Last weekend my band, Great Reversals, was lucky enough to jump on the road for five days with our new friend Greg Bennick. In Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boonton, Columbus, and Detroit we played our seven song set of what's lately been called "passionate hardcore" music and he, a professional public speaker and philanthropist, gave a forty minute spoken-word set about our relationships to power and authority. That is, of course, the bare bones description of it. After about two days I delightfully started calling Greg "the responder" because of how much he felt pulled to social media to combat those responding in favor of our new President-Elect and those who felt comfortable dragging those conversations into the sewer by spewing hate-filled comments against individuals he holds near and dear. Our new reality, this President-Elect reality, dominated our conversations for the weekend. At every turn it seemed there was something new to learn about and discuss. The Day-One twitter feed testimonials of violence and threats minorities were experiencing, the account of middle-schoolers three miles up the road from my home chanting "build that wall" in their lunchroom, the appointment of Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News platform provider for the "alt-right," (a newer term for white nationalism) as the President-Elect's chief White House strategist, the list goes on. Feeling emboldened from our conversations, I even argued a bit on a friend's Facebook post against someone who was convinced these post-election accounts of aggression and intimidation had nothing to do with the election results. Yes, hate has always existed, I get that...but now, the same way I've felt from our conversations in the van, hate is also emboldened.
We've never been much of a political band. Given my inabilities to retain and recall information quickly, as a front man I've never felt that I can take a stand in any direction and then articulate that case well enough. And as you may probably already guess, I'm pretty sure things are more complicated than we'd like to admit. To brazenly call all Trump supporters racist misogynists is to simplify things more than they can be simplified. Though the point Greg made several times in his speeches, a vote for Trump declared a comfort with the racism and misogyny in his campaign, just as a vote for Clinton declared a comfort with the hawkishness, secretiveness, and elite friendliness presented in hers. But we're no longer debating the differences between them. It's a moot point to bring up anything about her. All of us must turn our eyes to the winner and be relentless in our requirement he uphold the unalienable rights of all people, beliefs, and creeds, whether we individually agree with them or not.
But things have changed.
Today my liberal-leaning dad told me he's just started listening to National Public Radio. To which I said: "Duh, about time Pops!" We discussed how it seems NPR leans left topically but is pretty centered on presentation. Two days ago NPR reporter, Kelly Mcevers, interviewed Richard Spencer, a figure-head for the White Nationalist movement that now has a legitimized voice in the White House due to its ties to the above mentioned Bannon. You can read the transcript for yourself, or listen to it, but prepare yourself to be upset at the very least. Arguably this man's ideas about different races being naturally opposed to each other and his hopes for a racially segregated America are part of a slippery slope that leads to the brash nationalist-separatist ideas of the Third Reich. He was gleeful his way of thinking is now out in the open, available to sway public opinion, to shape minds looking for a scapegoat for their plight. Delving into these ideas has created a backlash from NPR listeners who claim even investigating these ideas is "normalizing hate speech." But as Spencer himself put it: "We're not going away." What do we as empathic thinkers do with this? What role does empathy play when the subject seems devoid of compassion for those the subject sees as different?
How can we think of empathizing with this ugliness when hearing testimonies like Amy's, a trans-gender young lady afraid to travel beyond her liberal safe-zone of Seattle? How can we reach across the aisle when stories like Peter's, who in a decade of living in South Philly never once thought about his safety until two days into this new reality, come out? What do we do when spray painted swasticas show up in a public park named after a Jewish musician? What about when a noose is found in the boys bathroom at the same school three miles up the road from us where last week hispanic children were brought to tears by kids who chanted a slogan that came directly from the mouth of our President-Elect?
This is our new reality. Not that hate or racism or discrimination is new, but that it is now embodied in the platform of the highest ranking position in, arguably, the world.
Tomorrow me and my family will march with likely over a thousand people in a peaceful show of solidarity here in Ferndale, Michigan. I've shied away from this in the past. But now is not the time for shyness. There's an oft thrown around lyric by the great New York City band, Indecision, that says: "For those I love I will sacrifice." I fear too many of us may soon have to seriously consider what it means to love and what it means to sacrifice.
And if you didn't get enough links in this post, here are a couple more that Greg runs himself, also worth your while:
(photo stolen from here.)