Month: March 2016

The Boogeyman in America’s Closet

   

There’s a boogeyman in America’s closet. And this November we have a decision about what we want to do about it. We are going to have two choices.

One candidate will be telling us that there is a boogeyman in the closet and we need to protect ourselves from him. So we should build a big wall around our beds, sleep with a gun in our hand, and then drop a couple of bombs on the closet. Because although we’ve never seen the boogeyman or know anything about him, he’s definitely in there and he’s different than us, so we should be nothing but terrified of him and react only with hate-filled, deadly force. Problem solved. Nighty night.

The other candidate will open up the closet door, pull the light switch, and show us that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Then they will sit next to us and explain that yes, although there are dangers in the world that we have a right to be careful of, they are not hiding in our closet waiting to gobble us up. Those dangers are worth educating ourselves on and understanding as much as possible about them so that we can work together to reduce the risk. In the meantime we should sleep tight and not let the fear prevent us from having the sweetest of dreams. Then they’ll read us a lovely bedtime story. In the morning, after you’ve made it through the night…

The first candidate will wake you up and tell you to work hard to climb over your wall around your bed (because you’re privileged enough to go outside of the wall but no one else is allowed in) and after showing you the ash filled crater where your closet once was they will tell you to keep ahold of your gun. “Why?” You’ll ask. And the candidate will tell you because you don’t know if the Muslim family across the street, or the Mexican family next door, or the black family down the block, or the lesbian couple next to them, or the single transgender man with the pet pitbull across the alley, might have been friends with the boogeyman and they probably believe in gobbling up people too, so just carry your gun around with you to be safe. Don’t try to talk to any of them. If they make eye contact with you, just shoot them.

The second candidate will ask you if you slept well and cook you breakfast before telling you to have a good day. They’ll tell you to go to the park and play with the Muslim children, and the Mexican children, and the black children, and the children of the lesbian couple, and the handicapped child from that other family. Then they’ll remind you that all of those families along with the transgender man and his pitbull, Creampuff, will all be coming over later for a potluck where everyone will be contributing to the meal. And if anyone can’t contribute, they’ll be welcomed anyway and everyone will make sure that they have plenty to eat, because you all belong to the same neighborhood, the same community, and you look out for each other.

  Sure, this is an oversimplified description of our complex modern democratic political system. But it is clear that there are certain candidates out there that are much more concerned about creating policy based on fear rather than knowledge. And it may fill us with a sense strength to say that we’re going to exert all of our power over the boogeyman by showing him who’s boss. “Destroy the bogeyman and make yourself invincible!” is an attractive message. But is it really what’s best for our country? Can our strength really be built by demonizing, stereotyping, criminalizing, illegitimatizing, and dehumanizing entire categories of our population? Are we willing to sacrifice our religious freedom, our racial diversity, and our colorful spectrum of varied voices all for a misplaced, abstract notion of greatness?

I know that there are many, many, issues at play in the upcoming election for the United States. But one issue that is at the center of it all is our very identity as Americans. And I’ve always felt that who we are depends much more on who we extend freedom to rather than who we keep it from. Who we are is more fully realized by making freedom inevitable for as many people as possible, not making it only available to an exclusive few. We have never been a country that has guaranteed that everyone will be rich and powerful, but we have always been a country that has guaranteed that everyone will be free.

As I’ve traveled around the world to countries where that same freedom is not guaranteed to everyone, I have always been proud to be an American for that reason. Now we stand on the precipice of a pivotal moment that could be flushing all of that freedom down the toilet if we allow a candidate to take power that would make that freedom available to only a select few that looked and thought like themselves. If that happens, I’ll be much less proud to call myself American. I’d survive. I could easily pass as Canadian or even French if I had to here in Haiti. Fill out a few pieces of paper and I could actually be Haitian. I’d survive. But freedom would be dead.

I don’t believe in making decisions out of fear. I also don’t believe in telling anyone who to vote for. I believe that everyone should be free to vote for who they want. I also believe that everyone should be free to worship who or what they want, love who they want, study what they want, work where they want, and be who they want. Free to be who they are. I am going to vote for someone who is going to fight to keep everyone free to keep believing, loving, doing, and being too.

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