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.