middle brow | citizen how

you know i have a love for everyone i know.

what do you call a fucking racist? you call them a fucking racist. and you scold them. immediately and thoroughly. and try to teach them a lesson. but then... who're these racists you should be calling out? well, so, so many of us are. whether it's outward. or whether we benefit from institutional racism and refuse to acknowledge it. or intentionally hide from it. so what then? do you walk around telling 70% of the people you encounter that they're racist as f? 

i don't know. that seems pretty impractical to me. and likely way counterproductive. you should certainly talk to people you know are racists about your own racism openly. about how you're imperfect. and you're working on it. in an effort to encourage them to work on their own racist impulses. likely handed down to them through family. or neighbors growing up. etc.

but angrily haranguing the nicest boomer you know who happens to benefit from institutional racism and who sorta liked what mark kirk had to say: not wise in my book. 

and what about misogyny? what about that mark kirk voter? i forget whether he, the former short-termed senator from illinois, was pro-choice. but lots of republicans like him are not. and if your boomer mother voted for him because she thought, on balance, he sounded more sensible than tammy duckworth, it's not good sense to show up to thanksgiving dinner with a "mom hates women" sign. the misogynist bitch. also can't believe you forgot to put the rolls in the oven. (in crayon on the back, cuz you gotta use what you got.)

of course, there is plenty of misogyny and racism that calls for loud boos and bold signs. but not all racism and misogyny are equal. and it seems like a lot of us have lost sight of that.

- - - 

i know lots of trump haters (and some trump lovers) read this memo. and i say to them with 100% confidence: the side that's become increasingly openly racist is clearly doing greater harm to this country. is clearly *way more* in the wrong. but there's something to be said on the other side. that i've walked around thinking for two years but haven't put to paper because i was afraid of it. and here it is:

in some ways, the current climate represents a massive failure of creativity. by liberals. why can't we win the abortion argument without calling my deeply pious, selfless mom a misogynist? why can't we acknowledge the racism inherent in a lot of republican policies without calling every single republican voter (about 50% of the country) disgusting racists? 

let me take a step back. to a really killer tweet thread i read a week or so ago: this thread is both alarming and obvious-when-you-read-it. it speaks to why humans often pretend to believe or ignore common knowledge lies. like the ones trump tells daily. or the ones brett kavanaugh still seems likely to have told the public over the last couple weeks. the reason we believe a little bit of bull shit: sometimes, despite the bull shit being untrue itself, it reaffirms a deeper truth that we believe about the world. like, the tweeter says, the larger truth in the case of brett kavanaugh is that no one should be held to account for "soft" crimes they committed 35 years ago. or even, that GOP voters and traditions are under attack. kavanaugh worked both of these well. the deeper truth trump often appeals to is the latter one for certain: trump addresses the feeling many GOP voters have that they're under constant cultural attack, and so the obvious lie about his inauguration crowd (and dilly) size is oh-so-smoothly swept under the rug.

but what's more interesting about this scholar's work is that voters don't believe these common lies unless there's a crisis of legitimacy at play. and our political and economic systems are currently in serious crises of legitimacy. where a different set of rules applies to the big guy than applies to the little guy. the internet has done a terrific job of exposing that unfair imbalance. but it's ironic: the internet has made white lies easier and quicker to debunk. which has in turn has delegitimized the system. which in turn has led people to believe more white lies than ever. whoa!!!

anyway. back to real life. how is this relevant to you, trump voters and haters? well, for one, we have to continue to empower the little guy. the more evenly little and big guys are treated, the less likely people will look for white lies to believe.

but, for two, and much easier than for one: there's something we can do in our everyday lives. i said above that our current status partially represents a failure of creativity by liberals. here's what i meant:

1) we made fun of them. admit it. the left made fun of the right first. were you around for the first few years of twitter? we taunted them. we laughed at them. we scolded them. we ganged up on them on the internet! cuz it was easy! and we may have been right! better put, we may have genuinely believed in our deeper truth that the republican party was less inclined to support and empower women. but that didn't make it fair to make fun of mitt romney for his genuine attempts to hire from his binder full of women. 

2) we called them racist for believing in small government. now, i'm gonna be condescending here. something i constantly try to avoid, and sometimes succeed in avoiding. but not here: most people don't know that many arguments for "small government" are really just a dressing up of flat-out racism and misogyny. or, better put, dressing up attempts to retrench the white male status quo. that's totally true! of course it is! white males have power! have had power for fucking millennia! and they're rapidly losing it. and humans are way loss averse. they hate losing what they already have. even if they don't have much of it. (see: the occasionally employed coal miner in west virginia.) so they look for any way they can to retain power. to keep things "like they used to be". and so the powerful males make a bull shit low-tax-small-government argument, and then dog whistle to the less powerful males. 

but!!!! but! but! but! there are very legitimate reasons to be skeptical of elites. to prefer that the vast majority of government power should be vested at the local level instead of at the powerful political and economic centers of the country. so republican voters are not inherently racist. or, better put: are not any more racist than at least 60% of democratic voters. so, since it's not necessarily a distinguishing factor twixt pubs and dems, we shouldn't have been calling republican racists except where it was obvious and necessary.

3) exposure. ... so, someone expresses genuine belief in god. and belief in a particular religion and its tenets. and those beliefs make them want to restrict abortion. and suddenly, they "hate women". no. they don't. that's bull shit. they're voting the way most voters do: based on their own self-interest. and many of them haven't been in a position where an abortion was wise or necessary. and so they have a much harder time softening their religious belief on it.

what do i mean by exposure? some of the nicest damn people i've ever met say and think some of the most racist shit. but a lot of it is innocent. that is, there are truly superhumanly selfless people in the world. take: i was driving 13 kegs from pilsen to logan square yesterday. in my little ford ranger. and i did a shitty job tying them down. and somewhere on the near west side i went over one of those love-bumps the city adds to so many streets. in their wisdom. and the kegs went flying everywhere. all over the street. and dozens of cars whipped around me. and one white guy, on his way to work, stopped his car, helped me collect the kegs, and helped me restrap them to my truck. about 15 minutes all told. that's a lot of time to help a stranger. and true, lots of white dudes would never have helped me if i was black. but this one would have. sometimes you just know these things. you can just feel them. he would have. but he still made a softly racist comment toward the end of the affair. a comment that he would not have made had he had more exposure to the neighborhood. and to the lovely people in it. 

it reminds me, in a way, of how my liberal bubble views republicans. they tend to think monstrous things about all of them. mostly due to insufficiently frequent exposure. how sweetly ironic.
so we made fun of them. we refused to accept their genuine belief in the occasional wisdom of small government. and we hypocritically criticized them for their mere lack of exposure. and all of this made them feel illegitimate. think about how you felt when republicans called you unpatriotic when you opposed the iraq war. right?

but we have the power to be less hypocritical! and since we robbed them partially of their legitimacy, we can help restore it! if all it takes to prevent donald trump from being reelected is that i leave that white union worker alone when he eats a fucking cheeseburger. or i vote my conscience on abortion while i let my mom vote her conscience on abortion and i don't call her a woman-hater for doing so. then it's worth it.

think of it as one right-now small step in empowering the little guys and gals around you. and in the meantime, fight racism in it's most dangerous forms: outward and institutional. and then, bigger picture, get out the vote for little guy politicians this and every relevant february, march, october and november.

cuz. end of day. you're all pretty little too. little and in the middle.