I have been reading and hearing a lot lately about how polarized America is, how bad that is for us as a nation, and how we all need to reach out to those across the aisle so we can make some real progress.
I just can't do that right now.
My political philosophies and attitudes were forged in the late 1980s when I came out as a lesbian. In college in a rural Maine town with no visible queer world and lots of angry bigotry all around me, I learned that I had to be prepared for violence at all times. More than once I asked the campus police to walk me to my car, and more than once I was the last one out of a building at night and the cop was there locking up and provided an escort without being asked. My office was vandalized, nasty notes were left on my car, and the bulletin board for the glbt&Allied student group I founded was defaced on nearly a daily basis.
I remember watching friends get sick, then sicker, and then be gone. And Ronald Reagan did nothing. He let my friends die because after all, homosexuals didn't vote for him, so who gives a damn, right? Yeah. That kind of bitter takes a long time to fade. And I will get back to it again in a minute.
After RR came George I., who claimed to be kinder and gentler but still didn't do a damned thing to keep my friends from dying. Actually, that work was done by the queer community. Faced with a deadly pandemic, gay men and lesbians educated ourselves about what was safe and what was not. The American Red Cross kept insisting that the blood supply was safe, but people were getting infected by the hundreds from receiving blood products from donors who were HIV positive. Eventually one such boy, Ryan White, made headlines and met the president and some shit began to happen. But only for those who contracted HIV through non-sexual or non-drug-related means. George was way too uptight to do otherwise.
So the queer community got together, put aside the differences between the campy boys and the butch motorcycle dykes and did what we could to organize and save ourselves from the deadly apathy of the rest of the country. We made some progress, but funding for research is still shamefully low. Seems again we are not a priority to anyone but us.
Then came Clinton, or more accurately, The Clintons. Two for one, we were told. We worked hard for them. We volunteered countless hours at phone banks, we stuffed envelopes, gave people rides to the polls and donated money. And were quickly ushered out the back when our presence made it difficult for Bill to get bipartisan support for things. We were a liability that got jettisoned in the process of compromising.
Well, you've got to give and take, we were told. Make small steps toward progress and the greater end goal, we were told. Only that's not what happened. Those "small steps toward progress" we were sold? More people have been rooted out and discharged from the military under Don't Ask, Don't Tell than ever before. The Defense of Marriage Act effectively negated the Full Faith and Contract (help me here, that might not be the exact wording I want) clause of the United States Constitution which says that any contract entered into in Alabama must be honored in New Hampshire. Or Texas. Or Montana. Or California. DOMA was nothing more than a way for states to have federal permission to not recognize gay families from another state if they so chose. Dozens of states now have constitutional prohibitions on any kind on gay marriage.
Please tell me what part of this compromise I am supposed to embrace. I thought compromise meant that neither party got all of what it wanted, but that each side went away with more than what they started with. We got bent over in the most awful way by the Clinton years. We got a royal screwing without so much as lube, a kiss on the cheek, or a $20 left on the dresser. The bitterness rises in my throat even now to think of the betrayal and abuse queer people suffered at the hands of our "allies." And this in the name of compromise? Still not warm and fuzzy about it. Not at all.
Then came the shrub. He stole the election from the smartest guy in the country by using the doped-up Supreme Court Chief Justice who was appointed by, and remains friends with, his dad. So much for free and fair elections. The UN offered to step in and investigate, but we told 'em no thanks. Jimmy Carter, who has made it his business to oversee elections in turbulent areas, cited all kinds of irregularities, but was silenced by a media who was more excited about the cowboy about to take office.
So, dubya took office with majorities in both houses of congress and commenced to fuck the American economy, the labor market, the housing market and the average Joe right into bankruptcy. Never has a president started with so much (surplus in the bank, lots of new jobs, lots of economic prosperity, the admiration of the world community) and pissed it all away so quickly.
He took the money out of the hands of trained social workers and care providers and gave it instead to untrained, unlicensed faith-based groups to provide health services to needy people. Mega-churches thrived. He lifted the taxes on the wealthiest of Americans and left minimum wage to languish at a level that could not feed and house anyone. He filled his administration with leftovers from Reagan (told you I'd get back to him) and his father, even going so far as to seek the consult of advisers from as far back as the Nixon administration (a time in US government known for being above board, transparent, and scandal-free, of course - gag).
With his evangelical friends, he created an "us or them" view of the world: the US as Christian and good, and all others (particularly non Judeo-Christian) as evil and bad. This, remarkably, is the same world view held by the jihadists, only in reverse.
For seven years this guy has bullied America, quashing the voices of artists (Dixie Chicks, anyone?) and anyone else who dared to question what he does. Helen Thomas, the grand diva of the presidential press corps, was relegated to the back row. And the press, the spineless bunch of them, laid down and did not protest. Shame on them all.
So anyway, W shoved all kinds of crap at us for seven years. We were powerless and mostly voiceless. On the rare occasion when our side would get something passed, the president would issue a signing statement declaring that he had no intention of adhering to or enforcing the new law. He just took the stuffing right out of it. And the Supremes backed him up.
So now, some 20+ years after my coming of age as a political soul, I have really had enough. I know that the opposition does not want me, does not like me, does not value me, and really takes joy in seeing me and mine denied the most basic of human rights. I also know that my allies cannot fully be trusted to support me. Remember a few years ago when US soldiers were training Iraqi policemen and they went into a situation where it turned into a gun battle between good guys and bad? Remember how the Iraqi guys threw down their weapons and ran away? That's what it felt like for us during the Clinton administration. We were hung out to dry, left outmatched by our enemies and abandoned by our allies.
My feeling now is that I intend to hold my allies to their promises. I am not interested in compromise or bipartisanship, at least not now. I am still too angry. And I defy anyone to tell me I should not be angry. We have been treated horribly for the 20 years that I have been paying attention, and from listening to those who came before me, I know that it is not a new phenomenon. We are the easy target. We are the least pricey thing to throw overboard.
But I think some things have been changing. At least I hope so. Fewer Americans are willing to watch as we are quietly ushered out the back. I'd like to think that there are more who will stand and fight with us. At least I hope so.
So to paraphrase the Dixie Chicks, yeah, I'm not ready to make nice yet either. I'm pissed. Trust has been broken, and it takes a very long time to build back. The others can compromise if they like, but I am not interested in sitting down at a table with the people who have beaten, abused and stomped all over me and mine ever since I became aware that the pain in my back was from a boot heel. I have no interest in negotiating with my oppressors. Let cooler heads do that if they like, and I will probably acquiesce when it is done, but I do not have the stomach to participate in that conversation.
If this means I am part of the problem of a polarized country and electorate, so be it. I am too angry to care. There is only so much bullshit I will take before I really begin to fight back, and that line has been crossed.