A Letter to Those I’ve Lost by John Erickson


Dear [Insert Name Here],

Something died on November 8, 2016, and I do not think I’ll ever be able to get it back. I sat there, walking back to my house, in disbelief and utter shock and scared about the next 4 years of my life.

For weeks leading up to the election, I had found myself praying in the copy room at my work almost daily. I would sit there, silent and alone, having just read some misleading article or alt-right post from a family member that called Hillary Clinton the devil, and wonder: when did everything go so off the rails?

Although we’ll spend years trying to figure the answer to my above question out, for me, it is a question I have been asking myself ever since election night and specifically knowing how certain members of my family would, and ultimately did, vote.

I’ve always known that I had Republican family members (don’t we all?). However, what made this so troubling is that Donald Trump was not just a normal Republican. This was the election of a man who would not only go after my rights as a citizen but also the rights of my female family members, friends, and a large number of people in my life who have always and were certain to become the main targets for further bigotry, hatred, and violence. I thought, at least for a second, that when my family entered the voting booth, this would be in the back of their minds. They’d sit there, before selecting their nominee, and think about how Donald Trump would ultimately hurt a member of their family, directly and indirectly; boy, was I wrong.

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I expressed my concern to my sisters: I told them I was deeply troubled by certain members of my family having voted for Donald Trump having known and supported me as an openly gay man my whole life. How could someone who proclaims to love me, vote for a Presidential ticket where the Vice-President had advocated for electrocution of LGBT people to “correct” them and cure their homosexuality?

From that simple conversation, life in my family only got more complicated and much more contentious. If you know me, I’m not one to not directly engage with those that disagree with me. However, in this case, I never directly engaged any of my Republican family members out of the respect and sheer ability to see what would (and did) happen if I did. The situation only seemed to get worse. I shared an op-ed that I did not write stating that it “pretty much summed up how I felt about family and friends that voted for Trump.” The article’s author stated that although I respect your choice to vote for whoever you wish, if you think for a second that I’ll forget that you voted for a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic demagogue hell-bent on destroying the very fabric of America, then you have another thing coming. Upon reading this article, my Republican family members confirmed that “we will not be coming together ever again” while some members of their extended family proceeded to also viciously attack me.

In the sense of full disclosure, I did fight back and engage with these family and extended family members in a not so cordial way after their bombardment of attacks made it almost impossible for me not to while also casting doubt if I could ever look them in the eyes, let alone ever speak/see them, again. Having fully known what was occurring, I demand and still to this day await an apology for my family members attacking me without provocation. I refuse to speak or see them ever again until they own up to attacking me for my political beliefs, something that I never did to them.

The worst part of this election is that it has completely destroyed my wiliness to further engage with “those people.” I no longer care to make it a top priority of mine to reach out beyond the proverbial political aisle to hear about what they have to say–especially after they shared fake news articles about Hillary Clinton running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a pizza place or the countless other horribly vicious things they said.

Maybe, our country is doomed after all. Maybe, our country deserves a ruthless dictator who will lie, cheat, and steal his way into the White House and destroy the very lives of those people that ended up putting him there in the process. Maybe, this is the type of President my Republican family members, who all benefit from the Social Security and Medicare programs likely to be on the chopping block in the next 4-years, deserve.

Out of all of these things, the one thing that has kept coming to my mind is G-d. What is he (or she) thinking? I feel like I’m back in one of my Old Testament classes discussing the harsh and cruel G-d who thrust so many horrible things onto believers. Maybe, the worst part about the election isn’t Donald Trump, but it is the realization that G-d may be dead after all.

Whatever happens, the only thing that I know for sure is that I will never stop fighting. I will never stop fighting the bigotry, the hatred, and lies, the slander, and most importantly the fear that is going to be washing over the communities I care most about throughout these next four or (and G-d forbid) eight years of a Trump Presidency. I will never forget the lies and attacks thrust upon me by family members that I once took pleasure seeing and interacting with. I will never forget the hatred they endorsed with their votes, and I will make sure that countless others like myself hold their family members accountable as well.

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I vow to never stop fighting and believing that we are stronger together now and more so in the future. I vow to do all the good I can, for all the people I can, in all the ways I can, as long as I can.

Sincerely,
John Erickson
#AlwaysWithHer

John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University and holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies.  His areas of focus are women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, LGBT history, American religious history, and 20th and 19th-century American women’s history.  John is currently the Community Events Technician for the City of West Hollywood where he works on community events related to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues.   He is, and will not be over, the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election for a very long time.  

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Categories: Abuse of Power, Activism, American History, Atheism, Belief, Body, civil rights, Community, Education, Evil, Faith, Family, fear, Gender, Gender and Power, Gender and Sexuality, General, God, Grief, Healing, Human Rights, Identity Construction, In the News, LGBTQ, Media, OpEd, Patriarchy, Politics, Popular Culture, Power relations, Prayer, Resistance, White Privilege

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33 replies

  1. John, this letter is so moving and it hits home with me too. I have been estranged from my family for longer than this election, and I too have often wondered how members of my family could vote “against me.” No matter how we try to explain it, it hurts. And I am sorry you are hurting now. Along with so many others.

    As for God, I suspect She (or He) feels pretty much as we do about the situation we are all in.

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    • Your words ring too true right now; I should be at dinner with my family members now but alas I’m here working on a production of the Vagina Monologues; we will never STOP fighting. No matter WHO votes” against us.”

      On a side note: you were with Gina at AAR; you walked right by me. I should have ran up and said hello! :)

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      • Sorry John about the AAR. I certainly did not see you, guess Gina didn’t either. It must have been right after the panel on my new book with Judith Plaskow? Hope to meet you one day. Meanwhile, we are not the only ones without family at the holidays. Chin up to both of us.

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  2. Dear John
    I am moved by your expression of what has happened in the U.S. within your family and many more and indeed to the whole fabric. But as you say, it must have been there (“they get what they deserve”) for it to manifest as it has. There is also in any spiritual journey, the betrayal: and it seems that many are experiencing that on a grand scale. The betrayal is a horrible experience, shattering, but there is a path through it … a reconstituting – even just of yourself but probably for many, and perhaps for the US as a whole. It seems the poison is being revealed … that has to happen for real integrity, wholeness. May it go well for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John, thank you for this heartfelt post. Please know that your feelings are shared by many of us. When I think of my LGBT brothers and sisters, my brothers and sisters of color, and those who are Muslim, I fear for them to the point that I can’t sleep.

    I’m tired of trying to “understand” people who are racist, sexist, and homophobic. To my mind, there is no “understanding” of nor sympathizing with people who hold those views. And these people profess to be Christian! As a child, when I heard the word “Christian,” the words that flashed into my mind were “caring, compassionate people.” Now the words that flash into my mind are the complete opposite.

    Yes, where is God? Where was God during the Holocaust, the massacre of the Armenians in 1915, the slaughter of millions in Cambodia in 1974-1975, in Russia in the 1930s? Where, indeed?

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    • Rabbi Harold Kushner believes that asking, “Where was God during _______________?” is the wrong question. He came to the conclusion that God is not omnipotent (a reinterpretation of the concept within his tradition) and thinks the better question is, “How could people do such atrocious acts? Put the blame where it belongs,” he says, “on people.”

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      • People create the G-ds we want; the G-d that “they” see is obviously different from the one “we” see; however, are they all the same? Will we ever see one G-d/Goddess together? Only time will tell.

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  4. Reblogged this on Dances with Tricksters and commented:
    I woke up last night from another nightmare about Trump. My anxiety is through the roof. I feel hurt by my fellow Americans. I am scared, so deeply scared, and I loathe everything Trump and his deplorable cronies stand for. I wish someone would shoot him, but that would be too nice a death for a disgusting Orange Mussolini like him.

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  5. John
    I am sorry for your pain
    You are not alone
    But giving power to your anger is not helping
    Think on the minorities of this world including African Americans
    This is same old same old for them
    Read Volf and Frankel and then good old sexist Paul in Corinthians- his meditation on love
    Read about The White Rose Society
    Lead with love
    Lead with forgiveness
    Ultimately that is the only true power we have
    Much as I fail and much that I would so choose to hold on to the righteous anger
    It never that holding on works for our souls
    Let us know how you are doing!
    You write well if our ultimate struggle of love
    Christ on the cross even as being birthed

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  6. If you want cosigners for your eloquent letter, count me–and no doubt the rest of this FAR community–in. I still wake up in the morning and ask, How could this happen? I have conservative friends who have given me what they think are cogent reasons for being glad Mr.Not My President was elected, but I still don’t get it. I don’t think The Donald is a normal anything. What does he worship?

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  7. I have heard the phrase, “We shall overcome” over and over since the election results. “We” = ALL people of color, ALL women and ALL LGBTQ people. We SHALL overcome! I think we need to direct all energies into voting, helping the poor to vote and CREATING our own good in order to have our voices heard. Do not worry, it’s going to happen.

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    • We need to take back our states that we live in; the problem isn’t just the national stage, it is the states that are rolling back voting rights, etc. where they can get away with all of this.

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  8. Thank you for this.

    I had been writing an article for my school’s online publication and during research, I was surprised, well I guess just saddened, by how a lot of my peers felt.

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  9. Heart with you, John! Thank you for your eloquent letter that speaks for so many of us!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dear John, last evening I went to a gathering of several hundred people honoring Grandmother Aggie, the eldest of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Every single person in that room echoes your feelings. The wise grandmother spoke, telling us that every single prayer she makes includes those that she does not like, even those that she fears. This has been her life — to include all, to protect all. As one rabbi said, Israel cannot be at peace until Palestinians no longer feel oppressed. You and I cannot be at peace until the Others no longer feel threatened. I don’t know what it is going to take to give them that comfort level, but I know it has to happen. Yes, I will march with Women on January 21; I will fight the local pipeline project; I will continue to support Planned Parenthood. And every time I bless a tree or a rock, or give a blessing for my food, I will include a blessing for Them. We simply cannot give up. Perhaps the gift that God/dess gave us was an extra dose of compassion. Now it is time to use it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dear John, your post really resonates with me. I am horrified that so many people hate others, or simply don’t care what happens to them. I am horrified that people can’t see Trump for the evil, lying, narcissistic sociopath that I believe he is, and I know about sociopaths because my father is one. Needless to say my father loves Trump. My father and I have very little contact and what contact we do have is mostly through e-mails. He e-mails me right-wing crap and I delete it without looking at it. I do know some good people who voted for Trump, including the young man who works on my computer. He voted for Obama twice, but just couldn’t stomach the idea of Bill Clinton being First Gentleman, talk about sexist! The thing is that he is cocooned in his straight white male privilege and cannot understand, or will not understand, how others feel, and I suspect that is true of some of Trump’s supporters.

    The Bible study group that I lead has some Republicans in it, even though the UCC is a liberal denomination and our minister is gay. I usually try not to step on the toes of those more conservative than I, but I realized this election season that I had to point out the anti-Christian things that Trump has done and said. At least some of the Republicans in the group were horrified by him and did not vote for him, but some of them may have because they hated Hillary so much. Hillary isn’t perfect, no one is, but I truly do not understand how anyone can think she’s worse than Trump. All we can do now is pray and work to protect those who are in danger because of Trump and his supporters. God/dess help us all.

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  12. Sometimes I wonder whether this election has brought to the surface a lot of discontent and misery that has been boiling just under the surface of our society – leaking out here and there, but now “out there” so that we can no longer ignore it. Maybe our patriarchal way of living has to implode so that the women (and men like you, John!) can clean up the mess and create a world that will be more sharing/caring. I’m hoping that a Phoenix will arise from the ashes!

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  13. Holding family/other accountable is a necessary aspect of healing from any atrocity and moving on. With that much said I caution you not to get stuck in this place of separation permanently. It’s helpful to remember it’s part of a larger process. – Letting go is the endgame here and speaking from personal experience letting go comes and goes. We must choose it again and again.The last thing you want to become is a person who ends up stuck in HATING, like Trump.

    I agree with Katharine that the point of this travesty is to get us to SEE how thin the skin of genuine decency is. Our problem is not Trump it’s the American people who have elected him.

    Personally, I think that we have simply gone too far and at this point our only “hope” is to let patriarchy implode, however that plays out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Our problem is not Trump it’s the American people who have elected him.”

      This is what I’ve been trying to get across to a lot of different people. Unless we address this underlying issue, we’re looking at an eight year battle instead of a four year one. What the GOP has become has been a long time coming. I’ve been beating that drum for so long, I’m surprised my arm hasn’t fallen off by now. Ever since they started quietly taking over elected school boards and working their way up from there, this is where they’ve been working towards.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s always a relief to read that someone else gets the underlying problem. It’s so easy to get stuck in blaming and let’s face it Trump is an easy target. Thanks so much for responding.

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      • It is a relief for me too. As far as blaming, I’m actually struggling with a lot of rage right now. Years and years ago, dealing with the Koch takeover of the Texas State Board of Education, I demanded my remaining conservative Christian friends DO SOMETHING to address the fanatical cancer growing within their ranks. But they poo-poo’d my concerns, assuring me in dulcet tones that these fanatics were just a very loud, but very tiny minority — that they were really all calm, collected, compassionate,common sense Americans who would never ascribe to the vitriol this microscopic extreme faction was touting as the American right. Then, when I came back from Australia and looked around at the primaries and at Trump’s rising poll numbers, I asked everyone I knew (conservative, liberal, and everything else) what was going on and why they weren’t taking action to fight this. Again, I was chastised — by all sides this time — and assured that he would never get the nomination, much less win the general election. And now? Now we are here. With millions of Americans embracing hate in myriad forms and welcoming fascism into the halls of government with open arms. We made this mess. Not Trump. All of us. We, the People, created this. And now we’re all going to have to suffer through everything it is going to take to clean it up. I am doing the best I can to figure out how to process it, so it doesn’t eat me alive — but I am so very, very, very angry at every single person who told me I was being silly and that this would never happen.

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  14. Dear John, I am writing from Australia. We don’t have a Donald Trump, thank Goddess. But we do have some very far right politicians in majority and minority parties who support his views publicly. And we have a government whose policies on asylum seekers make me hang my head in shame; is overtly racist, sexist, homophobic; where the climate deniers hold the balance of power; where we rape the earth for short term economic gain; need I go on? I can share the political pain you and others of similar political ilk in the USA feel after the Trump election. But that is only part of the pain, isn’t it? The personal is political is also the political is personal. Families split apart and family members hurt each other in the worst of ways: warfare imposed at the intimate level. I am lesbian in a family predominantly either Catholic or Pentecostal Evangelical Christian. I am rejected by both sides which rather appeals to my warped ironic sense of humour. I think I am their main common ground which provides food for thought in this mad world of religious wars. The PE Christians in my family would have voted for Trump if American citizens for sure. And some of the Catholic and agnostic members.

    I believe we need to have our pain, create safe places to work through our pain, and be angry. It is not anger that is the problem. It is what we do with that anger is the problem. Can we use our anger wisely? I think I might be babbling now as we move into the Christian Christmas season of “love”. But somehow I need to go on envisioning a better world for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.

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    • Hi John —

      I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond to your eloquent post (my mother died two weeks ago, and I’ve been in a family cocoon since then, fortunately for me, a very loving and liberal family cocoon). I was glad to read your post, because I believe that we need to look at our anger and our fear, because they are messengers of something that has to change. I have to agree with Morrigan.. Anger is not the problem, but what we do with our anger. We need to use our anger as the energy it is and channel it into our work to change this country and protect this country in the coming days. Love and anger are not incompatible. Sometimes they necessarily go hand-in-hand.

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