14 signs your government may be fascist


mxlb3628_el-fascismo-german-fascism-political-propaganda_poster-museumYou know why I’m posting this today. I don’t have to say it. It’s not to disrespect the new president or his administration and it is not to enrage the people who voted for him. I don’t delude myself into thinking that the people who should look at this and think critically about it will actually do so. To those of you who do read this, all I’m asking is that you think about it and take a long look at the world around us.

Maybe in four years everything will be fine and this will seem like a silly thing that I posted. Maybe it won’t.

Umberto Eco, famed writer and philosopher grew up in Italy under a fascist regime. In an essay entitled, “Ur-Fascism,” he created a list of common features of fascism.  He said that he thought it “is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.”

  1. The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”

  2. The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”

  3. The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”

  4. Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”

  5. Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”

  6. Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”

  7. The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.

  8. The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”

  9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”

  10. Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”

  11. Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”

  12. Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”

  13. Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.

  14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”

Eco finished his essay by warning that fascism was always around us and if it came back to power it would do so in disguise. He said that we should remember Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words.

“I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.”

A working title

mac-writer“So, what do you do?”

When someone asks you that question, what do you say? Do you talk about the job that you have that pays your bills? Or do you talk about the things that you do that you love? If you’re lucky, the answer is one and same. But, what if it isn’t? And what if you are passionate about more than one thing?

When I’m asked what it is that I do, I often have a difficult time answering. Back when I served food at various area establishments, I felt like I had to give some sort of explanation for what I do, as if I had to justify my job.

“I serve food. It’s just to pay the bills while I go to school. It’s pretty good money and I like meeting new people.” I’m pretty sure there are strippers who are less defensive of their work. There’s nothing wrong with serving food. There are even days when I miss it. I just always felt that I had to explain why I wasn’t doing more with my life.

It got a little easier when I was a graphic designer. I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time and talent, although I did often have to give more thorough information when I told them that I was a designer for a hair replacement company. Mostly people wanted to know if I designed toupees. I did not. There is a science to hair systems and trust me when I say I was no wig scientist.

When I left my job as a designer, burned out, with no desire to open up photoshop ever again, it was to have babies and take care of them. A stay-at-home-mom. Say those words to anyone and you are going to get mostly the same replies. A lot of people told me how lucky I was and how important and difficult that job was. And I get it, I’m pretty #blessed. But I couldn’t help feeling that another name for stay-at-home-mom was unemployed. I also couldn’t help but feel that the positive and kind things that people said about stay-at-home-moms were the sort of thing that they were expected to say. Those words didn’t help me get through some of the long days of diaper changes and meal making and mess cleaning. I also couldn’t help saying when asked what I do that I was “just” a stay-at-home-mom. As if it wasn’t enough.

To be honest, it wasn’t enough for me. This isn’t a comment on anyone else who is a stay-at-home-mom and has found happiness and fulfillment. If anything, I’m a little jealous of them. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to shake a certain restlessness.

offejtrThat restlessness has been what has pushed me back into painting and now whole-heartedly into writing. However when people ask me what it is that I do, I find that I’m back to not knowing what to say. If we’re talking about jobs or careers, I guess the truest answer would be still that I’m unemployed. Of course, that doesn’t say much about who I am, so usually I use the mom explanation. It’s been very difficult for me to say that I’m a writer, in the same way that I’ve never been able to say that I’m an artist. I may create art. I paint. But to be an artist feels like something far more than what I do.

With writing, it still doesn’t feel like I’ve earned the right to say that I’m a writer. I work really hard at it, all of my free time is devoted to either writing or reading. It started as a hobby, but it has become so much more than that. I have two completed novels. I have another one that’s getting there. I blog regularly. So, when am I going to be an actual writer? Is it when I’ve landed an agent? Or maybe, it will be when I have a book deal? Or, will I wait until I have a published book? Maybe, even with a published book, it will still feel like a fluke. Maybe I need more than one book published. Maybe, I’ll work at this my whole life and never feel like I have the right to call myself a writer.

The first time I told someone that I was a writer was last year. I just wanted to see what it felt like. He was an eye doctor, the eye doctor that took my new health insurance so it was the first time that I was meeting him. He asked me what I do.

I’m a stay-at-home-mom,” I said and after a long pause I added, “I’m also a writer.”

I felt like such a liar. But, he started telling me about how he used to write fiction in college and how he wouldn’t mind getting into it again. I was open about the fact that I was fairly new to it, but that I was hoping to in the near future to have a career doing it. We had a nice conversation and in the end I shared something about myself that was true, even if just to me it felt like it was a lie.

I’m trying to be more open about what I do and what my dreams are and where I want to be. That means when asked what I do, I will say that I’m a writer. That’s who I am. That’s what I want to talk about. Of course, I will still say that I’m a stay-at-home-mom. I’m still that too. And, I like talking about my kids best of all. They really are cool, little beasts.

I’m not going to keep looking for the always changing finish line, waiting for someone to approve me as a writer. What we do doesn’t always have to be tied to a paycheck. Who we are isn’t tied only to an end result, but is part of our failures as well as our successes. What we do is defined every day that we get up and do it.

I’m doing it. I’m a writer.

Needing space

relax-1276639_1280I see a lot of jabs at the idea that someone should need a safe space. I guess it’s pretty easy to make fun of people who need to be protected from words. Didn’t they ever hear that old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me?”  Aw, the little snowflakes need to be protected. Their poor little feelings are hurt.

These sort of jeers and jabs almost always come from white people. I have yet to see it come from a person of color, someone who worships a different religion and I have never heard it from a member of the LGBTQIA community. No, it’s always people who fit into the mold of what society has deemed both normal and optimal who mock the concept of a safe space.

I mean, it’s awfully easy to make fun of someone who needs a safe space when we’ve never had a racial epithet thrown at us. Perhaps, we’ve never been the victim of sexual assault. Maybe, we’ve never felt like there was a target on our back due to what we wear, who we worship, or who we love.  We don’t really know what that feels like. However, we can try to empathize with people who may have a different experience than us. We can try to understand that there may be times when they need a place where they can feel safe, where they can feel normal and where they can feel okay.

Take a minute and listen to the theme song from Cheers. What on earth do you think they’re talking about here?

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

RaeAnn Pickett wrote in TIME, “After the birth of my first son, I had postpartum depression. I was a mess emotionally, and I was in desperate need of feeling safe. I had no idea what “trigger warnings” or “safe spaces” were, but I had been using them internally for days—avoiding the mommy movies and choosing not to go to the breastfeeding support group where I felt like a failure. Being able to know beforehand what experiences I should avoid and create an environment where I felt safe made it easier for me to share my struggles and move past them.”

There have been times in my life where I have done the same thing, maneuvered myself so that I could avoid something that I found upsetting or troubling until I could find a way to move past it. I have also at times surrounded myself with people who understood me and what I was going through so that I could work through what I was feeling. 

Pickett was able to find the help that she needed for her own postpartum depression in one of these often mocked safe spaces. “When my first postpartum depression support group facilitator said in a hushed, happy voice that this was a safe space, I felt the weight slowly start to lift from my chest. All the pent-up anxiety I had felt was dissipating—just by knowing that the physical place I chose to be in was filled with people who understood me and could help me find the tools to get well.

This isn’t to say that safe spaces can’t go too far in another direction. It shouldn’t be used to stop conversation and discussion. They shouldn’t be used to censor ideas and concepts that we don’t like. Instead, it should create a space where a person can get away from the comments and arguments that are not helpful and can be damaging based on their experiences. Emma Kromm writes in the Harvard Political Review, “A college student who has experienced sexual assault and does not want to hear someone repeat an argument that in any way belittles her experience is not the right target for an indictment of censorship.”

Perhaps, there are times when we should be less concerned about our need to say whatever we want and instead think of other people’s feelings. To be empathetic. To understand that someone else’s experience might be very different from ours and that we all have our own ways of dealing with things that we find difficult. If you think that’s something to mock, then you, my friend, are the reason why we need safe spaces to begin with.

Safe spaces, when used properly can actually create an opportunity for understanding. Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University noted that “students don’t fully embrace uncomfortable learning unless they are themselves comfortable. Safe spaces provide that comfort. The irony, it seems, is that the best hope we have of creating an inclusive community is to first create spaces where members of each group feel safe.” 

Some of us build up our whole lives to be one giant safe space. We don’t go to places where we might feel uncomfortable. We don’t try to learn anything new or try anything different. We don’t make new friends. Some of us wouldn’t leave our house if it wasn’t for the responsibilities we have. If you think about it that way, then maybe we’re all just a bunch of hypocrites for making fun of everyone else for something we do every day.

Maybe you’re a tough cookie and you never needed a safe space. Maybe you never avoided people because you didn’t want to deal with something. Maybe you never wished you could go somewhere and not have to worry about being bullied or picked on. Maybe you are always out trying new things and meeting new people and you don’t feel any sort of anxiety about it. If that’s the case, I think you should just count yourself lucky and leave the people alone who haven’t been as fortunate as you.

Silence is complicity


silence-390331_1280It was always there. It kept to the shadows. It stayed, a whispered monster revered among its small groups of worshipers. We didn’t think it would ever be brave enough to come out into the light. We didn’t think it could ever be that strong. Its days of glory were gone, relegated to the pages of History books that we read and wondered how anyone could ever let it come out into the light like that.

Hatred.

Prejudice.

Racism.

Bigotry.

It has been growing stronger over the last year and over the last week, it has become brave. The Southern Poverty Law Center has counted more than 200 complaints of hate crimes since Election Day, according to USA Today.

It wrote “Heil Trump” and “Fag Church” and drew a swastika on the walls of an Episcopal churchIt shouted threats and whispered intimidation. It picked fights. It used fear like it’s best weapon.

It echoed through high schools and colleges. In its wake, it left behind fear.

How lovely it was to be white, to not be Muslim, to be what is considered “normal.” Now, it’s creeping out into the light, and we’re trying so hard not to pay attention. We’re doing everything we can to pretend not to see it. I should know. I have a lot of practice doing this.

I’m not sure why this happens but it seems to be a normal occurrence that people see my white skin and think that in me they have found someone who will understand their feeling about people of color. A woman told me in the parking lot of the grocery story how the latinos in the store were all so rude and they should speak English. Sometimes it’s not what they say but it’s how they say it. Their voices drop down to just above a whisper when they tell me how some girl we know is dating a black man. They tell me that of course not all latinos are bad but just the ones that live near them are. They assure me that I don’t understand because I don’t live where they live.

They tell me how they really feel about Muslims, about refugees, how we can’t trust any of them, that they could all be terrorists. If I’m lucky I get to hear their usually limited view of the Koran. They don’t like where they want to build their mosques. They don’t like how they pray. They don’t like how they wear their hijabs.

I also get to hear comments on gay people. How what they do is disgusting. How they choose to be how they are. I even get to see a children’s video on God’s view of gay people. Somehow, gay people are ruining marriage for all of us. I’ve had someone close to me say that two gay men shouldn’t be able to adopt children because they will molest them. Of course, who can forget the huge debate that raged on about where transexuals use public bathrooms? A hair stylist brought that up to me just a few weeks ago. She didn’t say anything but she gave me a look, eyebrows raised, the look that said, I’m just waiting for you to give me the go ahead to tell you exactly what I think.

These are all things that I hear in real life. This isn’t from people hiding behind computer screens. This is from people I know and love. This is from strangers in parking lots or in stores or in hair salons indulging in small talk that suddenly takes a dark turn. They see my white skin, my normal American life as a stay-at-home-mom with a husband and two kids and they think that they can say what they want to me and I will be their ally, that I will understand then and I will agree.

I don’t agree but until now I haven’t said too much. I wanted to pretend I couldn’t see it. I kept my mouth shut even when I didn’t agree and worked hard to justify not speaking out. I would say that obviously the person didn’t mean what they said. She doesn’t actually feel that all Latinos are rude.  I would think that there was no point in saying anything. I wasn’t going to change her mind. I would tell myself that I didn’t want to make everyone uncomfortable. If he really feels that way, it’s not really going to effect anyone. He’s just one person. I had a list of excuses that I would make, but none of them ever really felt good enough. I would walk away feeling uncomfortable, feeling like a coward and knowing that whoever I was talking to was right when they thought I was an ally. When the conversation was done, they still probably felt like I agreed with them.

And for all of my excuses, they were all to make me feel better about myself for not saying anything. I told myself that I was empathizing, that I was trying to understand how other people, that I was accepting all people even if I didn’t agree with them. Oh, the hoops I jumped through to justify my silence.

The prejudices and bigotry leaked out from the shadows and I looked away.

I’m not going to look away anymore. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t hear what was said. I’m not going to be silent. When I speak out, I might not be polite about it.

About other things, I’m still trying to be open-minded. If you want to talk about politics or our government, I’m ready. If you want to talk about this past election and have a constructive conversation about the president-elect Trump and the future of our country, I can do that too. If you want to talk about the protests over the last week and whether they are riots or protests protected by the second amendment, let’s go. You don’t have to agree with me. I won’t feel like I have to change your mind. We can just talk. We can share ideas. We’re all Americans after all.

We’re all human beings.

But, if you want to talk to me about generalizations that you are making on a whole group of people based on your limited experience or based on some fake news story on Facebook, I’m going to tell you I don’t want to hear it. I’m not going to listen to your view points on why all Muslims are dangerous. I have a strong aversion to religion but I’ll still defend everyone’s freedom to practice it. I don’t want to hear any hate speak at all about gay people or transexuals or really anyone.

My mom always liked to repeat that old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

So, if I can’t urge you to change how you feel about the people in our society that are marginalized, if I can’t get you to change your biases toward them, then I’m going to ask you to watch your mouth when you’re talking to me.  I’m taking this seriously.

I can’t kill this beast that is hatred and prejudice and bigotry, not when it seems to always survive, but I will fight to push it back to the shadows.

Everyone is wrong and so are you

My dad and I regularly get into arguments.

We’re not talking about little things, like where to get the best cup of coffee or what is the best way to get to the beach. No, my dad and I get into awful fights about big stuff, what we believe in, what we don’t, where we come from, how did we get here, the existence of god. Most of these arguments stem from one large, all-encompassing conflict related to the religion that he is still a part of and that I have long since left. He believes with a faith that seems unshakeable. I don’t. I told him one day that as sure as he is that he is right about his religion, that is how sure I am that he is wrong.

These are not fun discussions that we have. We should probably stop doing it. We’re most likely one big argument from doing serious damage to our relationship. These arguments feel like they have no end. There is certainly no chance of resolution. In the end, all I end up feeling is sort of inwardly bruised and torn. If I had to guess how he felt I would say it’s probably bewildered and profoundly disappointed.

I bring this up because it seems very familiar to a lot of the political debates that I see on Facebook and Twitter. Largely two sides. Each one absolutely certain that they are right. Arguments ending unresolved with most people feeling angry, or hurt, or bewildered. I feel the same sort of confusion that everyone else feels, the same sort of confusion that I feel while arguing with my dad.

I think, how does he not see what I’m saying? How am I telling him something and he absolutely refuses to see? When I argue about politics, I think, why do they feel that way so strongly? How can we have the same information but come to such drastically different conclusions? Facts are facts. Why can’t they see that I’m right?

I have the facts.

I’m obviously right.

See, I believe that I’m right because of a neat little thing called “confirmation bias.” What is that? PsychologyToday defines it as “the direct influence of desire on beliefs.” It’s simply wanting to believe something is true, so we do everything we can to support that belief, often sacrificing reality to do so. Maybe we do it by getting out information from sources that share our beliefs. A liberal might get their news from MSNBC. A conservative might choose to get their news from FOX news. It’s why when we look something up on the internet, we will scroll past pages and pages or sources until we find the one source that backs up our point of view.

This is why there are people out there who still think that vaccines cause autism and there are still people out there who believe that global warming is a hoax. It’s why conspiracy theorists thrive. Everyone is a search query away from finding a person, an article, a blog post that confirms everything that they believe to be true. They distrust the government, their doctors, the scientists, their teachers and now you can too!

Facts don’t matter. Science doesn’t matter. When confronted with facts, we can say, well, I still choose to believe the contrary. Like, if I tell you that the sky is blue, if you tell me that you believe that the sky is fuchsia, well, there’s not much I can do about that. Facts are testable, but beliefs are not. It doesn’t matter if all of the experts tell you that vaccines do not cause autism, if you still believe that they do.

We do it on purpose when we only get our news from only a few sources, when we only surround ourselves with people who share our view, or when we scroll past anything that might contradict what we believe. But our brains take it one step further. In the background, they are also subconsciously working on all of our biases. And we have a lot biases. You can look them up on wikipedia, or better yet you can check out Buster Benson’s cheat sheet to them. At the end there’s a pretty neat infographic as well. The point is that even when we’re not aware of it happening, our brain’s are working to confirm the things that we already believe.

For example, if you think that I am a vain person, your brain will constantly keep track of any evidence of that. Every selfie that I post. Every time you catch me checking myself out in the mirror. Your brain will make a note of that, constantly underlining that early judgment you made. It won’t matter the times that I’m not acting that way. Your brain will discard that material. It’s harmless until you think how you could make a judgment about a whole group of people, like refugees, or Muslims or Mexicans and your brain will cheerfully help you find the evidence for that belief you now hold. You can tell yourself that you’re not racist. It’s just what you noticed. But, is it? Or, are your own biases getting in the way?

If you are honest with yourself, really, truly honest, what are some of the things that you just know that are not backed up by any sort of scientific evidence? Are you clicking share every time you see a meme or a picture with some clever words that back up what you’ve always believed to be true and not stopping to look for the evidence that backs up the presented claims? Do you find that when confronted with an alternate view to the one that you have that you do not allow yourself to even consider the viewpoint? If you’re doing these things (I do them too) think to yourself,  what truths am I keeping myself from knowing?

So, why do we do this?

After all, as Jonah Lehrer writes in WIRED, “We’d be a hell of a lot smarter if we weren’t only drawn to evidence that confirms what we already believe.” It’s true. If we weren’t so hell-bent on looking for ways to prove that we’re right, we would be able to see the world around us as it actually is and not how we think it is.

One reason they believe that we do this is because it’s a great way of processing information. We are constantly getting bombarded with information, from our television, from our computers, from our smart phones. The world around us is buzzing with news and if we didn’t have a quick and effective way of dealing with all of that, we would probably lose our minds. I sort of think of myself as a packrat of information and my brain as the tireless organizer. It only keeps the stuff that goes along with what I already believe to be true and ignores the rest of it. It’s like having a spouse or roommate or partner who is constantly going through your stuff and throwing it away and you have so much stuff that you don’t even notice.

Another reason why we might do this is that we don’t actually want to be wrong. We want to feel good about ourselves. We want to feel smart. If we discovered that our truths and beliefs were inaccurate, we wouldn’t like the way that felt. And the higher we valued that truth or belief, the worse we might feel in discovering that we were wrong.

The other day, my son had a cold and I wanted to give him orange juice. My husband said that orange juice wouldn’t be good for him. I looked it up and I saw that he was right but it still took two full days for me to tell him that he had been right about that. Being wrong is the worst.

So, maybe you’re thinking, okay, I can see how maybe I do this from time to time.

How do I stop doing it?

Is there any hope for those of us who wish to shake off our blinders, who want to see the world outside of our own biases? Yes. But like anything worth doing, it’s not going to be easy.

  1. gijoeBe aware of the danger of confirmation bias.
    I’ve already helped you with the first one. You’re welcome. This is a classic, “knowing is half the battle” sort of thing.
  2. Go looking for an argument.
    Okay. Settle down. I hope you haven’t just started one on Facebook. What I mean is this: seek out the opposition to what you believe to be true. Get your news from a different source. Get out of your echo chambers. Don’t scroll past all of the articles that conflict what you believe, but read them. Think about them. Sometimes, they will confirm your beliefs. Sometimes, they won’t. That’s okay.
  3. Consider the source
    Are you getting your information from someone who is an expert in their field? A real expert. If you have a problem with your heart you’re going to go to a cardiologist, not an auto mechanic who has beliefs about the human heart (which is that a good prompt for a romance novel or what?). So, if you want to know the truth about vaccines, maybe you shouldn’t get your information from an actress, but maybe a scientist or a doctor. Check to make sure the person presenting the information actually knows what they’re talking about and can back it up with facts.
  4. Have an open mind
    Be open to the idea that something you always believed to be true might not be. It’s not a great feeling. Maybe, you based your whole life on these beliefs. Depending on how long you held those beliefs and how strongly you believed in them, admitting to yourself that they aren’t true can be devastating.  It’s worth it. It’s far better to live in reality than to hold stubbornly to untruths.
  5. Try to enter argument without worrying about winning
    I am admittedly terrible at this. But it goes hand in hand with the previous point, argue with an open mind. Allow yourself to consider the other point of view. Remove your ego from the argument. Approaching an argument like you want to learn something, instead of win something is a great way of opening your mind to other viewpoints. And listen, you don’t have to admit that you were wrong. My god, I’m not a monster.

There is still room for beliefs. There is still room for differing opinions. But it should never be more important than facts and reality. You can be conservative and still be right. You can be liberal and still be right. But don’t sacrifice truths for it. Looks things up. Research. Find multiple sources. At the end of the day, you will be smarter for it, more often right, and an easy winner of all of the best Facebook arguments. And take a deep breath, the election will be over soon. Of course, the debates of differing viewpoints will never go away.

If you are interested in reading more about confirmation bias, I recommend these as they were very helpful in writing this post.

Hot mic: The power of words

christmas-soapLast summer I swore in front of my mom.

It wasn’t one of the lesser of the swear words, the ones that you can sort of explain away. No, this was the big one, the big grand-daddy of swear words.

It was road rage, I guess.

“I can’t fudging get over!” I shouted. Only I didn’t say fudging. The people in the other vehicle? They didn’t hear me, but my mother sure did.

There was that moment, that desperate, frantic moment where I tried to talk my way out of that slip. Could I say that I had said something else and she had misheard me? Could I pretend I didn’t say anything at all? Could I blame it on other people, those nonexistent, terrible people around me who also use that dirty language? Was there any way that I could blame it on my husband?

I looked over at her where she sat with quiet dignity.

“I’m really sorry I said that.” I didn’t have to say what “that” was. I swear I could still hear it echoing through the car.

“It’s okay,” she said quickly.

“No, it’s not,” I replied.

She waved it off, a quick forgiveness that I probably wouldn’t have gotten if I still had lived at home. She wasn’t above washing our mouths out with soap.

Words say something about who we are. People may hear me swear and make some assumptions about who I am as a person. I don’t like that my mom now knows that I use that language. I still cringe when I think about saying that word in front of her.

There is a reason we should watch what we say. Words have power and if we get in the habit of using certain words or to take it a bit further, expressing certain thoughts when we think no one can hear, they find ways of coming to the surface. Sometimes, they can reveal who we are in a way that can be damaging to how we want to be perceived.

There’s no better lesson for this than the lesson that Donald Trump is learning over the leaked hot-mic footage from 2005. It’s been three days since that has been leaked but it’s been everywhere. If you haven’t heard of it then I assume you live in a cave and then my question for you is do you have room for one more? Trump has since apologized, and talked about it in the debate where he told us once more how much respect he has for women. Yeah. Okay. There has also been an influx of posts where people have rushed to come to his defense. I’ve made a list of some of their points that I have seen. Let’s talk about those.

It’s just locker room talk.
I thought the expression, “Boys will be boys,” was bad. I mean, come on, is it such a terrible thing to make boys be accountable for their actions? Now, words of misogynistic men are just explained away with, “It’s locker room talk.” This is what most men will say when women aren’t present.

But, is it?

There is a subreddit called AskMen, and a redditor asked, How much truth is there that guys have lewd, vulgar “locker room talk” between themselves (a la Trump and Billy Bush)? The answers didn’t surprise me. One redditor said “I’ve lived in a lot of countries, and engaged in a lot of male-only conversations, and have never heard anyone say anything like this in my entire life. If anyone had, the reaction from the other men wouldn’t have been “slightly uncomfortable.” We’d have thrown him out on his ear.” Another redditor said, “I’ve played rugby in the macho bullshit culture of an Australian rugby club. Sometimes shit got really crude, but not once did anyone cross the line into discussing sexual assault, even in a joking manner.”

So, maybe this isn’t just locker room talk? Maybe, not all men talk like that? Maybe, and in my case I’ve found this to be true, men are so much better than what they are sometimes given credit for.

It’s just crude words.
cuxaw14waaadhfzLet’s just be clear about this, joking about sexual assault and admitting to it goes far beyond just using crude words. I personally don’t like the word pussy. It’s certainly not what I call my vagina, but I’m not offended by that particular word. What does offend me is someone talking about grabbing a pussy. The word grab is the problem, because that is assault. It’s not being overly sensitive to say that joking about this or basically admitting to doing it is disgusting. My being offended by this is not the product of a society that is too concerned with being politically correct. My being offended by a joke about sexual assault is the product of living in a country where every 109 seconds a person is sexually assaulted. Every eight minutes, a child is the victim. Have you ever been groped in public? Ask around. Have people you have known been groped in public? Ask them if they think that what Trump said was just crude words.

It was over ten years ago.
Yes, this was over ten years ago and maybe it would be something we could sort of shake our heads at, accept his apology and move on. Except, this is a man who has a history of saying awful things about women. There are articles, entirely too long, detailing all of the very public things that he says about women, essentially reducing us all to the shapes of our bodies and our only worth based on how we look. He has been making these comments for most of his adult life. I don’t have to go into all of them, do I? Do you want me to remind you that he called Megan Kelly a bimbo or that he said that Heidi Klum was fat (Heidi Klum!). Just last week, he talked about the former Miss Universe’s nonexistent sex tape. If you don’t know what I’m talking about or you think that I’m exaggerating, check out this and this and this. And let’s not forget those were things that he said in public, when he was supposed to be watching his mouth. The hot-mic clip gives us an idea of what he says in private.

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For what it’s worth…

You read Fifty Shades of Grey.
Listen. I read all sorts of things. I don’t limit myself. I read Fifty Shades of Grey. I thought it was awful, but I read it. Does that mean that because I’ve read that book and that admittedly I’ve read other books that sometimes explore kink and the beautiful and strange world that is human sexuality that it means you can say or do whatever you want to me? Does that mean I’m not allowed to be offended when someone laughs about sexually assaulting someone? If I read a book about someone being murdered, does that mean that I’m now okay with murder? No. Obviously not.

He wasn’t running for president then.
So? Seriously. So? Does that mean that when he began his candidacy for president we should have wiped clean the slate, pretended that he didn’t say all of those racist and sexist things? That’s not how it works. He is running for president now and to be honest his candidacy hasn’t exactly slowed down the racist and misogynistic garbage coming out of his mouth.

Hillary Clinton/Bill Clinton/Rap Artists/Anyone else you can think have said or done worse.
I’m not interested in getting into an involved discussion about all of the other people who have said and done worse things. Pointing the finger at someone else doesn’t change what Trump has said or did. It’s irrelevant. We can talk about rape culture. We can talk about rap artists. We can talk about the Clintons, but it doesn’t change for one moment what Trump said or admitted to doing.

See, words are important. Trump’s words tell us more than anything else how he feels about women. We could also talk about how he feels about minorities because we all know he has had a lot to say about them as well, but I’m trying to stay focused here on just this one issue. Trump says terrible things in public, in speeches, on twitter, in interviews and then thinks we should all forgive him for what he thought he said in private. He wants to just sweep away the words with a half-hearted apology, but you can’t do that. I can’t unsay the f-word that I said in front of my mom. I can’t blame anybody else. Trump can’t unsay words just to get out of the consequences of them and he can’t lessen them by pointing the finger everywhere else.

It must be exhausting having to defend this. I almost feel sorry for the Trump supporters who are looking for the ways to make this okay, to minimize this. But, really, you don’t need to that. Do yourself a favor. Stop. Stop defending this. You don’t have to like Hillary Clinton. I don’t care who you vote for. (Well, I do, but I’m not going to get into that.) Vote for Trump, if you must. But, stop defending this behavior and these words.

If you’re okay with everything he says and does and how he feels about women, that’s fine. I’m not here to change you. But, I need you to know that you also are a misogynist. Own it. Write it on a t-shirt. Wear it as a sign around your neck. You cannot be okay with all of these things that he says and does and then shrink away from what that makes you.

A misogynist.

That’s a pretty powerful word, isn’t it?