WHAT YOU CAN SAY BUT WE CAN’T

We talk a lot about sides these days. In some places we talk about double standards. If everything is up for a discussion or a sign right now, I’d like to add something to the list. We’ve reduced sides to caricatures without nuance, and we’ve been living under a double standard that dictates what one side can say and how the other side can respond. It’s bad for discourse, and it’s really bad for movement success right now.

I understand that you’re angry and scared. Feeling those things about our country and wanting to say them out loud isn’t lost on me. I guess I’m simply unsure why you can say what you want, and I can’t feel disrespected; but I can’t say what I want without you feeling and expressing outrage. You can speak your peace without entertaining a calm but unfavorable response, but I can’t speak mine and expect you not to call me a name. 

I won’t offer a list of policy and politician grievances that doesn’t look like yours; I’ve already done that. If you’d like to read more about them, you can, and you’d be able to see for yourself that I never called Mike Madigan a name or proudly posted pictures of myself in t-shirts with printed obscenities at your party leaders, no matter how angry they made me. 

I’ll present an unsolicited list of grievances about how we’re treating each other, though. I spoke to someone last week who was convinced I held a certain position as a Republican, and without offering me the same courtesy of uninterrupted time to tell my story and my opinion, I was promptly notified that I’m “disgusting.” When I collectedly urged people to get engaged in government but to speak to their representatives with respect and without name-calling, I was told my comments were “self-aggrandizing,” some graphic profanity included. While I watched and cheered others’ peaceful participation in democracy and their right to participate, I couldn’t limit my intake to reasoned statements of equality and political protest without noticing the onslaught of written demands that the democratically elected, recently inaugurated President of the United States “go f*** himself” or specially made rally clothes calling Speaker Ryan an a**hole. I shook through a blanket statement about how all Republicans, Trump voters and opponents alike, are the worst kind of hypocrites, arrogant, ignorant, and what’s wrong with America today. I spoke to a woman who drew unsubstantiated connections between “the patriarchy” and what men in the military are really like that were so obscure and offensive and personal I’m still fuming.

I’m under no illusion that no one on the right has said anything horrible in recent months. But it’s impossible to ignore the the movement within the party dedicated to recognizing and criticizing that behavior. Many of you paint us all with the same brush, and it isn’t fair.

In this weird year we’re living in, I’ve encouraged activism. I’ve encouraged your activism. And if activism to you means you can’t shout your cause without demonizing everyone who’s not marching with you, you have the right to protest that way. But you won’t get me on your side. If you want to continue to haphazardly blame the results of the most recent presidential election on people like me who did nothing to bring this about and everything to prevent it from happening, you can. However, I’ll never march or protest with people who imply that I’m part of the problem because I support refugee settlement in the U.S. but I like free markets and I work for Republicans. 

Maybe I’m missing something, perhaps I’m off base taking the outrage and how it’s expressed too personally. After all, I love a lot of people who disagree with me, who for years have successfully disagreed with me without misunderstanding or disrespecting me, too. But since you’ve felt free to share your feelings, I want to share this one in particular that’s been gnawing at me for weeks. I’m seeing a gap in expectations, one I’ve never really been blind to but have to come face-to-face with a lot more clearly and often these days. Many of you expect me to agree with you everywhere, or else sit quietly under your unfair assumptions about my attitude toward really important things like equality. At the same time, I’m expected to disagree with respect that isn’t reciprocated, because you think my party leaders are awful and it’s incredibly pompous of me to ask you not to call them names. 

The truth is, I’d like to protest a lot of things alongside you. But you’re really making me feel like you don’t want me to.

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