I am a first generation American on my mother’s side. My mom wasn’t born in the United States. She, her sister and my grandparents escaped Europe during World War II to find a better life in America and apparently that worked out.
I am, to some degree, proof of that.
My father’s family is what you would probably consider “old south” with lineage tracing back to colonial times and even a former president. I grew up hearing the n-word used casually by relatives on that side of the family including my great-grandmother who was old enough to have been born on an actual plantation.
I grew up learning history from two very distinct points of view. One side claiming in hushed tones that the “south will rise again” and keeping collections of confederate money, and the other side conveying how Nazis were, unquestionably, the ultimate evil in human history.
This morning I woke up in a world united to survive a global pandemic, but somehow I woke up in the country complaining about how not being allowed to get a haircut is “oppression” and how much of a ‘burden” it is to wear a mask in public even though it could help stop the spread germs to others who are still susceptible to COVID-19. (NOTE: wear a fucking mask you idiots.)
I woke up in a world where racism still exists in the twenty-first century. A 22-year-old Japanese woman was driven to suicide, in part, because she was only half-Japanese in a society where some people still deem that as racially impure. A black man was killed through the use of excessive force by a white police officer in the United States – with the disturbing realization is that the first half of this sentence is merely a repeated one that could be applied to situations over and over again in recent years. A president is in office that doesn’t see, or fails to acknowledge, that his use of terms like “China virus” and “THUGS” gives small-minded and bigoted Americans the perceived permission that it’s okay for them to be racist and attack (verbally and physically) anyone that doesn’t fall into their failed mental stereotype of white America.
This morning, our government (the president specifically) is attempting to attack social media platforms because one of them (Twitter) had the audacity to correct him because, as a holder of public office, his words and statements carry accountability. This morning, police arrested journalists live on the air.
Racists and overreaching public authorities are both emboldened by our passive acceptance of ignorance in the United States and we are the peak level result of that complacency.
This is all abhorrent and despicable and hard to digest. The element that makes it worse? Watching relatives, elders, and friends who somehow are blind to all of this.
My smug southern relatives that think our president is a hero to their cause because he acts and thinks like them are disappointing, but not as disappointing as relatives that escaped oppression only to not see the warning signs that allowed a dangerous personality to rise to power using racial tensions and media manipulation.
I grew up worrying about whether Russia was going to send missiles to destroy us. We had drills in school about how to attempt to protect ourselves from that happening. An outside force was always the threat. Now? I’m less afraid of another country destroying us because, quite frankly, we seem to be doing a good job of doing it to ourselves.
Sure, I was supposed to write some fun blog post about food or pop culture or conventions today, but I just couldn’t do it. Talking (or in this case, typing) out all the negative sometimes sets the stage to FIND the positive regardless of how impossible it all feels.
So what’s the happy ending? I don’t know. I do know that I have Asian friends and black friends and Latinx friends and LGBTQ friends and others who are suffering due to the ignorance of people around them and all I can do is powerlessly say that “I empathize” because, for everything I personally see, feel, and experience, I just can’t ever truly understand how they feel. I just can’t.
What I can understand, though, is this: I’m a white cisgender male with blue eyes and dirty blonde hair, and I’m afraid. And if I’m this afraid, I can’t even begin to fathom the fear and dread they’re dealing with.
Genre nerds like myself grew up with the knowledge that we were either heading to Star Trek and a world (galaxy) focused on exploration and enlightenment, or Akira and the segmented collapse of society.
Dammit, cyberpunk authors. Why did you have to be closer to correct?
For now, though, the best I can do is to channel Arthur Dent and grab a drink with Ford down by the pub and watch the world exploding around me.
I still believe in happy endings, and I firmly think we’ll get there, but GOD DAMN if this isn’t the shitty part of the story right now.
Be kind, be safe, and I promise to blog more about eating and video games and fun stuff next week.