I won’t legitimize illegitimate fears
— “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 email@example.com.