump will make sexist remarks, act totally unhinged when fact-checked by either Clinton or the (Republican) moderator Lester Holt and, most likely, use the phrase “believe me” more than a Second Great Awakening circuit preacher.  Or, will he be muzzled, refrained, and attempt to, in his own particular fashion, act Presidential.  To be honest, I do not know which version of Trump scares me more; the unhinged or the hinged Trump.
I’ve written about Clinton on this blog before, during her primary battle with Senator Bernie Sanders.  I have never seen so many comments, masked with faint hints at sexism, coming from people that I not only respect but also thought would see the ultimate test that she (or Bernie) would have to face: Donald Trump.  Comment after comment called into question many of her policies that, should she had been born a man, would have made her qualified, tough or a skilled General not afraid to make the difficult decisions. 
Having read her book, Hard Choices, I can honestly say that I do not think I have ever studied or investigated a candidate that was more qualified to serve as President; and when the current President backs that up, you have to begin to question what your real motives are for not voting for Clinton, and potentially giving your vote (which equates an endorsement) to a third party candidate or worse, simply not voting at all.   Countless times I have had to discuss that this election, although it really comes down to good versus evil, is the most important election that you or myself will vote in (yes, I know, some of you reading this see no difference between Trump and Clinton) for the next twenty or so years.  Ask yourself: do you really know what you’ll be losing if Trump is elected? 
For me, this all boils down to one thing: my nieces and nephews.  I worry about them constantly.  I worry about what they watch on TV, what they’ll read for the next 8 years, or whom they will look up to or what horrible things bullies may one day say to them.  While I was home in Wisconsin this past weekend, I sat down to have a quick bite to eat at one of my favorite establishments.  I opened my book and began reading to only overhear a man and a woman talking about Clinton and Trump and how they were completely torn.  I turned around, apologized for intruding into their conversation and began to speak to them about why they felt they couldn’t vote for Clinton and what it was about Trump that put them on the edge as well.  Their answers were about character and what they really wanted their grandchildren to go up experiencing.  I quickly went over the list of the things Trump had said not only about women but also about people with disabilities and, people in general and asked: Is that the person you want your grandchildren growing up and seeing as the President?  A man that calls women bimbos, mocks a person with a disability in front of thousands of people, and frequently calls for violence against non-white individuals?  I shared with them that, for me, it was about my two nieces (and my two nephews) but more so my nieces, growing up during their formative years and seeing a woman holding the highest office in the land.  Yes, she isn’t just any woman but, a woman in my opinion who is more qualified that anyone ever to hold the office of the Presidency.  This race is about the future that they grow up in and one where I hope people will begin to more readily recognize the inherent sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. rather than encourage it from the oval office.  
Before you cast your vote, please make sure you think about the future; please make sure you think about the boys and girls that will grow up in a world with President Trump versus President Clinton.  Think about that little boy, petrified, standing here now as a grown man worried about the end of the world not because his candidate could lose, but because the person that could win, has a very good chance and ushering in the end times as we know it and ending any type of progress that has occurred in the past 8-years.  
Whatever you do, make sure you vote.  Make sure you sit there and think not only about yourself but also the U.S. Supreme Court, women’s rights, LGBT rights, communities of color, education, or the countless other topics that will be greatly impacted by the outcome of the November 8th election.  If you do anything, think about the world we have now and the world you want to be in 4 to 8 years from now and ask yourself: is a protest or no vote really worth the bleak world we may get as a result of it?
If you’re on the fence, please reach out to me; let me know what your issues are and we can speak about it in the hopes of coming to an understanding of what the future could hold for all of us.  I can be reached via email at - ericksonjohn1985@gmail.com or on Twitter @JErickson85.
No matter what you do, make sure you vote on November 8.  It will be the most important thing you do not only on that day but also for years to come. 
John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. He is a Permanent Contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Non-Fiction Reviewer for Lambda Literary, the leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news since 1989 and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion's Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation. He is currently the President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh's LGBTQA+ Alumni Association, the Vice- Chair of Public Relation and Social Media for the Stonewall Democratic Club, and the Non-Profit and Governmental Liaison for the Hollywood Chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women). When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he is the Community Events Technician and works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter@JErickson85