This is really long, bear with me.
In my young life, the world has changed wildly. Just a little over halfway ago, September 11th happened. Half of that ago, the smartphone and the age of information took off at lightning speed. I've grown up with two sets of memories: America before fear, and America after fear.
Before 9/11, the idea that anyone would - or COULD - attack America with the viciousness displayed that day was unthinkable. I was about to turn 14, but I remember the difference. The change in the air that happened in the subsequent weeks and months. I remember campaigning hard on the streets of Washington DC for George W. Bush in 2004, believing wholeheartedly that John Kerry was a lame weakling who would let our enemies walk all over us. I believed those things fervently. I felt them in my bones and knew that the only thing that could keep the terrorists at bay was a strong Red White & Blue warhead... and Rev. Moon, somehow. I never fully understood what I believed, never truly grasped the nuance of it all, but I knew that we needed strength.
I went to Israel and Palestine in 2006 and 2007. I made a movie there. I was there for an extended period, two different times in those two years. Starting in Tel Aviv, then to Jerusalem, Tiberius, Bethlehem, and finally Ramallah. I went to Paris (by accident, but thankfully I stuck around long enough for the shock to wear off and actually take some information in). I traveled all along the east coast, went to Moonie camp, watched matching after matching fail, experienced my own attempts at fail, watched the UC's "forgiveness ceremonies" unfurl, and watched my faith crumble.
My faith didn't crumble because I became tired and disillusioned. My faith crumbled because I watched corruption and willful ignorance at play. My faith crumbled because I watched those I trusted turn their backs on basic reason. My faith crumbled because none of the leaders I was supposed to turn to in times of trouble, not one, could answer any of my earnest questions with anything other than a deflecting directive to pray and reflect and trust in my elders.
When I was in Jerusalem, I was asked by the team coordinators to stay behind an extra evening while the rest of the team flew back home. They wanted me to go into the Arabic quarter of Old Jerusalem, with a translator and a MEPI Representative (a completely ineffectual, newly-minted UC "Rev."). Our mission was to knock door-to-door on people's homes and interview them about whether or not they believed that peace could ever occur in the middle east. I'll say up top that this did not go well, but here's a bit of the story regardless:
After many failed attempts at getting a "satisfactory" (read: "yes") answer out of any of these citizens - who nonetheless invited us, strangers, into their homes and shared with us what little they had - we finally came across a ramshackle house with an expensive looking door. Imagine a lean-to made of metal sidings with an expensive suburban door from Home Depot. It looked ridiculous.
We knocked on the door, and we were welcomed into a home that contained the following people, all Palestinian arabs: a 30-something woman in a 90's style pantsuit, complete with Gillian Anderson X-Files hair-do; a young man with platinum-blonde hair and an Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirt; a 30-something woman in full hijab; and a dog.
None of them spoke any English except for Gillian Anderson 2.0, and she told us to "wait for her brother." We waited for almost an hour. As we were getting antsy and a little nervous, the door flew open.
A man in his late 30s came into the house, wearing a medical coat. It had blood on it. He saw us, asked his sister some hurried questions, went into the kitchen, and didn't come out for many minutes. He finally sat across from us and spread his hands in a "what can I do for you?" motion.
I clumsily asked my question about peace in the middle east. He stared at me, and wiped his glasses, and gave me his answer. I paraphrase:
"The blood on my coat is my son's, who is dead now. He was killed my an Israeli soldier this morning while playing in a park. No."
I asked him to elaborate. He said the following (also paraphrased):
"As long as America is involved the way that it is involved, there will not be peace here. As long as Israel continues to kill us, there will be no peace here. As long as young men and women continue to join Hamas and die in the streets like dogs, there will be no peace here. No one in my family hates Americans. No one in my family hates the average Israeli. Neither does anyone I know. What we, and I, do hate is your president Bush. I would charge him in the streets and rip his eyes from his head, kill him with every breath I could kill him with, until I were dead, but it wouldn't bring my son back. But I would do it happily all the same." He went on to explain that the rhetoric of American media and political policy was having more of an effect on Arabs (at this time Palestinians, Iraqis, and Afghans in particular) than anyone in the states could possibly imagine. I didn't say a word for almost three hours. I just listened.
I hadn't turned my camera off for this exchange. The robbery of my footage in Paris a few days later was a titanic blow to me.
I said my goodbyes to this man, as he plied me with coffee and fruits, and we parted ways. I got on a plane, got stuck in France, and eventually went home without the most crucial footage I had, and probably will ever, shoot.
That experience in the Middle East was a turning point for me, the beginning of an enormous shift that changed me from someone who regurgitated what was told to me, who absorbed what I was told to believe and do and reflected it outward again, into someone who knew they knew nothing. I was embarrassed for many years to have a hard opinion of anything. I would still constantly fall into the trap of spouting my mouth like I knew what was up and then tuck my tail between my legs when I realized what an ass I was being, but the overriding theme of those moments, and the trap that I would fall into, was when I would miss the forest for the trees, or when I would talk about a "firmly held belief" in a way that attempted to delineate my own feelings about how people should be, or behave, or believe.
The only thing that has changed since then is that I try not to bear absolutes on human behavior anymore. I try bear absolutes on reason. I know this might sound bananas but I beg of you to hold your breath and really attempt to listen to, and unpack for yourself, what I'm saying here.
Living in New York City, and DC, and very briefly Maine, and Westchester, and Virginia, all while flooded with doubt about the world and how/who/what people are/should be, has been an overwhelming process. I am a heterosexual white male in my 20s. I am physically imposing. I have a deep voice. I am eloquent. I am intelligent. I am educated. I am not hungry or sick or unattractive. I am sociable. I am talented. I am exceedingly privileged.
Life is easier and more immediately accessible for me than it is for quite literally 75% of the people I know. Half of them are women, and at least half of the men I know are minorities. This is not an opinion. This is a measured fact. All (read: all) of these people who are not white men can attest, and all of them who I have spoken to of this, which is a countless number, HAVE attested to this. Whether it's discrimination in the workplace, or in a place of business, or on the phone, or in the dating scene, or by cops, or by taxi-drivers, or by their own friends and family, or their own partners sometimes, or the climate of their own government, it is an endemic issue.
The argument that the Republican party is the party of Lincoln, party that "freed the slaves," is reductive to a point that impedes any meaningful conversation. The Republican Party is unrecognizable today to the party that existed over 150 years ago. It is the Republican Party in name only. What's more, focusing on the bald outlines of one party over another is distracting. My focus has always been about the policies that are being put into place, and the butterfly effect of an empowered base of people. While Donald Trump is an evil sociopath, it's not exactly him by himself that I'm worried about. It's not even a conservative House and Senate with a despotic figurehead that I'm necessarily worried about. It's his base.
The majority of America is comprised of hard-working, underpaid people. This has been the case since the end of Vietnam, with a definitive settling of incomes that haven't meaningfully risen since the 80s. These people are frustrated, largely uneducated, and earnest. Putting a media mogul in front of them, in a nice suit with a nice flag behind him, and having him spout loudly about all of the outside reasons that the world is "coming to get you" is a surefire way to incite people into monstrous acts of violence and chaos. Take, for example, what happened in Britain with the Brexit vote. Sovereign fear overtook reason, and Britain has now thrown away every advantage they had by being European. They ousted themselves from one of the largest single-markets in the world. They drove fear into the hearts of every first and second and third generation immigrant living there. They've completely fucked themselves up a wall, and now every single one of the Brexit and UKIP and Tory leaders have cut and run, leaving Theresa May to deal with a nightmare. And at least half of the country wants a redo on the referendum. All because of insane fearmongering and media attention on things that weren't exactly real, and were then manufactured.
Equality feels like oppression when all you've known is oblivious privilege. What's happening in America right now is not the deflation of the currency of our values. It's growing pains from learning how to walk. I hear a lot of talk about this supposed "liberal agenda of hating whites and hating America," but I can tell you in no uncertain terms that that shit is nonsense. Living in one of the biggest cities in the world, and having lived all over, I am out and about with the good and the bad virtuous and the wretched and the scum and the saints and the people who don't fit into those categories and are just normal people who want to pay their bills and have fun. My mission in life, if not my job, is understanding and exploring people. There sure are people out there who hate white people. Sure. There sure are people out there who hate America. Sure. There are also people who hate Lord of the Rings and kimchi, but they're a stupid and loud minority. A microscopic minority.
If Donald Trump becomes the president, a lot of people are going to die. Maybe not as many here as in Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Central Africa, but a lot. Black people are literally being gunned down by cops, often for actually no reason. Yesterday a man lay prostrate in the street, unmoving, holding his hands up, saying "don't shoot," and he was shot. The cop's answer for why he shot him was "I don't know."
There's this attitude of grimacing dismissal when these things are brought up, as if they're isolated incidents and not symptomatic. There's also a serious misunderstanding of the term "institutionalized racism," wherein people (most often conservatives and blustering commentators) say things like "but that's illegal! No company or governmental body has rules like that! Or even policies like that! That's insane!"
That's avoiding the conversation. This issue isn't about what's written down. It's about behavior. It's about process. It's about what's taught. It's why so many white people walk a little straighter and a little faster when they see a lone black person on the street walking by them. It's why so many white people feel uncomfortable when addressing black culture. There's a taboo that is unique to whiteness when addressing it. Either through a sense of guilt, or a sense of mystique, or a sense of fetishization, or a sense of fear. Normalizing these things feels unnatural to many, because it doesn't seem to fit with the narrative of manifest destiny that America has been told it must carry.
Equality feels like oppression when all you've known is oblivious privilege. This is not a critique on anyone's value or validity. It is simply a truth about life and people. I hate using such a bald statement, but rich white southerners felt oppressed when their slaves were taken away. What's happening today is in the same family of phenomenon, even if it's wildly less extreme than slavery.
Donald Trump literally says anything and everything that will get him attention. He does not "love you." He does not love anything except for himself and his dynasty. His actions for the last thirty years speak to this. He is attenuating his policies and his language to appeal to a broad audience as November inches closer. Look back on the last year of his campaign. Remember Jeb Bush? Marco Rubio? Mitt Romney? While I disagreed with most of their policies, they were folks I could theoretically get behind as president, not just because they were more qualified, but because they had a conscience. Donald Trump is a man who literally dove into wrestling wrings to deliver finishing blows. He's literally a man who made a television show about humiliating people. He is a man who engages in wild and vicious and ungainly ad hominem attacks against anyone who criticizes him for anything ever at any time, no matter what it is, until they are silenced. He's a man who retweets Mussolini, for gods sake.
He will spell disaster for equality and progress in this country. If he is elected, people will die. Half of my friends are terrified for their safety walking down the streets with this man as president. Even I am, and I have no reason to be, other than being a dissenter.
I'm not voting for Clinton because she's great. She's not great. But her presence will be a vanguard against fascism.
#NeverTrump #BlackLivesMatter #ImWithHer #FeelTheBern