Pundits and op-ed pieces implore me to resist…resist getting mired in the intractable tarpit of bipartisanship. They tell me to reach across the aisle, climb inside someone else’s skin, walk in a mile in their shoes, and other wizened metaphors. Well, kumba-nah. I’m not interested in seeking out whatever morsel of shared fandom or mutual interest there might be, because when all is said and done, that sliver in the Venn Diagram is too small. We’re not just from different sides of an aisle, we’re from totally different galaxies, and the distance is exhausting.
Recently I’ve been overwhelmed and under the weather with the mindboggling callousness of so many of my fellow Americans. Why do I have to persuade people that they really should care about other people? What do I say to convince someone to relinquish their fear – or ignorance, or bigotry –and empathize with other human beings? How can millions of people who profess to be Christians — those who claim to espouse “family values” — adamantly turn their backs on those who are poor, desperate, sick and suffering? Jesus said to “Love thy neighbor.” He made it pretty clear; there’s no ambiguity there. Still, just because some people are born somewhere else, follow a different faith, or have darker skins, these Christians retreat into “America First” nationalism, or try to distract with pitiful whataboutism. Oh, they get indignant when they hear a celebrity use a curse word, and they’re ready to spew outrage in even the tiniest culture war skirmish.
When I hear the phrase “Black Lives Matter”, I don’t immediately respond with a stupid “All Lives Matter” retort. Maybe it’s because I realize that “Black Lives Matter literally means all lives matter. Even though I don’t have any children, I am happy to pay taxes for public schools. I’m also happy to pay taxes to help my fellow human beings with healthcare, to help protect the environment. I embrace feminism not because I hate men or “can’t take a joke”, but because I believe in that “radical notion” that women part of human race. I desperately want to address climate change because 1) um, science, and 2) I want the planet to survive. (I’m nutty like that.) I think women, gay folks and people of all races and creeds deserve equal rights. I believe in free speech, a free press, a transparent government, honesty, facts and kindness. Oh, and because I think those things are really important I will always fight for them. My actions match my stated beliefs.
For all of those who think working for equality is uncalled for, helping those less fortunate is unfair, that women don’t deserve ownership of their own bodies, and that a frenzied passion to save our planet seems silly – well, bye, Felicia. We are never going to see eye to eye. If you’re fine with thousands of people dying, millions of people suffering, and the planet hurtling toward extinction suffering just so the wealthiest 1 percent can get even wealthier — well, what exactly is there to talk about? The divide between your worldview and mine can’t be bridged. You are either too willfully ignorant, too easily duped by jingoistic propaganda, too racist, sexist, too selfish, or just plain too stupid to debate.
Don’t get me wrong, I like peace and love and all that good stuff. But see, your perspective has consequences that affect us all. I can’t just shrug it off. Your apathy, your votes, your entrenched dogma means that untold millions of people now and in the future will suffer. Will DIE. It means the air, the oceans, the planet we depend upon will DIE. The short-sighted selfishness, the dumbfounding denial, they are beyond dangerous. You worry about all kinds of ills eroding our society, yet it’s you who are the real menace – to me and ultimately to you.
And I’m just so tired. I’m exhausted. I am done debating. If you want to turn a blind eye to your human beings or come up with ridiculous rationalizations for why they don’t deserve our help, I don’t know how to persuade you to choose kindness. You either can’t or don’t want to see how your detachment equals cruelty.
Your “I’ve got mine, fuck’em” perspective affects not only the vulnerable but the planet as a whole. So, I don’t want to hold hands. I don’t want to hug and make-up. I’m not going to keep my mouth shut and just talk about how we both love our dogs. What I do want is for you to understand that all our lives matter. Our choices matter. That’s why I’m going to fight for my fellow human beings. I’m going to fight for our planet. If you don’t want to join me, I’m OK with that. That’s your choice.
But if you get in my way, I’m going to fight you too, with everything I have. That’s my choice, and I’m OK with that, too.