Like many of you, I was anxious and angry during most of the Trump administration years. I watched MSNBC avidly, hoping against hope that a) he could be stopped or b) he would be impeached. Now that he is gone, it would be nice to be able to take a “breather” (I wasn’t breathing regularly during the Trump years), a break from thinking about US politics all the time, but sadly, the political situation in the United States continues to require attention.
President Biden has pleasantly surprised me with his progressive domestic agenda and his decision to remove troops from the heretofore endless war in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, he has proposed an increase in the military budget. Dwight David Eisenhower, who warned of the increasing power of “the military-industrial complex” as he left office, must be turning over in his grave.
Most worrying of all is the fact that so many Americans voted for Donald Trump, believe that the election was stolen from him, and support white supremacy, while the Republican party refuses to deviate from the Trumpian worldview.
As if it could not be any worse, police killings of innocent black men by white officers and mass killings by young white men with easy access to automatic weapons are proliferating. Moreover, Republican-inspired voting restriction legislation is once again threatening the foundations of our democracy.
Police violence in black communities was recognized in the 1960s and 1970s. Attempts, which were stymied by police unions, were made to end it then. From 1994 to 2004 a ban on the manufacture or sale of assault weapons was the law of the land in the United States. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 only to be vitiated by the Supreme Court in 2013. How long will we have to go on fighting for basic rights to life and liberty for all Americans?
I am sick and tired of it all. And to tell you the truth, I am sick and tired of having to think about all of these things all of the time. Can’t I take a break? Well yes, I have taken a bit of a break insofar as I have failed to submit my blogs regularly in the past months. But I have not been able to take a break from thinking.
I came of age in the 60s. While I was raised in a Republican family, I changed my political affiliation the summer after I graduated from college when I identified not as a Democrat, but as a member of the New Left. I became deeply committed to ending racism, poverty, and war. By 1969, I was also working to end sexism and patriarchy. I did not believe that we would still be fighting the same battles fifty years later.
These days I have been asking myself: what is wrong with white people? Why do white police officers continue to kill? Why do white people in great numbers support Trump’s racism? And what is wrong with young white men who take out their anger and insecurity by killing?
A recent study shows that the white people who took part in the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 were mainly middle and upper middle class—not disempowered poor or working-class white males as we are often told by the media. The people who stormed the Capitol and the people who supported them were not exclusively male. What motivates them? The authors of the study suggested that white people who are “sitting pretty” at the moment are motivated by the fear that as the United States becomes more diverse, white people will lose out. (Apparently, these white people do not believe that it could be possible for all Americans to live together in peace and prosperity.)
Where do we start? How about with a few facts? If corporations and wealthy individuals were taxed at the rates of fifty years ago (when America was supposedly “great”), it would be possible to raise the living standard of the poor and nearly poor—including white people—without taking anything away from those in the middle classes. We tried this in the 60s with the Great Society programs, and they were successful for the most part. Unfortunately, most of these programs were dismantled not only under Reagan, and but also under Clinton. As for facts, the very people who need to know them dismiss facts that could alter their worldview as “fake.”
We need to think seriously about alternatives to war. Besides being harmful to people and all living things, war costs a lot of money. The size of the military budget is one of the greatest impediments to domestic progress. “Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.” These are not the words of Joe Biden, and they would not readily fall off the lips on any Democratic legislator except California Congresswoman Barbara Lee. They are the words of Eisenhower. The fact that not only Republicans but also most Democrats have failed to heed the words of Eisenhower should disturb us all.
Finally, I will mention empathy. Last Thursday’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy included a compelling depiction of the fear Maggie and her new boyfriend Winston felt when he was pulled over by a white male police officer for a minor traffic infraction that he was not even aware of (his bicycle was partially obscuring his car’s license plate number). He was on the phone with Maggie at the time. She asked him to leave the phone open in case the police treated him harshly. The officer directed Winston to turn off the phone. At that point Maggie panicked and Winston knew that if anything bad were to happen, there would be no record of it. Winston was in the process of moving across the country to be with Maggie. When next we see him, his belongings are strewn across the ground behind his car after the police searched for drugs or weapons, and he is so upset he can barely speak. We know, as he and Maggie know, that he could have been killed, and is lucky to have escaped with his life.
Hey white people, isn’t there something wrong with this picture? Are you able to empathize with Winston? Or only with the white policeman? I empathize with Winston. I do not think any human being should be made to fear for his or her life simply because of his or her race. But I know that many white people do not feel as I do. This makes me weary too. Or should I say, it makes me want to cry.
I have worked to create a more just world all of my life. I have hoped we would be closer to achieving it by now. The fact that we have not leaves me feeling tired, dispirited, and sad.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who lives in Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.
Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions