A Nation In Jeopardy

25 Aug

My husband and I just returned from Iceland — what a sad return. While away from the United States, we tried to be unplugged regarding the ever hastening downward spiral of the American government under Trump. Sadly, we could not escape, as the whole world is watching this “reality show” — this buffoonery. What is profoundly sad is that it is not a reality show. Our journey to another country, visiting with some really lovely people from around the world, only confirmed what I already knew. We are now being led by a fascist government that denies climate change and dismantles every agency created to aid people living in this country — which is further normalizing homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. We are a nation in jeopardy and the whole world is watching our decline.

The first week away we learned that Trump was threatening North Korea. His threats were so scary that the quite undignified Rex Tillerson had to make public statements to assure people not to panic, which was met by Trump declaring his threats “did not go far enough.” A few days later Trump’s defense of Nazis on August 12 and the refusal of nefarious sycophant Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to censure the President provide a very clear indication that the government of the United States certainly holds a Nazi/White Supremacist world view. I feel the need to note here that the United Nations officially condemned Trump’s response to the white terrorism in Charlottesville.

Trump’s white supremacist defense did not go unnoticed by the global community we were traveling with in Iceland. One of our tour guides, a native Icelander, talked with us over lunch. He casually said: “It seems like your country has some real problems with racism and gay people.” All we could say was, “Yes, yes we do.” I know my face was one of despair and I was grateful that Hilmar felt comfortable talking about politics with us. This government has turned all rational U.S. citizens into ambassadors for the best of our country.

One of the families we were traveling with, and became friends with, was a family from Washington, DC, who came to the U.S. from southeast Asia. Their son attends Virginia Tech. They told us stories of how their son has been repeatedly harassed by police because of the color of his skin. Those personal stories painfully echoed the news from Charlottesville.

It has been particularly alarming to see the Nazi swastikas appearing all over the nation. Trump has blamed the media — his “fake news” — for dividing the nation. I fear I have lost all respect for anyone who believes this horrific lie. Sadly, regardless of how many lies Trump delivers, his base of support will not be swayed. Even more disturbing is that the beliefs held by Nazis are being subscribed to by an increasing population in the United States: it is about to reach double digits.

As if to bring all of this home to us, upon returning to the United States we were met with great hostility and homophobia as we tried to go through Customs. There are signs that let people know you are to go through Customs as a family. My husband and I approached the agent as a family. US Customs Agent Lee looked at us with a look on his face as though he just smelled something painfully acrid. (I imagine he caught a whiff of his own noxious odor.) After a few minutes of silence and us just standing there, Customs Agent Lee (yes, I am using his real last name) pointed a finger at us and said: “So the two of you men live together?” At this point, I had to try very hard not to lose my temper and call this homophobic piece of hell out.

I was painfully aware that he had great power and could refuse our re-entry into the United States, so I kept silent and just affirmed that yes, my husband and I live together. All I could think about was: “Well, we are certainly living in Trump’s America.  Surely, we must be better than this?” My husband and I are U.S. citizens, returning from a vacation. Imagine how people like Agent Lee abuse their power to oppress and reject immigrants, refugees, and other targeted communities!

Sadly, the hits keep coming. Trump’s latest Klan rally in Phoenix included more threats to muzzle the free press. He defended career racist and convicted racial profiler Joe Arpaio, hinting that he would pardon him. He demands that Congress fund his racist boondoggle of a wall, threatening to shut down the whole government if he doesn’t get his way. And still Congressional leaders support him. Paul Ryan refuses to censure Trump’s nasty words in the name of “unity” — this from a man who promised four years of pointless investigations if he had to serve under President Hillary Clinton. For all that the press love to talk about the war between Trump and McConnell, Sen. Turtle continues to make mealy-mouthed assurances about a “shared agenda.” How nice that he wants to share an agenda of hate.

This strife resonates with me every day. I am the Executive Director of EqualityWorks, NW, an agency that works towards global equity for targeted communities. Never have I seen the need for the work I do to be so vital and intense. As the director, I want to invite people struggling to take action and resist this administration and to reflect on how power works, specifically white,male, heteronormative, “Christian”, patriarchal power. Take action and create space for the voices of targeted communities.

I also want to emphatically disavow the hate and venom being spewed by Trump, Pence, Ryan, McConnell, Sessions, and all of those refusing to put this administration in check. I invite us all to resist and to also try to tap into our shared humanity, albeit our shared humanity does not appear very humane at present.

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21 Responses to “A Nation In Jeopardy”

  1. Monica P. August 25, 2017 at 7:22 am #

    I’m proud to share humanity with you and Robert.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 25, 2017 at 7:38 am #

      Monica, I love you so much! Thank you for always helping to make the world a better place!

  2. brianarbenz August 25, 2017 at 9:04 am #

    Michael, I don’t want to challenge someone’s observations when that person has just gained such a wide, multi-nation perspective and I haven’t been out of the U.S. in 28 years. I also must add to your well-founded comments that we can gain clarity and consolation by looking at the trees close up, not just at the immense forest. My workplace, like so many, is a gathering place of people steeped in cultural norms. Oh, so normal. And in 2016, we learned, right down to the numbers, who the haters were. Those of us who are in the resistance will never look at those who told us of their support for the Trump candidacy the same way. Yet, I want to recount a “coffee break” moment in early 2017 featuring the middle-American tradition of showing pictures of children and grandchildren. Two of these folks, who were Trump voters and women, went though the pictures of their married children. Both collections included daughters married to other women. These women were just as proud of them as their opposite-sex married offspring. Both mentioned those daughters in the same tones of normalcy and nonchalance as the rest of their children. As mundane as this ritual was, it is the result of revolution, and of course you know well how much courage that has taken. So are these women traitors to their children, and saboteurs of the progress won for their families by the lives of courageous martyrs? Or does this scene give us insights that can be used to battle the fascists? At the least, we are reminded that nuance complicates issues. The contradictions of average people’s political activity, which can frustrate progressives, can also give us strength.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 25, 2017 at 11:41 am #

      Brian, thank you for your comment here. Your “coffee break” moment is absolutely brilliant! It demonstrates how messy the work of social justice is and how can we all learn to hold onto an enormous amount of tension and yet still hold on to LOVE. Yes, I hope we can use this LOVE–this shared humanity to overturn the fascists. Peace, Michael.

      • brianarbenz August 25, 2017 at 11:45 am #

        Thanks so much, Michael! Glad my contribution helps. When we hear folks who voted for progressive candidates say things reactionary it is demoralizing, but when the converse happens, it gives us some hope onto which to hang.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 25, 2017 at 11:47 am #

        Brian, I hope your “coffee break” moment gives many of us extraordinary hope. Thank you so very much!

  3. bevanyardleigh August 25, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    Thank you for another stirring post. I often wonder how we are viewed at the street level overseas. I’m saddened to learn it’s as bad as I feared. It’s good that you were able to be a rational ambassador for those of us who are nothing like the current news view of our tragic nation.
    I hope you are able to feel that your work is making a difference. Rest assured that your words do. Knowing that others are struggling but still determined to make things better is vital to my sanity.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 25, 2017 at 11:44 am #

      Bevan, you are also so very kind and generous of heart! I struggle all the time if the work I do makes a difference. I also always struggle with my own journey of awareness and where my blind spots may be. I am in a place of being very grateful to get to know people who are committed to making a difference in the world for issues around equity, such as you. Peace, Michael.

  4. bevanyardleigh August 25, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    As for customs, friends of mine who travel overseas regularly have reported many hideous encounters with increasing frequency over the past six months. Rudeness, increased random scrutiny, lengthy pointless baggage checks, and more. One friend even wound up detained briefly because of a system error that indicated a false problem on his record! These agents don’t seem very interested in making us safer. Sadly, you were right to hold your tongue, since any “insubordination” from the people they are meant to serve and protect can often lead to longer, nastier waits and intrusions.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 25, 2017 at 11:46 am #

      Yes, and I still remain quite sad and broken hearted that customs here in the US are this homophobic, racists, and down right awful for so many.

    • brianarbenz August 25, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

      I last traveled abroad in 1990, and it was to Canada. That was about 1,000 years ago, in terms of nations’ outlooks toward border crossings. American citizens with two forms of ID, (just one a picture ID) could cross generally in 10 minutes. Travelers from nations other than the U.S. had to take a seat in the waiting area and go through the normal passport verification, as we were whisked through. Had my friend and I been non-Anglo Saxon in appearance, I’ll bet our way would have been slower, even back then.

  5. momfromhe11 August 25, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    I almost finished what I felt was a good reply when it disappeared…

    Here goes:

    My Resistance is contemplate PRIVILEGE. And contemplate and contemplate. I am a non-Jewish, well-educated white woman married to a white man who lives comfortably in a middle-class suburb in the South. Because of PRIVILEGE, I have the immense luxury of choosing how I view what is has happened and contimues to happen in this country, because it really doesn’t affect my daily life

    But it does. This is my country and things continue to happen to my fellow human beings, my reactions to the news in this country and the rest of the world.

    It is overwhelming to think about. My commitment is to NEVER be unaware of PRIVILEGE. I have to factor it into my reactions to the news, my reactions to group protests, to slogans, to my own assumptions, to the opinions of friends, family, and strangers. I am , quieter in conversations. I am questioning myself. I am questioning others.

    I would like to be more “out there” marching and protesting, but that comes hard for me. I have been a “good girl” most of my life.

    For now, I have to be always aware and always questioning the “way things are”. I hope it’s enough for now.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 25, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

      Jane, what a beautifully written comment! I can only hope that people who are reading the article will also take the time to read your powerful and inspiring comment. For those of us who identify as white, we need to be doing some heavy lifting here and really serious reflection around our privilege! Much love to you and Jim!

  6. Judy Smith August 26, 2017 at 7:32 am #

    Reblogged this on Playing for Time and commented:
    For my blogger friends around the world…please know that not all of us in the “United” States have drunk the Kool-Aid.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 26, 2017 at 7:42 am #

      Judy, thank you for reblogging this article. Thank you also for being a good ambassador for the United States in these troubled times. YES, not all of us have drunk the Orange Kool-Aid. Peace, Michael.

  7. angie August 27, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

    If you really knew what you were talking about you would be dangerous. Geeezzzzz!

  8. Jadi Campbell August 28, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    “This government has turned all rational U.S. citizens into ambassadors for the best of our country.” As an American who lives overseas and is married to a European, I completely agree with this sad assessment.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 28, 2017 at 11:23 am #

      Hi Jadi, thank you for commenting here. Where are you? Are you getting any backlash as an American? Peace, Michael.

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