Finally Ready To Talk About It

Trump got elected and there are many reasons why, but here’s the big ones.

Sexism. From the very beginning, we’ve been told Hillary is unlikable, despite a lack of evidence to prove it. In fact, in interviews I’ve seen where she lets down her guard and laughs/jokes/shows emotion, she seems pretty likable to me. Maybe she’s a bit reserved, but lifetime of getting the shit hammered out of you by political opponents would probably make anybody a little cautious. Oh and she’s kind of dorky, but she’s a policy wonk so that’s to be expected.

What remains is that no other candidate for president in my lifetime has been sold by the opposition as being unlikable in the way that she has. Opponents to the left and right used it against her. “Shrillary” they called her because her voice wasn’t deep or measured, like a man, all the time. Constant criticism and scrutiny of her style of dress. Again, I’ve never seen a presidential candidate scrutinized so heavily for their appearance.

Her opponent was a man who is genuinely unlikable. He built his entire brand on being unlikable. His whole schtick is centered around the idea that he will fire you, put you on blast, and say whatever the hell he wants whenever he wants and berate, bully, and threaten you if you dare respond. Double standard much, dudes?

Racism. Donald Trump and Steve Bannon tapped into the raw energy and emotion of White Supremacists. Not since Pat Buchanan has a candidate been so blatantly nationalist and anti-immigrant. Overt, active white supremacists were empowered by this election like no other election in my lifetime. Donald Trump might not be a white supremacist like those skinheads and Klan members, but he sure doesn’t care whether they’re emboldened or not. And he sure doesn’t care what consequences his rhetoric has as far as the proliferation of hate crimes nationwide is concerned. You didn’t have to be hood wearing Klan member or shaved-head Nazi to feed into this. There are many more of those racists who deny it than the ones who wear it on their sleeve. They’re the ones for whom Make America Great Again kind of means to make it white again. It’s that subversive racism that is more dangerous than the overt kind because you can’t touch or see it, and it gets people like Trump elected.

America’s working class feels left behind. Here’s where I might depart a bit from my friends. Many folks have been unwilling to look past those first two things. [For the record: his isms and phobias were enough for me. I didn’t need to know more] I also think it’s very important to examine this piece of the election dynamic if we’re going to defeat him and his ilk in the future.

We have to recognize that socio-economic conditions played a role as well as sexism and racism. I’m going to say it plainly: It’s not fair to say wholesale that America’s white working class are sexist and racist and that’s why they voted Trump (those who did). Sexism and racism are pervasive and systemic and white people, especially men, always benefit from it. That’s a known known in my equation. I’m not denying it or excusing it. I do want to separate the issue of working class angst for the purposes of this essay.

My perspective here is that of a stepchild, grandson, grand-nephew, great-grandson and great-grand-nephew of Longshore workers. They worked the docks in Portland and Vancouver and our family is a strong working class union family. Dockworkers have been hit hard by the recession like all of the working class has.

Union rank and file, especially on the docks, in the mills, and manufacturing plants are tough and don’t suffer fools. They protect each other, and stand up for what they feel is right. After years of seeing their jobs depleted, being turned away at the hiring halls, and struggling to feed their families, they’d had enough. These folks would have voted for Bernie, because he represented dumping the neo-liberal bosses off their backs, AND a change toward a more egalitarian society. With no Bernie in the picture because of Democratic Party elite-fuckery, they were left with another populist voice, as batshit crazy as it was. Workers strike when wages and conditions get bad, and conditions had gotten bad enough. So the typically Dem voting workers decided to go on strike, and it cost Clinton the election.

The problem. Trump’s campaign hinged one primary narrative: The political establishment abandoned the working class and he was going to bring the jobs back.

This, like a lot of what he says, flies in the face of reality. He said the Globalist Democrats let the jobs go overseas because of these damn dirty trade deals. He spoke specifically about manufacturing and coal in many of his speeches. Well the truth is: manufacturing jobs in a lot of cases were given to robots, not Chinese workers. Coal jobs went away because coal is old technology and the oil industry is phasing it out and moving toward shale.

The truth is that capitalism left the working class behind, and the Neo-liberal politicians on both sides of the aisle did nothing to stop it. Communities, people, and the environment are all externalities to capitalism, and aren’t reflected in the bottom lines that shareholders see. If I have 80 workers that can be replaced by 5 robots, I’m going to save a lot of money on payroll. That’s going to increase profits and I’m going to get a fat bonus. I don’t care about what those layoffs do to the community because that just doesn’t have an impact on the company I’m in charge of.

This is a bill of goods Trump sold the working class though. He can’t make those jobs come back. They’re gone for good – and I haven’t seen any indication that he’s the kind of person who could negotiate the bi-partisan effort that would be required to either create retraining and reeducation programs in these hard hit areas – or – to create a jobs program that would create new opportunities nationwide to rebuild our failing infrastructure. Many, much better politicians [Obama] have promised these very things and have not been able to deliver.

So while I don’t believe that these working class whites voted for Trump because they’re all the kind of overt racists that liked his nationalistic, xenophobic, homophobic, racist, sexist message… I DO think they were willing to overlook it his rhetoric [and that’s just as harmful].

I heard somebody say after the election: Clinton supporters took Trump literally but not seriously and Trump voters took him seriously but not literally. That is to say they took him at his word that he’d shake up the establishment, but they didn’t take every word he said literally – the majority thought he was a goofy gaffe machine.

We can’t undo the severe impact of Trump’s words – the hate crimes, or the fear of further reprisal, that families will be torn apart, benefits stripped, and rights taken away. We can band together though, and we can try to reach out to our working class and rural neighbors and show them some love. We’re in this mess because we let ourselves get closed off to the world outside our bubbles. Rural folks, just minutes away from our own communities, were written off as dumb, racist, hicks – and they wrote us off as snobby, bourgeoisie, city-slickers. But the truth is, we’re all the same in that we’re all different. These labels don’t apply universally to anybody, and we should really make the effort to get to know each other on a personal level, and support each other. That’s how we beat Trumpism and the wave of white supremacy. hate, and other ugliness that his election has brought and will keep bringing. We’re not enemies, but we’ve been divided, and that cannot stand.

I hope you’re all doing as well as you can, in these times.

Love.

Service

This is the first time I’ve sat down at the keyboard to write something since Tuesday. I’ve been through a lot of the same shock and numbness that I’ve seen a lot of people vocalizing. Like most of my white friends, my shock was instinctually rooted in the fact that this country could elect a person like Trump – racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, admitted (proud) sex offender, etc – that shock is in willful ignorance of our POC and LGBTQ+ friends who have been TELLING US for years about the country we live in.

For a lot of people like me – who tend to rely on data and polls – we’ve been preaching that Clinton had it in the bag. Wrongness in the polls at that level would be certainly unprecedented and nearly impossible. We ignored that we’ve never had a candidate like Trump before, so of course something unprecedented was possible.

Over the last few weeks I’ve focused on the data, while many women, mostly the mothers, in my life have focused on their gut. Their guts hurt, they were worried, they couldn’t shake the sense of dread they were feeling.

To everyone: I’m sorry for ignoring you, I won’t make that mistake twice.

But this isn’t an election post, this is about service.

I’m a Veteran, and this being Veteran’s Day, if I decide to leave the house, someone will say, “Thank you for your service.” I’ve yet to meet a veteran who isn’t a little peeved by hearing that from a stranger. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the sentiment, people always mean well. For me, it’s that it devalues that word.

Service.

One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Cornel West:

“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”

Love and service are intertwined and without love, service is a meaningless gesture built on sympathy or some other hierarchy where you’re putting yourself above others.

In my head the past few days there have been five words rolling around, looking for traction:

Magnanimity – our actions are rooted in grace, not fear and resentment.
Reciprocity – we give love and receive love in equal proportions so that we can rise together.
Community – we don’t look inward, we think of our neighbor first.
Love – we project it even in the face of hate or indifference.
Respect – we treat each other well, communicate directly, and choose radical honesty over politeness and comfort.

I choose these five things as my personal pillars. My guiding principles going forward. I choose to serve my world, love my friends, and stop shrinking away from my responsibility as a man of privilege to stand up and kick open doors.

If you’re reading this, I love you. Please share it and let’s start a revolution of the heart.

 

Love & Fear [Radio Raheem on my mind] #billnunnrip #mantime

I have heard people say that there are two basic emotions:

…Love and Fear…

and that they don’t coexist. They cancel, or push each other out – love drives out fear, and vice versa. I often hear this in what I think are oversimplified, overly broad terms. They suppose that love and fear are constant ways of being, and that we can choose to live in one or the other – if you catch yourself living in fear, flip that switch and turn on the love. I think that’s a high ideal but probably not attainable. Love and Fear aren’t a blanket, they’re fleeting and transient emotions that can crash over us like powerful ocean waves only to retreat again. They can also loom for awhile like a fog and become like the air we breathe. But love will always strike into fear and fear into love, like lightning cracking into the night sky.

I can feel absolutely and completely in love and forget about those fears and traumas that make me wary, shaky, and uncertain. Then once I settle a bit and start to notice nuance and detail, I begin to notice those fears again. They wait, lying dormant, but there they are. Jagged little darts of anxiety triggered by a word or tone from a lover. A simple and seemingly innocuous action might put me into a weeks long tailspin where the fear makes me forget the love for awhile.

Left unchecked this leads people to all kinds of silly or hurtful behavior. You might push your lover away until you figure things out. Or you could completely crumble and give them everything they demand of you, not realizing that this erodes you and the more you do it the more of yourself you lose. Maybe you up and leave, or seek attention elsewhere. All of these are fight or flight responses, and none are productive or healthy. They also have nothing to do with your partner, and everything to do with you.

I also hear people say that relationships are 50/50 – two people meeting in the middle to “complete” each other. I don’t think anything could be more wrong or destructive. John Legend nailed it with his song, ‘All Of Me’

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections

Love between two people is about 100% of me and 100% of you in a partnership where you love my worst and my best and I reciprocate and support you and learn from you and we build our empire together.

Love and Fear are natural. I choose both. I choose to love my fears, and fear my loves and learn from it all. I’m thankful for them and everything they’ve taught me about the world and myself. I’m grateful to them for giving me good instincts about people and the world. They are not what defines me, they’re a guide – an angel and devil on my shoulder, balancing me out.

Love and Respect…

and “Put some extra mozzarella on that motherfucker and shit.”

#mantime Emotional Availability

GUYS

It’s ok if you’re not good at talking about your feelings. It’s ok to ask for help or support. It’s ok to make mistakes and to sometimes flee from things so you can have more time to figure it out. Most of us were taught that men don’t talk about their feelings, and don’t have emotions… except anger, pride, and shame.

It’s just not ok when you say, “It’s a guy thing,” so you can dismiss it, avoid it, and deflect it.

Talk to other guys about your stuff. Just do it. It’s the most important part of our journey toward liberation.

#mantime – Promiscuity

Wikipedia says:

Promiscuity is the practice of having casual sex frequently with different partners or being indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners.”

The article goes on to break out male/female promiscuity. I probably don’t have to go much into the difference that society has created. Women are sluts, men are studs. I’d say most of us grew up with that programming. The word started being used in reference to sex in the 1850s, and for me, just hearing it triggers a gendered response: the word refers to women. Women get shamed over their sexuality, men get attaboys.

My personal narrative is not divergent of that. I was raised in a masculine, macho way where sex with a woman was a golden ring and the more you got the higher your standing. Mix that with a lot of experiences that shunted my ability to acknowledge my emotional side, and I grow into a man with no emotional connection to sex. As I get older, I’m more aware of myself and have opened up, I’m less insecure and less likely to just sleep around, but in my 20s and early 30s it was a different story.

The Sex Number

I can remember being a young man and this being a huge deal. The higher your number, the more manly you are. Most guys go through a phase where they just straight up lie about it, and everyone knows that everyone is lying, but nobody cares, because it’s cooler to just go along with it. Calling someone out on lying opens you up to being called out for your lie, so it’s better to just maintain the facade.

The last time I cared enough to sit down and try to figure out my number, I was probably 24 years old. The number was in the 60s at that point. Now, I can only estimate, because I don’t really care to put too much thought into it, but I’m gonna say that it’s firmly over 100 today. I’m feeling a rush of anxiety just writing that, because of what that high number actually represents.

Insecurity

I’ve always been very insecure. Introverted, quiet, shy… debilitatingly so. It has always prevented me from meeting people, making friends, or having any sort of meaningful relationship. It has always been too scary to open myself up and risk being hurt or embarrassed. Terrifying.

Being insecure, I’ve always needed validation. To this day I catch myself fishing – for kudos, compliments, attention, etc. Sex has always been a single serving of validation for me. It proves that I have worth. 90% of those sexual encounters were one night stands. 5% were people I even dated casually. 3% of them involved a relationship that lasted over a month. All of those sexual encounters were like crack hits that kept me going until the next time. I can even remember being at bars and flirting with women, and getting to the point where I KNEW I could have sex with her, and feeling that same sense of validation. I’m good enough because someone likes me enough to fuck me.

This has been a huge part of my self-exploration over the last couple of years. I choose to not repeat these patterns anymore, though I’m aware it’s deep programming, and not a switch I can flip.

Men today need to get in touch with themselves on an emotional level. Men need to reach out to other men for love and intimacy. Learning to be intimate and emotionally expressive all the time will help us to commodify sex (and women) less. It will help us be the kind of men that we need to be if we’re going to stop rape and violence. It also feels really good, like playing with kittens, when you connect with somebody; and it stays with you – it doesn’t fade away the next day like the sex high does.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, and about your experience, in the comments below. Thanks for reading!