And so… it continues.
It’s January 20, 2017. Time for Americans (and some Canadians) to do what they do best: put all their anger where it clearly belongs…on Hillary Rodham Clinton.
For the last week or so, I have watched as various commenters have done their best to work up a head of steam. News reports leaked that the Clintons would be attending the Inauguration as is traditional for former Presidents and their spouses. And so began the flood of responses urging Rodham Clinton to make a statement and refuse to go.
We have all noted the sizeable list of Democrats who have announced that they will not be at the Inauguration, some hidden under excuses, other with clearly stated reasons and an explanation of where they will be instead. This is not, in fact, an unusual thing to have happen; many a Republican announced that they were out of town during Obama’s Inauguration. But it is part of the formality, pomp and circumstance and the handing over of power to have former Presidents in the crowd to welcome in the new member of the group.
Those urging Rodham Clinton to stay away believe that they have the best of reasons: she should do so as a protest against Trump. They are, of course, prevaricating. They know full well that few will see it as such, and most will simply attribute her behaviour to being a bad loser, or worse: being a coward. And Hillary Rodham Clinton is not a coward.
Yes, you would not go. Yes, you would have so many valid reasons not to go. That’s why you are not Hillary Rodham Clinton and why she truly never really was just one of us… Hillary Rodham Clinton possesses a level of resolute stubborn bravery many of us will never have reason to know. When she attended Yale Law School, she was one of 27 women out of a class of 235. Given the examples of sexism and misogyny many of us experienced in more recent times, we can imagine what it was like for those women in 1974. Or what it was like when Rodham Clinton began to practice law. We know what it was like for her as First Lady of Arkansas: regarded with suspicion and distrust because her lack of concern with her looks suggested that she thought she was ‘above’ being the citizenry. When her husband lost his re-election campaign, pundits placed all the blame at the feet of the wife who maintained her maiden name, who didn’t worry about makeup or styling her hair or wearing skirts. With a few simple cosmetic changes, Bill Clinton found himself back as Governor and Rodham Clinton learned a valuable lesson: it’s not enough as a feminist to simply be tough and keep going despite opposition. In order to succeed, in order to achieve the political power one needs in order to change society, one needs to learn to play the game and to appease the ‘audience’.
Rodham Clinton’s entire life has been about working in a society and work world that does not want her in it the way she has wanted to be. Her entire life has been about standing out, never blending in: first graduating student picked to do a valedictorian speech at Wellesley College, giving a speech so eloquent, so moving that Life Magazine did a feature on her.
So many of you complaining are those who spent the entire campaign complaining, “there’s just something about her…no one trusts her.” Now, you are insisting that she stand in for you, that she be your living avatar. In a world where all the new President has ignored all your nasty tweets and Facebook comments no matter how many of your friends retweet you, you are telling her that she has to be your visible presence. She has to do what you can’t do: a visible action that will show everyone your disapproval.
Clinton is not you, she is not us. She has always been a leader, she has always been a woman who has known that she would never truly be welcomed or accepted because of her ambitions. That has not swayed her. She has not sought that welcome. She has looked for understanding: an understanding that she has wanted to lead the country in many different ways and fight for social justice and progress for women, children, minority groups. She has done it in the face of everyone’s alleged much-vaunted distrust; she has done it with sky-high approval ratings. She has done it when voted Most Admired Woman in America, year after year after year.
And she did her best to do it over the course of the last year. She smiled grimly through the onslaught of negative press. She worked hard despite those, like you, who continually parroted, “There’s just something about her…she’s not like us. She doesn’t get us like Bernie does. She’s an elite, not an ordinary person like Bernie is.”
No. Because Rodham Clinton is not an ordinary person. She is not like you and me. She is a woman who has worked through the decades of inequality and misogyny of American life, and has done her best to change it. And as a woman working through those decades, she has learned to paste on the smile, to murmur the right platitutdes, to accept that, at every turn, someone is waiting to knock her down.
She will not be childish or churlish today. She will not give in to base emotions to indulge herself. She will be professional. She will be political. By attending today’s Inauguration, Rodham Clinton is not letting anyone down: she is showing all of you what you lost.
She will be Presidential.
It’s been a long couple of weeks here, there…pretty much everywhere. Everywhere I look I see people who look exhausted or shellshocked or wary. They’re beaten by the US election results and unable to look ahead. They’re exhausted thinking of the fight ahead.
Some of us have taken self-imposed breaks from social media. In a world where we all use our social media platforms for different reasons to different audiences–some simply for community interaction, some for self-promotion, some for work–many of us have hit a wall. We can’t deal with any more speculation on what went wrong or what is ahead of us. We can’t deal with assignments of blame. We can’t deal with the rightwing supporters lurking amongst our own family and friends who now feel safe to come out into the light and to glory in the Bully’s win.
But we’re trying to find our way back… we’re trying to find the strength. We’re trying to gear up for the fight ahead. And in so doing, we’re seeing that others on social media are proclaiming, with a slight edge of hysteria, that it’s so important to keep the fight up at all times, from the beginning, every day for the next four years. They urge everyone to understand that they cannot stop the fight or take breaks from it at all.
And they’re probably utterly confused by my anger.
They’re right: it’s going to be hard keeping up this energy and fighting for four long years. But many of us are very familiar with that very dilemma. For the former, the fight is how to keep the media and public focus on the President-Elect. Their concern is to reduce his affect on the country, to prevent re-election. For me, for too many others, the fight has always been there…it’s just more visible now. Misogyny, sexism, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, right-wing bigotry: these are not new. They have always been there, and we’ve always been fighting them.
Don’t tell me how important your fight is. The fight has always been important. The change is that now you can see what we’ve been saying all along. All those years, all the decades we’ve spent saying: this is a problem. Racism was a problem before the recent Presidential election: it will be a problem after the next one. All the isms, all the bigotries: they are not new. They will not disappear no matter how vigilant you are. If a different President or a different party is elected in four years time, they will still not disappear. We will still need to be aware, to be vigilant, to fight. You are willing to see one person or his followers or his supporters as the problem: you haven’t yet figured out that the problems are as insidious, as much a part of the culture as we have always said. We’re not paranoid, we’re not professional victims, we haven’t been imagining problems that don’t exist. The President-elect is not the problem: he is a part of the problem, a living walking example of the problem.
Don’t ask me to join your fight: understand that you have joined ours. We’ve been here a long time.
Perfectly intelligent left-wing people post about Clinton and say, “Where there’s smoke there must be fire…” They don’t know what the fire is either. “There’s just something about her,” they muse. “I just know that she’s corrupt,” they justify to all.
A tire fire is a real actual known thing. The details of all the things that are questionable, dubious, spurious, actionable, distasteful about Donald Trump are all actual real facts. They are things that are known, that can be proved. Over and over again, those facts are ignored in favour of questionable, dubious, spurious, actionable, distasteful debate about imagined, posited, speculated opinions about Hillary Clinton.
This US election pits a failed incompetent businessman/reality show star against a qualified competent career politician. And every single day people who loathe and fear the former try desperately to suggest that the latter has a deep dark secret hiding somewhere that will disqualify her. Because they would rather live with a tire fire than that hint of smoke.
And that is why Clinton is so confused by the hatred and distrust of her. She sees clearly because there is no smoke in her eyes. Wave your hands…wave the smoke away. And take another look. Stop insisting that your opinion of imagined possibilities is as valid as actual facts.
When Martin Shrkeli raised the price of his company’s unique AIDS medicine by 5000% the protest was immediate and loud. Although the patient base for the medicine was small (intended for ttreating oxoplasmosis in patients with cancer or HIV ) people understood that there was no other suitable substitute. And the medicine had gone off patent protection which is when you generally have generic versions at much cheaper prices. All in all, people were able to easily see that this was a terrible difficult thing for patients to deal with.
I say this again and again and again…. whenever the majority identity group (ie, whites, sometimes white men) feel the need to silence a minority identity group they find one member of that group who has expressed ideas that the majority group feel best represents their own views. They then trumpet this anywhere and everywhere: we found ONE person who has spoken and now no one else gets to speak. I have written endlessly about the idea that white people, particularly white men, have no one person who speaks for them. When a white man shoots police officers, no one runs to other white men asking if they will denounce that person and their views as another white person. White men are individuals; black men – black people – are but a single entity and they stand and fall as one dependent upon the word of white people.
Ijeomo Olumo has written about the co-opting of Dr. King’s words to prove the point of those trumpeting AllLivesMatter. She writes of this so much better than I. I will simply say this: do consider that you, a white person, are telling black people that they are not entitled to stand behind a slogan and a movement that is for them, by them, and which explicitly names them in it’s title. You are justifying that by telling them that you, a white person, have found the words of another black person and that those words mean they have to do what you, a white person, tells them to do.
All Lives Matter is a useless pointless trite slogan. Yes, I understand that your point is that you are trying to say “All lives should matter, not just the white lives! Black lives matter too!” But if you are a genuinely good person who believes that…then there is no reason to tell people of colour that they are not entitled to use the slogan THEY chose to represent the movement THEY had to start to raise awareness of how little their lives have been valued. No matter what argument you make there is no getting past the doubt you instill by your very insistence on that slogan: that you are uncomfortable declaring Black Lives Matter. That you are insisting on some level of qualifier so you, a white person, are not left out of the equation.
I can say it no more simply than that. Much as anti-feminists try to modify the language and tell feminists that maybe, just maybe they would consider possibly thinking about equality for women but only if women come up with another name that isn’t quite so…about women, white people do not get to say, “Come up with another name and then we’ll support you having rights equal to ours.”
By insisting on a name change, by insisting on imposing a slogan of your choice upon them you are not-so-subtly trying to say that you are the one with the power: the only power or equality they get will be by your choice. You want an acknowledgement of your superiority. The line I read too many times is some version of “blacks are trying to be superior to us!” (much as I am continually told that feminism is about women trying to be superior to men). It has been much said “When you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” And that is what you keep saying any and every time you say “All Lives Matter.”
It ain’t the name that is the problem. The name is pointing at the problem: and the problem is that semantics matter more to you than the desperate fear and unhappiness felt by too many POCs and indigenous people in America. And the real problem is that you have intrinsically accepted that any shift in power is solely yours to bestow, as a white person: so first you start with their slogan.