I have always been a safe harbor. I've been the queer person who answered invasive questions, listened respectfully to arguments against marriage equality, and gave people a pass for stupid gay jokes because I understood they didn't mean to be offensive. I've been the liberal Democrat who rarely challenged friends and family who consistently voted Republican, even when those votes were often for candidates who sought to invalidate my identity, my family, and my very existence. I've been patient and careful because I believe in building bridges across difference and that my greatest influence is through slow and steady challenges of those with whom I have relationships. But this presidential election is different. This is not a time for silence.
I have voted in every election since 1986 and never in my life has the divide between parties seemed as great as it is now and voting Republican in this election will mean something very different than it has in the past.
Republicans have obscured the real issues facing this country through fear mongering and hateful rhetoric and respectful discourse has been replaced by arrogance and threats. People of color have been assaulted at Trump rallies and he himself said he wished he could punch a protestor in the face. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz recently joked at a CPAC appearance, "No, I haven't stopped beating my wife." These are just two small examples of the tone and belief systems of the two leading candidates for the Republican nomination but there are plenty more examples of their attacks on free speech, minorities, and allies. Both candidates embolden people to speak out and act on their ignorance and bigotry, creating a climate that is increasingly hateful and dangerous.
This week, NBC shared an exit poll that showed that the majority of Republicans want to ban muslims from entering the country and I retweeted it because I found it so disturbing:
— Vikki Reich (@uppoppedafox) March 16, 2016
In response to that simple retweet, I was called a white traitor, a kike, and "oven worthy." I went to the timelines of the three offenders and their tweets are filled with misogyny, antisemitism, homophobia and transphobia, racist rants and threats of violence. They are also all Trump supporters.
Make no mistake - people like this will come for us all.
The Republican candidates and their supporters have their sights set on women, the LGBT community, immigrants, people of color, the poor and freedom of speech. Some will argue and say that I can't blame the candidates for the actions of their followers and, in the past, that might have been true but right now, it's not. They have reduced conversation to the basest level and, in doing so, empowered the most bigoted in this country to speak and act out. It's as if people have been given a license to hate and I'm scared. I'm scared because I have always held fast to the belief that love and justice will win in the end. I'm scared because the coming months will be filled with more hate speech and violence. I'm scared because lines will be drawn and I can't fathom how such division can be reconciled.
I don't often write about politics because I don't feel qualified but I am qualified to write about the kind of world in which I want to live and the kind of world I want for my children. I want a world full of kindness and compassion. I want a world in which leaders value peace and are capable of respecting differences. I want a world in which we recognize that our fates are tied together, that united we can do so much better.
I can't control the way people vote and doubt I have much power to change the minds of those who plan to vote Republican. Vote as you feel you must but do not vote Republican and then tell me that you are still an ally to the LGBT community and communities of color. Recognize that voting Republican speaks volumes about the world you want and your core values. I realize that this may seem harsh, maybe even out of character for me, but I can't afford to be patient this time and I no longer have the luxury of subtlety.
Photo Credit: NBC