On Caring Loudly

b783116f-1bcd-4321-8a4b-ca3f3eb6c376*After reading Leslie Knope’s letter to America following Trump’s victory, I decided to revisit the first episode of Parks & Rec. In it remains indisputably my favorite line: “These people are members of the community that care about where they live. So what I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.” This is my tribute.

I didn’t care for politics. I thought this made me cool, hip, relevant. Because people in their 20s are too busy swiping right, Netflix and chilling, and trying to figure their shit out that they can’t possibly find the time to stay politically informed. For as long as I can remember, I did my best not to care. I realize now that this was the problem. 

When I read the New Yorker, I skip over to the fiction features (yes, I mentioned the New Yorker because I am still striving to stay hip). When I pick up the local newspaper, I browse through the entertainment section. Which is why it’s hardly a stretch seeing the content on my blog thus far. I write about movies, television, books, even about writing, though it’s more like not writing (I’m very good at not writing). This site reflects my self-interests and indulgence in said interests. I’ve never written a word about politics. Never shared or typed up think pieces about Trump or Clinton. Until now.

First, I must apologize to my readers. This may turn you off or turn you away from me altogether. But to write about anything else feels wrong. There is so much going on. Writers write because they feel the urge to say something, and right now I have something to say.

Donald Trump has been elected president, but he is not my president. If the Obama-haters can denounce Obama all throughout his term, I’m pretty sure I can do the same towards Trump (fortunately for Trump, I suck at arts and crafts so I won’t be making any signs). This is not me being stubborn or promoting a trend. I’ve disagreed with Trump’s rhetoric and his so-called “policies” and I will continue to disagree with him until he walks back his controversial comments, condemns and takes action against the hate crimes being carried out in his name (meekly saying “stop it” is hardly a condemnation), and ensures the safety of those being targeted. Only then will I have an open mind. It’s a package deal. Take it or leave it.

I am not afraid of Trump, but I am afraid of what he represents. I’m afraid of those who have tainted our collective conscience of what a Trump supporter is and taken it upon themselves to threaten anything that isn’t white, male, and privileged. I’m afraid. Most of all, I’m angry.

I am not pissed at those who voted for Trump. I’m not even pissed at those who voted third party. Voting is a privilege and our civic duty. It’s what enables us to have a voice, to have a say. But sometimes, we don’t like what we hear.

People have taken to the streets to voice their outrage. The media would like you to believe that these protests are all violent. Bloggers want you to believe that these are “sore losers” who need to “suck it up.” Yes, something needs to be said of the violence that spurs all too often when enraged people come together (especially those who block traffic I mean c’mon traffic is bad enough). But if the anti-Trump protesters are sore losers, then the people handing out fake deportation letters, those terrorizing minorities, those waving the confederate flag and painting swastikas on campuses are all terrible winners. “When they go low, we go high,” is a fine principle, but I doubt half the country is aware of how low some people are truly going.

I’m speaking as delicately as I can. Not all anti-Trump protests are violent, the same way not all Trump supporters are racist, xenophobic, or homophobic. There are those who voted for Trump not because they fully supported him, but because they believed in their party. I respect you and we need your assurance now more than ever.

It’s easy to generalize here and seek someone to blame. If there’s one thing America demands in a time of crisis, it’s a cultural scapegoat. I, too, searched mercilessly for one. White men. White people. The South. But after a 72-hour nosedive into virtually every pro-Trump column, I realize that the fault lies with me and my ignorance.

I didn’t think Trump stood a chance of winning. There was no time-traveling DeLorean that enabled him to steal the sports almanac, so I thought we were good. I treated Trump like a door-to-door salesman. If I ignored him long enough, he’ll eventually go away. He didn’t. He won. I look at every racial episode occurring in schools and communities across the country. I see the testimonies of every concerned citizen, the grievances of those wondering if they can call America their home anymore. This is the cost of not caring.

I voted to show that I care. That way, if Trump won, at least it wouldn’t be my fault. So I sent in my absentee ballot and felt I had done my part. Then I saw the results coming in. I saw how astonishingly close the two parties were, the reds eventually eclipsing the blues, then the inevitable. I felt the weight of a 70-year old man dropped on me. Turns out I did care. I just didn’t care loud enough.

If this election has taught me anything it’s what it truly means to be involved politically. Liking a news article on social media, for one, does not count as political engagement, the same way an expletive reply to a Trump supporter is hardly an honest discussion. You engage with people by getting out there. You debate by having the courage to talk to those with opposing views and disagreeing honestly with each other. I may not be able to broker real change, but I can contact my representatives and make sure they reflect my community’s best interests. I suppose my first order of business is finding out who my state’s representatives are. I wasn’t joking about being politically uninformed. I am as illiterate as they come.

I live in Hawaii (sorry to those pledging to move here following Trump’s victory, but Hawaii is a state, and you are more than welcome either way). It’s easy to feel detached from the world, even easier to pretend as if everything that’s happening on the mainland won’t affect us. Politics? That’s for the folks in D.C., and D.C. is a long way. For a very long time, politics only existed in spheres, on screens, in the obnoxious talking heads on CNN and Fox News. That, at least, I could turn off. This I can’t. I can’t change the channel on the president elect, nor on the unease and discontent lingering in the airwaves. This is our reality now. This is America.

There is something to be proud of in the midst of all this. Americans are assembling and speaking out for what they believe in. They are rallying, fighting, and comforting each other, reassuring those around them that everything will be okay. It’s okay to be angry, to feel sad and let down, the same way it’s okay to celebrate and take pride (not gloat) in the outcome. This is a democracy. We won’t always agree with each other. We don’t have to. Democracy, after all, only works so long as people participate.

Most of us are caught in this cycle where we only care once every 4 years. On Election Day, when it counts. I realize now how disingenuous that is to those whose job it is to care full-time. We, too, should care right beside them. I didn’t. That’s on me. That’s on a lot of us. But that leaves us in a unique position to do something about it. Doing so might change the way people perceive us. We might even annoy those unlucky enough to be around us as we move forward. I hope we do. It’s better than not caring.

Let me be clear, this is not a call to action. I am not urging people to set fires, break windows, or beat up Trump supporters. I am certainly not turning this blog into an anti-Trump platform. This is simply me highlighting my own inaction over the years and my resolve to change that. I will no longer be uninformed or uninitiated. From here on out, I hope to be active, vigilant, and mindful. I will strive to learn, take part, speak up. It is the duty of every writer to entertain and inform. That has and always will be my mission statement. I will continue to entertain. I will do my best to inform. Above all, I will care as loudly as possible.

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