October 29, 2012

What makes you think you’re safe?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:11 pm by chavisory

Playwright Doug Wright posted a Facebook status the other day that went:

I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, ‘My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.’ It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you ‘disagree’ with your candidate on these issues.

I had been thinking along those very same lines myself, with regards to the alarming pattern of statements minimizing rape and its consequences, and advocating depriving women of the option of legal abortion even in cases of rape and abuse, on the part of Republican candidates lately.

That frankly, every time I hear someone defend their Republican votes, despite that party’s deplorable stances on women’s and LGBT rights (among a host of other issues), saying “I only vote on economic issues,” what I hear is, “Your rights as a citizen and presumed equality as a human being with control over your own life and body are disposable to me, and here is exactly the amount of the tax break or economic advantage for which I would sell them.  Your worth and dignity, your rights to medical care and privacy, are for sale to the highest bidder as far as I’m concerned.”

But rationally, I know that it’s not exactly a fair accusation, because people are neither that simple nor that consistent nor that self-reflective, and really, really talented at double-think.

That people are, in fact, somehow capable of seeing absolutely no conflict between believing that they love and respect their wives, daughters, sisters, and their gay, lesbian or transgender children, friends, and coworkers–and voting for candidates whose policies directly threaten our well-being and civil rights.

I don’t understand this, but I know that it’s true.

My more vexing question for these voters is, “What on God’s green earth makes you feel safe at the hands of these people?”

Because let me tell you something:  They are not only threatening me.  They are not only threatening women, gay people, trans people, religious minorities, poor people, illegal immigrants, various demographic groups whose voting patterns they don’t like, and the societal resources that make all of our lives richer and more stable.

They are threatening you.  And they are telling you that they are.  And you keep voting for them.

How many times have we heard children who didn’t want to be bullies, but who witnessed their “friends” or ring-leaders bullying others and did nothing, talk about why they didn’t?  Because they were afraid that their “friends” would turn the ugliness on them if they stepped out of line.  And indeed, many teenage bullying victims report that this is exactly what happened.  That they were part of the clique, part of the in-group, one of the right people, until they weren’t.

When someone will do something horrible to other people, ostensibly for your sake, what they are telling you is not that they so vehemently have your best interests in mind.  What they are telling you is not that they will go to whatever practical lengths necessary, however hard-hearted they seem, to uphold the beliefs you both share.

What they are telling you is that they will do horrible things to other people.  They are telling you exactly who they are and how they treat people.

And if they will do terrible things to other people for your approval, then know exactly what they will do to you when they decide they need someone else’s approval.

I used to listen to Dr. Laura.  I was young and thought I was a conservative.  But, as a broken clock is still right twice a day, I think she said about two things that are utterly true and brilliant, and one of them was:

If they will do it with you, they will do it to you.

And when these guys talk about what they think or what they want to take away from the poor, jobless, disabled, and marginalized…and you think that doesn’t apply to you?  Ask yourself just how confident you are that you will never be one of the poor, jobless, disabled or marginalized.  (And before you decide, recall that a lot of people who thought they’d done everything right were pretty confident of this before 2008.)

This is one of those things that I grew up instinctively understanding, and am mystified by people who don’t, who I guess have just never been in a situation in which you had to know this.  I have always had to know this.

When someone threatens any vulnerable person or group of people, they are threatening me.  They are coming for me next.  They are broadcasting that this is what they do to the wrong kind of people.  (In my heart, I’ve always been one of the wrong kind of people.)  It doesn’t matter that it’s not you right now.  It’s going to be whoever they need it to be.

They’re telling you what they will do to people.  They’re telling you, on the basis of their authoritarian religious beliefs, and with no economic reasoning whatsoever, what they want to be able to do to us.

They are threatening to take away access to health care.

They are threatening to take away our rights to control over our own bodies, and to privacy of our reproductive and medical decisions.

They are threatening to invalidate marriages and families.  They are threatening to take away from children the securities intrinsic to having legally married parents.  They are threatening to turn back the clock on the progression of equal rights under the law no matter the sex of the person you love.

Even if you don’t give a damn that this is being done to women and gays, try looking out for yourself and your own self-determination for a minute.

They consider themselves uniquely justified in imposing their religious beliefs on other people’s lives.  Why do you imagine you’ll be exempt?

Why do you think you’ll be safe?

Do you seriously think that they’re just morally bankrupt enough to do this to me and the people I care about, but not to you and the people you care about?

Think again.


  1. amhcdb said,

    My goodness, this post sums up everything I feel so succinctly.
    I’m on my phone right now and it’s kind of a pain to type in but I had to respond because thus resonates so much.
    Have you ever thought of talking about your transition from conservative to liberal? It could make for an interesting post.
    Anyway, it’s interesting because I can’t wrestle myself away from the issues of marriage equality and women’s rights. I can’t even look at economic policies because I think everyone deserves basic rights. I really feel/hope that we, as a country, are on the cusp of big changes.
    Hope you’re staying safe in the storm.

    • chavisory said,

      I have actually thought of writing about my transition from “thought I was a conservative” to proud liberal, but it basically amounts to I grew up, knew a lot more people from different walks of life, and saw that things were complicated and not simple and intrinsically fair.

      Thanks for your thoughts–I was very fortunate to have my neighborhood escape the worst of the storm!

  2. The Armchair Feminist said,

    The reason I support economically right wing positions, is because I think if I screw up I deserve to get screwed over,and so does everyone else. It’s not for the tax break. Seconded on the LGBT issues though. I don’t get how Americans can vote for that.

    • chavisory said,

      Well, I don’t. I don’t think you deserve to be treated that way, and I don’t think other people deserve it, either. To make mistakes is human, and I don’t think that anyone deserves to starve to death or wind up homeless or die in poverty of easily preventable disease, for making some petty mistake. I think we can do better than writing off and throwing people away, and that it’s by far in our own best interest to do better than that by each other.

    • katie s. said,

      As others have said, you don’t even have to screw up to get harmed by these positions, though. I worked part-time and my husband works as a self-employed contractor, and as such we were not eligible for group health insurance. Though I was willing to pay, I was rejected by when I applied for individual insurance plans for my dire pre-existing conditions like acid reflux and seasonal allergies. Now that I’m in a full-time job with a group plan, they can still refuse to cover any of my pre-existing conditions for the coming year. How have I screwed up? My husband and I took employment that was otherwise the most responsible option for our family, and I attempted to play within the bounds of the existing healthcare options. The only option left available to me was/is the state high risk exchange, set up by the Affordable Care Act under the Obama administration.

      • chavisory said,

        Yup, I agree. I only have health insurance because I qualify through my union, for a plan I may lose in 6 months if I don’t re-qualify. (How that is actually “insurance,” I don’t really understand.) A private plan would cost me more per month than my rent, which is already half my income. So many rules and policies like this are set up to not take into account basic complexities of life. And they’re created by people; they’re not natural, unchangeable features of the universe like laws of physics. When a system creates unfair traps, it’s not screwing up that the realities of your life just happen to run a-fowl of them.

      • The Armchair Feminist said,

        I’m British- my definition of right wing is still a long way left of Romney and the like and I would have supported Obama in the election. What I was reacting to was the was the suggestion that the people on the right are the people who gain most from tax cuts at the top. We aren’t. we just have a particular wordview.

  3. When I was a child, I got coats from the Salvation Army. My dad left my mom with small children. She worked full-time. She worked overtime. She sent us to school, had a roof for our heads, and struggled to keep us fed. So coats were beyond our means. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t screw up.

    Today there are still many families and kids in poverty, through no fault of their own. Who gets screwed over? Kids. There are people who have worked hard, then experienced just one major health crisis, and the medical bills put them in debt. Who gets screwed over? Anyone who gets seriously ill. There are people who work hard, then their partner gets addicted to drugs, betraying their trust and taking their money. Who gets screwed over? Spouses. There are people who have a baby and when that baby is born, through no fault of their own, he is seriously ill. The hospital saves him, and after months in the NICU, the bill is a million dollars. Insurance covers some of it. They set up a payment plan for the rest. And they still can’t afford other necessities of life. Who gets screwed over?

    When we can’t see that this might be us, we are in denial. Because it is us, our kids, spouses, families, friends, veterans, seniors, hard-working people.

    Thank you for this post, chavisory. Who is ever safe from what life brings us?

    • chavisory said,

      Wish I could just hit “like” on this comment. I think people lose sight of the fact that when we attack the safety net on the grounds that people who screw up should be sufficiently punished for it, the people who suffer most are not the screw-ups themselves, but their children and others. I think that mostly, people do tend to reap the logical consequences of their choices, but I just can’t believe in imposing those consequences on their innocent victims in order to make a point.

  4. […] read this post the other day and it said exactly a lot of what I have been thinking about.  It is an excellent […]

  5. […] don’t know the writer personally, but I am ecstatic I ran across their blog post, What Makes You Think You’re Safe?, just a little while […]

  6. Avrila Klaus said,

    Hoping there isn’t a rule against comment thread necromancy around here so that it’s OK for me to jump in and say:

    This is exactly something I was talking about with my husband yesterday. Something came up about people wanting a politics-free Facebook; on the one hand, I get it, overload is a thing — but there’s still another hand. While I don’t like throwing this word around because it gets used for silencing, it actually is the word for what’s going on in wanting to ignore politics: there’s an element of “privilege” in being able to believe that what’s going on politically won’t hurt you, either directly or as the thin end of the wedge, because you’re in-group enough that they just wouldn’t.

    I can’t believe that for myself. While I’m a US citizen with college degrees and minimal melanin levels, and can pass for neurotypical so well that I fooled myself for a long time — I’m also struggling financially on a long-term basis that I don’t see a way out of, almost certainly autistic (official diagnosis is off the table because even if I needed it, and could be fairly sure of unmasking enough without being suspected of faking, the money just does not exist in my world), and female. And a few other things, like bad at shutting up when I’m pretty sure silence is complicity.

    So, aside from it being right morally, it’s better tactically for me to speak up now instead of wait for them to come for me when no one is left to protest.

    I guess some people just don’t look that far ahead.

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