I won’t le­git­imize il­le­git­i­mate fears

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Chris­tine Flow­ers

PHILADEL­PHIA

— “You’re white, Chris­tine. You don’t get it.” “You’re straight, Chris­tine. You don’t get it.” “You’re not a Mus­lim, Chris­tine. You don’t get it.” The “it” in th­ese ac­cu­sa­tions, all of which I’ve ac­tu­ally heard from peo­ple who spend far too much time wor­ry­ing about what I think, is per­se­cu­tion.

I ap­par­ently don’t “get” why peo­ple were trem­bling and an­gry and march­ing af­ter Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion vic­tory be­cause I am not a part of a vul­ner­a­ble group, at least to the ex­tent that vul­ner­a­ble en­com­passes race, re­li­gion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, and Hil­lary Clin­ton vot­ers.

I’m a walk­ing in­sult to ev­ery mi­nor­ity that ex­ists in this so­ci­ety be­cause I refuse to bun­dle up tiny emo­tional care pack­ages for the af­flicted and won’t walk on eggshells to avoid in­vad­ing their “safe spa­ces” with rhetor­i­cal trig­gers like, “The Elec­toral Col­lege is not a hoax.”

In some of the Face­book groups to which I be­long, I am per­sona non grat­ing on ev­ery blessed nerve be­cause I refuse to let testy women tell me that I’m blinded by white priv­i­lege, cis­gen­der priv­i­lege, U.S. pass­port priv­i­lege and all the other “priv­i­leges” the good fairies dumped in my bassinet when I was just a mewl­ing in­fant.

Not im­pressed, not buy­ing your hys­te­ria, not bow­ing and scrap­ing in ac­qui­es­cence to your pain.

I get that there are some se­ri­ous is­sues that need to be ad­dressed, par­tic­u­larly in the field of im­mi­gra­tion, and I do not doubt the gen­uine dis­tress that some of the good peo­ple in this coun­try are feel­ing about im­mi­nent de­por­ta­tion. As an im­mi­gra­tion lawyer, I’m deal­ing with it and I’m ready to stand be­tween ICE agents and my clients and use ev­ery le­gal weapon at my dis­posal. I do not un­der­es­ti­mate the panic. On the other hand, I am not about to gin up fears that the wall is go­ing to be built to­mor­row be­cause do­ing so just al­lows un­scrupu­lous men and women, in­clud­ing some who call them­selves so­cial ac­tivists, to ex­ploit the plight of the un­doc­u­mented. If you be­lieve noth­ing else, be­lieve that. But just as I feel the pain of a man or woman who faces sep­a­ra­tion from their chil­dren, or who have le­git­i­mate wor­ries about what Trump means when he says he’ll de­port the crim­i­nals (jay­walk­ers? Peo­ple who jump in line at Tar­get? Peo­ple who park in the mid­dle of the street?), I have no time for the hys­ter­i­cal ren­der­ings of women who say their vagi­nas are go­ing to be regis­tered with the gov­ern­ment and they will be forced to breed ba­bies to “make Amer­ica pro­cre­ate again!”

And if you have a prob­lem with my lack of em­pa­thy, you might not want to con­tinue read­ing, be­cause it re­ally gets good.

We the peo­ple elected a pres­i­dent, and while it might not be the pres­i­dent that ev­ery­one liked or was root­ing for or could even stom­ach with­out reach­ing for the Dra­mamine, this man did not steal any­one’s votes. There was no bloody coup a la Au­gusto Pinochet, no geno­ci­dal over­throw like the regime change in Rwanda, no “blink and the Crimea is gone!” ex­e­cuted by Trump’s buddy Putin.

Peo­ple went to the polls and picked the guy The New York Times and ev­ery other news­pa­per not writ­ten in Cyril­lic told them to avoid like the plague. They did it. Many of us were not happy with the fact that he won, nor would we have been happy if the woman chal­leng­ing him had beat his orange tuchus. It was a dis­gust­ing menu, and re­gard­less of who was ul­ti­mately cho­sen, a ma­jor­ity of the elec­toral din­ers were go­ing to have a four-year case of nau­sea.

I’m sure the peo­ple who like to feel vic­tim­ized are out­raged by my fail­ure to re­spect their vic­tim­hood. It is a pow­er­ful weapon, this need to make oth­ers feel guilty about pos­si­bly caus­ing pain. It is used to keep oth­ers in line, a pas­sive ag­gres­sive bit of ge­nius to keep dissent at a man­age­able level. How dare you not em­pathize with my fear that Don­ald Trump will dis­solve my same sex mar­riage! (Not happening, as he said on “60 Min­utes.”) How dare you not un­der­stand my horror at hav­ing to pay for my own birth con­trol (that, maybe, will hap­pen if we can fi­nally tweak Oba­macare into a work­able sys­tem.) How dare you not feel my pain at the prospect of hav­ing to pee next to a man just be­cause I have a pe­nis I never asked for. (I’ll let Mike Pence deal with that one.) It’s the “how dares” that now de­ter­mine how we deal. I’m sorry, but I will give ev­ery per­son his or her due re­spect. I will honor their life­styles, their be­liefs, their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions and even their right to hate me. That is the essence of Amer­ica.

But I will not be forced to le­git­imize their fears, fu­eled by par­ti­san rhetoric, whipped up into a fury by so­cial me­dia, car­ried to a crescendo by ir­ra­tional “whis­per down the lane” ru­mors and used against those who made the mis­take of not vot­ing for Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Chris­tine M. Flow­ers is a lawyer and colum­nist for the Philadel­phia Daily News. Read­ers may send her email at cflow­ers1961@gmail.com.

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