This is an extremely personal post, and I’ve been debating with myself as to whether I should write it. It’s not going to be particularly well-written, it’s not going to be inspiring, and I’m not going to end it with my usual optimistic calls for love, hope, or solidarity. This is a post born of anger, fear, hatred, and nausea, and I’m sharing it because maybe you’ve found yourself in similar situations, and maybe reading this will help.
Now I’ve gotten into fights on social media before. Many, many times. Like many people who’ve received even a glimpse of attention on an issue I’ve had rabid strangers send anger, abuse, and threats. But yesterday hurt me, and it hurt me a lot more than a stranger ever could. Yesterday I ended a friendship of many years.
“Oh, but surely that’s immature! Surely you should be open to other people’s opinions, not cut contact with people you care about!”
In an ideal world such sentiments are true. In an ideal world opinions are just that–they don’t have real, terrifying, painful impacts on other people’s lives. In this ideal world we can tolerate every opinion, because those opinions don’t have any real consequences. But in our world, the one we’re living in and struggling with, that’s simply not true. What you say and what you do affects everything around us.
Like most people who’ll read this, I’m worried sick about where this is heading. I’m worried for those I don’t know, for the lives and families currently being destroyed–and I’m worried on a personal basis, because my partner is American and there are very real signs that future executive orders will bar me from his home country. I worry for my extended family who live in the U.S. Like many people reading this, I’m using that fear in the most constructive way I know how: by opposing this administration. By writing, by demonstrating, by engaging in every opportunity I have to try and make this world–our world which is so far from ideal–into a safer place for myself, those I care about, and total strangers.
My former friend was saying what too many people are saying: that we should ‘wait and see’, that to oppose what’s going on is divisive, that in fighting fascism we are as bad as fascists themselves. Granted, this person went further, saying I’m a coward for demonstrating, that I lack inner peace because of my will to fight, but we’ve all heard arguments like this (and let me be very clear that I don’t want ‘inner peace’ if it means I can’t stand up for what I believe in.) They’re the people who say we should ‘build bridges’–people who’ve never been anywhere near the ‘alt right’, let alone attempted conversation with them. As a historian I have to say it’s a fantasy, and there’s a good reason they’re harassing those who’re trying to do something. They’re the arguments of people who have been scared into submission, and who want you to join them.
This isn’t a happy post, or even a particularly hopeful post. I’m writing this because maybe you’ve lost friends, maybe you’re struggling with people trying to shame you for taking action. I just want to say: that’s OK. I feel anger, fear, hatred, and nausea, but I don’t feel regret. If standing up for the rights of others causes personal conflict, that’s one of the costs of maintaining a free and fair society. Fighting fascism comes at a cost–and if it costs you friendships, know that there are other people going through the same thing. For better or for worse, 2017 is going to define who you are, and none of this is going to be easy. Whatever action you take, it’s going to come at a price: just make sure that regardless of what else you do lose, you never give up your integrity.
In love, hope, and solidarity (I just can’t help myself),