I believe that things have shifted. Or at least I certainly hope they have.
This idea that we are supposed to be making America great again....to whom does it apply exactly? It certainly doesn't apply to women or minorities or immigrants or Muslims or the LGBTQ community. Things have been pretty awful historically in many ways for most of those groups for most of the recorded history of this immature nation.
We forget sometimes that we're mere teenagers on the world scene. Entirely convinced that we know everything, unwilling to learn from the lessons the past desperately tries to teach us, resolute and stubborn.
Then it dawned on me. I had an almost perfect parallel tale to tell.
This is that tale.
I hope beyond hope that you'll read this and you'll get it. Drop those defenses for long enough to see the point I am trying to make. I hope. If not, I'll just keep screaming into the wind.
We have a problem with wasps in our yard.
We always have, even when the house was brand new construction in a neighborhood nowhere near completion.
Even then, we'd find them.
They'd pop up brazenly on the front porch, taunting us with their presence, demanding that we see them and that we confront them immediately.
There were nests that we'd find only after they'd been there a while, sometimes by following the invisible trails in the air as the angry fliers returned home. Tucked under eaves and in corners, they grew and grew until we discovered them.
Then there are the nests that form impossibly in places you can never even see. The only evidence demonstrating their existence, the persistent wasps circling the area. Hidden away, inside play structures and mirrors on the sides of the car, they'd fester and fester for who knows how long.
Those first ones, the obvious ones, we'd knock them down as soon as we found them of course. We had to protect our children, ourselves. There's even a designated broom in the garage for tasks like this one, when we're required to swat them away while perched on tables or chairs or ladders. We swing away, we fight. We have cans of wasp nest spray reserved just for this purpose. We're always prepared. Those nests don't last long because we take care of them immediately.
The sneakier nests, the ones tucked just out of view...now, those ones are harder to deal with. There are bizarre positions we are forced to put ourselves in to deal with them, more harm we're exposing ourselves to potentially just to remove them. Sometimes we need to call in more reinforcements. Sprayers on the hose almost always get the job done, but they anger the wasps even more.
The hidden nests, the ones that are impossible to see...those ones cause the most trouble. They are often quite large before we even know they exist. Huge, active, threatening - and yet invisible. Finding and destroying these ones is always something of a challenge, often requiring us to take things apart carefully and with much planning. It can't be done alone, there must always be a team involved in case things rapidly spiral out of control. To reach the nests, sometimes we have to destroy something else. Things get broken.
The obvious nests all get taken care of right away, with minimal involvement. We can pat ourselves on the back and convince ourselves that we've done our jobs as responsible homeowners, as protective parents. But truthfully, it was pretty simple.
The sneakier ones, they're often quite scary by the time we find them. Usually it's the kids who find them, actually. They are pestered by the wasps, they can hear the buzzing and try to locate the nests. And truthfully, sometimes we're tired. Sometimes we don't want to deal with finding it and fixing it right now. Sometimes we call in the kids and tell them to play inside. We're too worn out. We don't want to do it now. We'll fix it tomorrow or the next day or the next.
And do you know what happens?
The nests multiply in size.
They get bigger
And we've let them.
When we finally get around to seeking them out and destroying them, we've put ourselves in more danger. We have exposed our kids to more potential danger. We've allowed those around us to be exposed to more danger. We haven't made anything easier, we just put it off.
Those aren't even the worst ones. The hidden ones, the invisible nests. Those are notorious and the most difficult to find, to locate. When you realize where they are hiding, it's fairly common to go through a little grief process of sorts. Denial, Anger, Bargaining. Depression. They aren't in there! They can't be in there! It's coming from next door! Why are they in the plastic climbing structure??? How did they even get in there??? I can't find the hole....how is this even possible? Maybe I'm just hearing things. Maybe if we let it go, it'll magically fix itself. We can just ignore it and it will go away. Winter is coming, right??? How many more weeks until the nights dip below freezing? Why does this always have to happen to us? Ugh, it is going to be hard to fix this. Why can't we just have one goddamn summer without waging some war on these things? Why???
Eventually, though, there is Acceptance. Because there has to be. The nest, wherever it is, has to be found and destroyed. There are times that the strategies take a while to develop. Plans are made. Tools and personnel recruited. It's so much more complicated. So much more dangerous. So much more likely to result in someone getting hurt, and it usually ends in something getting destroyed.
Now what if I told you that this, though it is an absolutely true depiction of our annual battle with wasps...isn't a story about wasps at all?
What if I told you that this story isn't about my husband and I, what if I told you that this was about you? Each and every one of you?
What if I told you that the wasps weren't wasps at all, but they were acts of intolerance, of bias, of hate, of racism?
Those obvious ones, well, they're still going to be the easiest to deal with right? The times where any person with half of a conscience could agree that whatever transpired was wrong - those are the slam dunks. You speak up, you reject the words or the actions because it is easy. You can pat yourself on the back afterwards too, because you did the right thing.
Because the right thing was easy. It didn't require you to put yourself in danger at all. You weren't at risk of losing anything. No one was reasonably going to get angry with you.
You can intervene there and declare to yourself and the world that you aren't racist or sexist, you don't discriminate against gay people because that one time someone said faggot and you shook your head disapprovingly.
That was easy.
The sneaky nests, though, that's when things start to get more complicated. The parallel here would be the friends, the family members - the obvious racists that you love but tolerate because they're old or they're family or they have some other redeeming quality and so you say nothing when they rail on about building walls or the dangers of Muslims. They get a pass. The jokes that you laugh at. The things you tell your children when you're insisting that your little girl sit like a lady and dismiss bad behavior from your son because boys will be boys.
Those sneaky nests aren't totally hidden. No, quite the opposite. They're right there...you just can't see them unless you're looking. If you're lucky, you have to choose to see them. If you're lucky, those jokes, those words, those labels never apply to you. Those biases don't interfere with your life. You don't have to pay attention if you don't want to.
Maybe you can't see them right now. Maybe you know they are there, but aren't really looking yet. Maybe you aren't prepared to deal with what you might have to do if you find them and so you don't even bother to look. Maybe you just don't want to do anything about it, and maybe you can just walk away and call the kids inside and shut the door because it doesn't need to be your problem right now.
The hidden nests in this parallel are the hardest to find, of course. They represent the latent racism, the latent biases, the deep rooted things we believe about other people that we convince ourselves aren't there at all, even when that act of convincing ourselves makes the biases even worse. It gives them more power because we refuse to admit they exist at all. We tell ourselves we're colorblind. We know that is a lie because we all see all the unique things about everyone we encounter. The hidden nests, the invisible nests, those ones get bigger and bigger and bigger and do the most damage. The invisible nests are the systemic inequalities, the institutionalized racism, the laws and the policies.
They are the way we've always done things.
They are the way we've always done things.
To find those nests, those sources of the evil, we have no choice but to dig. We have to plan, we need help. Things are going to get ugly. Some things are going to get destroyed and some people are going to get hurt. If we ignore them, though, those of us with the ability to ignore them, nothing gets better.
It only gets worse.
Even if those wasps pose no threat to you right now, someday they will.
I can promise you that.
So you have a choice, those of you out there with a choice at all. You can choose to help dig, do the hard work required to reveal and destroy the roots of intolerance and hate even if it means some people scream at you and that some things have to fundamentally change and that you must accept that the way things have always been was never good for most people and that some institutions may need to be ruined in order to build them back up safely again...or you can gather up your kids and shut the door.
The choice is yours.
I'm grabbing the broom.