Don’t Look Away by John Erickson

WEHO CA (June 7, 2015)©2015 Rebecca Dru Photography All Rights Reserved

Don’t look away. I know how hard it is to say this but don’t look away. All of those images, recordings, and other horrific accounts of the deplorable, sickening, and unconstitutional events at the camps they have set up along the southern border need to be your fuel to take action, get fired up, and take back this country from those that would want to destroy everything we hold dear.

I’ve written a lot about how the 2016 election has impacted my family. If you want to catch up on any of those posts, you can click here:
         * A Letter to Those I’ve Lost
         * Happy Anniversary

I didn’t think I’d be writing a series about my family post-2016, but if I learned anything, it is that the personal is political, and sadly, things don’t seem to be getting any better.


In the third volume of this ongoing series of misfortunate events, we start back at the very beginning except for this time, involving another family member that voted for Trump (I know, I don’t know how or why I have so many members of my family that voted for that Nazi). In what has become a news story and crisis to shock the world, many people have been taking to their personal social media accounts to spread the word of their outrage, distress, and heartache over children being ripped away from their families at the border. For days I did not see one post that was not talking about the humanitarian crisis at the border or calls for action and ways people could get involved to help.

While I was happy to see so many people trying to find a way to organize and take action, there always seems to be one person who calls on people to look away. Look no further than a member of my family, who voted for Trump, to comment on a status expressing outrage over the recordings of children being ripped away from their families stating: “Why can’t fb just be positive and fun. Why spread the negative?”

Why can’t social media be fun anymore? Why can’t we spread happy pictures of puppies, babies, and rainbows? While the answer may be simple to many of us, let me state it plainly to my relative: Because the world is on fire and we have a racist in the White House creating edicts that call for babies and children to be placed in ‘tender age’ facilities.

52% of white women voted for Trump. While that number still continues to shock many of us, my relatives are part of that statistic, and that is something that I have had to grapple with in order to make sense of this new world order we seem to be experiencing. However, what really is behind that statistic is the real monster responsible for both so many actions we have seen lately and ultimately the reason why someone would state: “Why can’t fb just be positive and fun?”

White privilege is the monster ripping children away from babies. White privilege is the beast that causes white mothers simply look away and find something more pleasing to look at on social media than the horrors going on throughout the world. White privilege is the invisible knapsack that 52% of white women are going to have to unpack if we are to ever get our country back.

Following the comment on social media, my relative reached out and said she wanted to: “save the welfare of our family” because as many of you have read, there has been a little bit of drama. However, before any action could be taken to “save the welfare of our family” (she literally wanted us to each post a cute photo of a baby or puppy to help make sure HER Facebook timeline was filled with cute photos rather than the news) she blocked my other relatives on social media.

So, that leaves me with little but nothing else to say than this: If you want to save the welfare of our family, then you start by not voting for and supporting the policy of a known racist. However, most importantly, you do not look away when you see something that upsets you. Question yourself as to why it upsets you.

If we learned anything from history it is that those that looked away were not favorably remembered by history. From people that looked away when women fought for the right to vote, when the Nazis took Jews to concentration camps, to when African Americans were (and still are) beat up, attacked, and killed for wanting civil rights and equality, people that look away are part of the problem.

I never really talk about my grandfather that much. To be quite honest, he was a very Grandpa Jim - Holocaust Articlequiet man that I didn’t get to know that much. What I do know is that he did not look away. My grandpa was part of the first U.S. anti-aircraft battalions that arrived at Dachau Concentration Camp the morning after being liberated by the U.S. Army’s 42nd and 45th infantry division.

In a time where two-thirds of millennial and 4 out of 10 Americans overall don’t know what Auschwitz was, we need to make sure people do not look away from the tragedy and horrors around us for the sake of seeing something that comforts them. The scene that my grandfather discusses in the article (photo attached) is forever etched in his memory and while I don’t offer to speak for anyone but myself, what I have seen over the past few weeks (let alone the last two years, remember Charlottesville? I do!) will never leave my memory.

So, to my family member that is craving, albeit pleading, for people to look away, I say this: history will not kindly remember you.


John Erickson is the President of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women. John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University where he is finishing up his dissertation tentatively titled “Step Sons and Step Daughter”: Chosen Communities, Religion, and LGBT Liberation.” John holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies. He is the Founding and Past President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s LGBTQA+ Alumni Association and currently serves as the Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Stonewall Democratic Club, a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. He is a permanent contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Co-Founder of the blog The Engaged Gaze, and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation. In April 2017, he was the first openly gay athlete to be inducted into the Wisconsin Volleyball Conference Hall of Fame. Most recently, John was one of the coordinators of the Women’s March Los Angeles, which brought together 750,000 people in downtown Los Angeles on January 21, 2017, and a Committee Member for the #ResistMarch, which brought together 100,000 people from Hollywood to West Hollywood in honor of LA Pride on June 11, 2017.

Categories: American History, Ancestors, Family, General, Human Rights, In the News, Loss, OpEd, Politics, Racism

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17 replies

  1. Oh John, this is so difficult. I too am the odd one out in my family. I am pretty sure my brothers and their wives and maybe their children voted for Trump and if my 98 year old father voted he did too. And yes white women as a group voted for Trump too! I take some comfort in the fact that white single women and white college educated women esp those with higher degrees did not, but still, women as a group voted for Trump. My sense is that these women are comfortable with racism and sexism and cultural exclusivism. If they are married to racist sexist men they think: oh that is just the way things are and if I rock the boat my husband will divorce me. So as you say, they choose not to see. And if it is more difficult for females to override the tendency toward empathy that all humans inherit from our primate ancestors (de Waal), then these women are fighting a daily battle in themselves not to feel empathy with those they choose to ignore. So no wonder they get stroppy! Siggggghhhhh

    And my own dear mother if she were alive, well she probably would have voted for him too!


    • It is very difficult. First, I have to get over being attacked by members of my family. First and foremost, I want an apology for that. My family seems to think it is black and white, that, once they (which they never will) apologize for attacking me online, that it is over from there. That’s only when the real problem begins: I have to come to terms that I have family members that voted for a racist, sexist, (insert every other horrible thing here) candidate. I don’t know if I can ever, or will ever, be able to move past that.

      Like I said way back when the whole situation began: you can vote for whoever you wish. That is why America is so great. However, if you think I am going to ever forget that you voted for a person like Trump, then you have another thing coming.

      Thank you, for your comment!


  2. A very thought provoking article.


  3. This is a quote from NYTimes piece, “We Have a Crisis of Democracy, Not Manners,” by Michele Goldberg today (6/26/18). “Though it’s tiresome to repeat it, Donald Trump eked out his minority victory with help from a hostile foreign power. He has ruled exclusively for his vengeful supporters, who love the way he terrifies, outrages and humiliates their fellow citizens.”

    Some of my family members who support DT toss this meme about:

    Do people really not “get” that the current administration is way over the top? Just like one cannot negotiate with “abusive husbands,” one cannot negotiate with or accept the behavior the WH dishes out.


  4. I don’t know and can’t wrap my mind around anyone that can block out these atrocities. And it is so important to remember those 52 percent of women ( I thought it was 53 percent) who voted for a crazy misogynist. Women ARE part of the problem and we must not forget that.


    • Yes, I suffer from the same problem. I cannot wrap my mind about it either. I have already been attacked online by my family member that this article is about today. My response: why does this bother you so much?

      Trump saying and encouraging attacking women didn’t seem to bother them? Nor did his treatment of minorities? But this? An article that calls out their racism? It’s shocking (and sickening).


      • I like your response because it puts the responsibility back onto the person who isn’t able to reflect upon her own actions…John, I know it’s horribly painful but it is useful to remember that when a person behaves like that IT IS ALWAYS MORE ABOUT THEM THAN YOU!
        Still, I feel heartbreak for you – I lost friends over this past election – but family is harder to deal with.


      • Yes; as I said: there is a line in the sand now and whatever side you are on will be remembered in history.


  5. The Abuser-Troll-Ogre-in-Chief isn’t the only one. Consider “elected” leaders around the world, autocrats and fascists that Trump admires and phones to congratulate when they get “elected.” Is the whole world turning racist and sexist? Returning to racism and sexism? One of my clients vacationed in Central America recently, and when people asked if he was American, he said no, he’s Canadian.

    John, you’re right that too many Americans don’t know, and haven’t learned the lessons of, history. Alas. Thanks for writing this thoughtful post (which I didn’t have time to read yesterday).


    • With today’s news regarding Kennedy, I think we can now safely say that we have NOT learned from history. I wonder how long it is going to take for us (or how much else we all have to lose) to learn this lesson.


  6. As someone also mobbed by hostile relatives, I applaud you, John, for your strong, direct voice speaking clearly about the betrayals against you from your biologicals. As the non-compliant relatives who would not participate in our own subjugation/ intellectual slavery/ psychological destruction in a family system that requires cultish-levels of conformity, those of us attacked/shunned can take a deep refuge in knowing we had a strong enough Self/Spirit to maintain our authenticity and values. I know it hurts deeply, is shocking, is a type of betrayal that is incomprehensible, but where I find comprehension is knowing that my biological kins’ hostility and vicious acts towards me are in direct proportion to their brokenness, need to belong because of their weak identities, their complex dissociation from reality, and their disconnect from their very humanity–humanity is based in love, not hate. In other words, I’m sorry for what has happened to you, me, Carol Christ, and many others, but we, by the love of Goddess/G-d and our own Willpower, escaped a far worse outcome than their shunning us. Please see my research on Family Aggression/Mobbing at “Sedna’s Daughters” on FB, SageWoman Blog, and my website: Keep the Faith!!


    • I am going to have to check out the website. I completely agree with you and right now, this article itself is causing a lot of distress within my family. I am being asked to not make my writing personal but I have ask: the personal is political (always has been). Thank you, for sharing this resource with me!


      • John, you are allowed to talk about the experiences of your life, and that includes with your biological kin. If they are ashamed of what they have done, that is for them to resolve and not expect you to be silent about their ABUSE, which is what Family Aggression/Mobbing is, Abuse. Silence is not healthy for anyone. Take good care of yourself…we’re all here behind you.



  1. Don’t Look Away by John Erickson — | Thesseli

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