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Thoughts On The Progressive Divide


the obvious recent rise of populism, nationalism, and the resurgence of once-thought-dead or dying “isms” is well documented and includes blatant racism, sexism, and non-military fascism. there continues to be horrifying and perplexing acts carried out, both by individuals and collectively, in the service of these “isms”. these acts are then dog-whistle encouraged by politicians and their cronies who rely upon the maintenance of a divided society as a means of maintaining their political base. a top-of-mind list of “in your face” or “wtf?” acts and abuses might include violently storming parliaments, inordinate use of force in arrest and “keeping the peace”, driving vehicles at and abducting protestors, mind-boggling and blatant abuses of political power, continued acts of (largely religious) terrorism, widespread racism and concerted public/police violence, voter suppression, tax evasion, and the seeming impunity of powerful alleged rapists and sex offenders.

so what can we do now?

you meet me

i’m angry, and proud, and loud. i’m probably white and straight and full of hate. but i could be anything or anybody. in a sense, i am. perhaps i’m intractably held to my violent or racist or sexist positions. well, then i am. but many of me are not; parts of me myself are not. many of me are seeking respect, safety, a place of belonging, a place in this world. many of me are scared of change and angry. many of me are pretty awful, some are even worse, but many of me are not as bad as the me you see. i’m just the way i am, and that’s partly because of how you see me.

you do not have a monopoly on knowledge or experience. i do not have a monopoly on ignorance and nastiness. i may believe things you think are wrong. you may not ever change me or even like me. you may sometimes laugh at me. but if you do not see “me”, if you continue to see me in binary terms, as deplorable, non-redeemable, unreachable, then you have become a fascist. you are only seeking to divide. you are only seeking to diminish me, to dehumanise me. and you will then see me act in very inhuman and inhumane ways.

like the time i stormed the capital, or the time i held up the TAB. the time i was arrested and, didn’t you all laugh at me. yes, i’m 33, and living at home, with my mum, just us alone. it’s pitiful and it’s weird, and i know you all had a good long laugh with your twenty-something college-educated kids when you saw me on the news. but do you think i’d be here if my head was on straight? if my parole wasn’t always in jeopardy, if i was not always in dire straits? i can tell you all, there hasn’t been a day in my family home better than the worst day so many of you have known “at home”. at home…god, don’t that mean so many different things…?

i may not deserve your easy praise, your token respect; you may think me ignorant and unyielding to knowledge and progress, you may in fact hate me and find me abhorrent. some of my actions may in fact justify criminal prosecution, or at least moral outrage. but am i beyond redemption? am i (and importantly, my family and friends, my children and theirs) beyond engagement, beyond human dignity, beyond an effort to see past your own prejudices and framed experiences? if i am beyond your hope, then such unlikely bedfellows we have become, tucked up safely in mutual disrespect, disregard, and disdain.

together, we shall hate, together, we shall lose everything.

i know you

but you are progressive because you believe in something better, right? a better world for you and yours; and surely me too, right? you want the best for me, in the abstract you love me. thanks. but in the specific, you find it difficult or impossible to love me and so often you act like you hate me.

it’s not really an act.

i’m guessing about the abstract love, but i feel the specific hate, just like you feel mine. so you’re progressive, but am i a part of this better world you want?

am i a part of your “progress”, your progressive ideals, your better world for all? or am i just a lil’ something between you and your dream, an unfortunate example of a population of unpalatable disposition and desires, soon not to be, when the world will be, as you want it to be. yes, let’s all dream a little higher, and throw this dross onto the fire.

fascism takes many forms, and in a new century, may yet be reborn.

let’s introduce old-fashioned love

love is not just eros. love is not just self or shared interest. love is not just comfort and safety for you and yours. the love we all so desperately need is not just for you and yours. that love is easy. that love makes you feel better.

that love, to be harsh, is merely self-interest.

love is a strange word to throw into this mix. it’s about pop songs and that guy and you, or love from your auntie or your mum. love is a perspective, but also an unwavering north to a moral compass;  and it can be a big scary love that extends to loving the unlovely. loving the deplorables. loving the people that piss you off so damn much…

… and loving me, for i am a good and bad person, just like you. i have done some terrible things. my worldview can be so awful, so against everything you think and feel. i am holding to these things. i am poorly educated and perhaps inculcated in moral decay before i left my childhood home. perhaps i was taught how to hate while you were taught how to love. i am vocal and obnoxious and stubborn. i am probably white and racist and loud and ignorant. but i might also be anything or anyone. i easily love my own, my family, my friends, my own kind. i might love them so well, but, rest assured, i don’t think i’ll be loving or understanding you and your kind any time soon.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”*

for you are not me. you believe in bigger things, right? you have ideals, right? you and your friends? you’re the good people. well, it’s time to be the better people. it’s time to stop dividing this world.

at the very least, if you disagree with me, ignore me. or engage with me, dispassionately and humanely. support and bolster institutions and movements that will help me, educate me, and include me. look for common ground, find the grey in my wrong, and the grey in your right. be humble enough to be wrong. and admit when i’m right. recognise when i’m wrong but feel right and need you to engage with me, not my position. understand why i’m lost or ignorant or racist or screwed up and angry as hell.

and stop acting like me. engage. include, believe. love. it takes two to make a fight. it will take two to make things right. but someone has to be big enough to make the first move. support inclusive movements, stop spraying invective across your social platforms, stop hating in the name of your self-righteousness, and stop looking down on me. try to see the “we” inside the me i’ve become.

i may be easy to disdain, but i am here and human and i am not going away. stay with me, include me. don’t show me, but walk with me, upon a better way. let’s see if we can make a little progress, my liberal and progressive foe.

let’s just see, you and me, how far we might just go.

* Abraham Lincoln, June 16, 1858.