Being Scared is Not as Scary as Being Unaware
March 12, 2016
I’m not usually scared. After all, what can somebody do to me that would be worse than growing up with a Mother who hated me just for being me? Except for a few miraculous teachers, I couldn’t expect much from anyone I knew. Instead I chose to love the abolitionists, and those others in history who stood up to the Nazis, and the white racists, and what Bob Coles called “the privileged ones.” I probably afflicted the comfortable with more passion than I was able to comfort the afflicted. Even though I tried.
I spent my life learning about, and exposing, what’s wrong with the world. I tried to force others to see how bad things really were. I sought examples of other misfits who could be brave exactly because they never expected to be loved.
“The world is what it is,” I reasoned from my experience. “We can and must try to change it, but we can only do that when we face how bad things are, how cruel and unjust the world is, not when we fool ourselves.” I praised the power of social movements and admired them for serving the people.
I studied American racism, and European fascism, the US right, and all kinds of evil doers — in order never to be surprised by liars and dangerous people. I so hoped that another me would have exposed the Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan. I dreamed of organizing with the abolitionists, standing up to McCarthy and Nixon, and, at least, never to have denied what was wrong, even as others were busily pretending “everything happens for a reason.”
Sure, I could be fooled. I wanted so much to believe that my Gregory Peck handsome father really understood and loved me that I forgot the ways he hurt me: that wasn’t him, really. He was weakened by the alcohol, betrayed by bad bosses who fired him, or undermined by Mother’s lack of love for him. I was angry for him, not mad at him.
Only when I was 66, with both Mother and he dead, and with me retired from the job that had saved me, could I face that Daddy used me, damaged me in the name of love. It still hurts so much to face — to admit that I too could deny the bad things that happened to me — me, the Radical Truth Sayer. How could I have fooled myself so?
Since slowly coming to understand this new narrative, I have tried harder to be less hard on others when they avoid rather than confront hard things. I have sought to understand how people whose ideas and behaviors seem so wrong, or dumb, or clueless can be that way. I have struggled to be kinder, to forgive others, and myself, for being unable to cope with how bad things are, I’ve tried to understand more, to be less sure. On my good days it seems to be working.
But now there is the archetypal angry White male Donald Trump, with all his vainglorious, bullying, name calling meanness. He enjoys his own outrageousness, relishes making fun of everyone, and being politically un-correct about race, gender and “losers.” I know men like him far too well. A true Neo-Fascist, he brings out the worst in everyone around him, rousing others to build walls, to hate immigrants and Muslims, even to ask his followers to raise their right hands and pledge themselves to Donald Trump. The pictures are chilling
Donald Trump makes members of his crowds raise their right hands and swear to vote in the primary. “Thank you. Now I know. Don’t forget you all raised your hands. You swore. Bad things happen if you don’t live up to what you just did,” Trump said before continuing with his speech.“Who likes me in this room?” Trump often asks.
Donald Trump cheers when his supporters rough up brave young Black, Latino and White people, journalists, and anyone else unafraid enough to openly challenge him. He proudly threatens those who oppose him. He truly scares me. I can’t hide behind my awareness of the Right, nor any historical comparisons to past demagogues. Trump is here in my world, right now.
I’m afraid, I’m very afraid. If he wins the nomination I hope I will be unafraid enough to attend his rallies, to incur his wrath, and to do my part to expose the hostility of his followers. That’s a pledge I will keep.