Stop Saying Joe Biden Is Ahead. He Isn’t.

Some people haven’t learned anything in four years.

One of the most disconcerting trends I see on social media right now, is a continual dissemination of polls, statistics, and trends supposedly showing Joe Biden building an expansive lead over Donald Trump. They’re usually proffered by progressives and liberals and often come with a strident sense of presumptive victory in November—and I get a sickening déjà vu whenever they show up in my newsfeed.

We’ve already seen this movie four years ago and it doesn’t end well.

All the way up until Election Day of 2016, Hillary Clinton’s victory was a statistical slam dunk. Her losing was a near mathematical impossibility—and yet, here we are.

The numbers weren’t just irrelevant, they were likely injurious.

This November holds the promise of a different outcome, due to one critical factor: the desperation of decent people.

Aside from Trump’s staggering ineptitude, unprecedented incompetence, and Olympic-level inhumanity (all of which may finally be incrementally chipping away at the more reasonable of those who voted for him four years ago), the one weapon we might have this time in our favor is urgency.

Many who slept on the last election, believing it a foregone conclusion—are now alive and awake and engaged because they understand the gravity of the moment for our nation and for the world, because they believe their vote is critical in avoiding a hopeless slide into fascism, because they have enlisted in an uphill battle in order to somehow bend the arc of the universe toward justice.

Which is why perpetuating a narrative of Biden’s supposed statistical lead is so problematic: it threatens to lull people back to sleep at a time when we need every conscious and lucid soul fully present. The last thing we can afford is an emotional sedative giving people an incentive to ease up or check out or fast forward to a victorious day that may never come.

These Republicans’ criminality means that we are always far behind.

Voter suppression, gerrymandering, pushback against mail-in voting, the elimination of polling sites, and Russian cyber-shenanigans—combined with the understandable embarrassment of people who will vote for Trump but never admit it in a poll—all remove any possibility of a level playing field. 

This means that we need numbers great enough to transcend their creative and prolific malfeasance, and the more confident good but normally disengaged people become that their voices aren’t required, the more likely they are to once again silence themselves.

This is to say nothing of purity progressives who plan to opt out, vote third party, vote in protest, or write-in a candidate, because the primary has left them with chips so firmly embedded in their shoulders, that they are unable to see the burning forest for the falling trees.

A woman I confronted on social media after defending her amplifying the poll numbers, admitted that, “Yes, it will breed complacency in some, but we need the encouragement.”

No, we don’t.

We need to fight like hell.
We need the some who will grow complacent if given a reason, not to do so.
We need those who were bystanders and conscientious objectors and silent voices in 2016, to feel a sense of desperation so that they find a way to get themselves registered and counted and participating, in what may be the final war for our Republic.

Joe Biden is the only human being standing between America and a mad despot right now and his victory isn’t close to a foregone conclusion—in fact, it’s highly improbable.

Donald Trump is going to defeat Joe Biden if we don’t operate as if every vote is essential, as if we’re trailing far behind, as if we personally hold the destiny of democracy in our hands behind the curtain on November 3rd. He is going to defeat Biden if we find ourselves relaxing or letting up or sedating ourselves enough that we allow him to win.

Pay no attention to the polls.
Ignore the numbers.
Refuse to amplify overconfidence.

Work harder, give more, speak louder, and spend every bit of yourself to make sure that the disheartened and grieving and angry all feel hopelessly compelled to use their voices and their votes in one collective stand.

If we do that, there will be plenty of time to bask in the reality of an America we can dream of right now but cannot be assured of.

Donald Trump is going to defeat Joe Biden and Democracy and Liberty—but only if we allow him to.

White MAGA Friend, It Doesn’t Seem Like “All Lives Matter” to You

White friend, we need to talk.

Recently, people all around this nation began waking up to the pervasive inequities and racial disparities and police brutality here, and many for the first time unequivocally declared that Black Lives Matter.

You replied that All Lives Matter.

We tried to tell you that wasn’t really the point: that sometimes when groups are being systemically victimized and perpetually treated as less-than, that these lives need to be specifically affirmed by those with privilege until their value is as much as a given as anyone else’s. We tried to help you understand that equality that excludes some—simply isn’t equality.

You dug in your heels. You said that all lives matter. You called out White and Blue ones.

We tried to tell you that White lives and Blue lives have never not mattered and so this reply was unnecessary; that given the grievous injustices people of color have historically faced in this country, this was particularly destructive and particularly painful coming from you; the adding of insult to terrible injury.

You were fully entrenched in your fortified “all-lives” position.

Eventually we reached an impasse in the disagreement, and though I was skeptical, I walked away holding out the faintest of hopes that equity really was the desire of your heart, that every person did have the same inherent worth in your eyes—that all lives really did matter to you.

Ever since then, I’ve been watching you.

I’ve witnessed your steadfast refusal to wear a mask, despite the precipitous rise in sickness and death.

I’ve watched you unrepentantly going about your life without the slightest alterations that would protect your family and friends and neighbors and strangers from hardship.

I’ve seen you passive-aggressively posting Right Wing news articles with nonsensical pandemic conspiracy theories, captioning with a snarky, “just going to leave this here.”

I’ve watched you celebrating legislation allowing the LGBTQ community to be discriminated against—and lamenting Supreme Court rulings striking it down.

I’ve taken note of your deflation at the DACA decision, allowing hardworking people access to a dream you had handed to you with your birth certificate.

I’ve seen you defending nonsensical, panicked 911 calls on black people or gun-jittery, gun-wielding white people—suggesting some unrecorded threat or justifiable fear that makes it reasonable.

I’ve seen you jubilant at the prospect of millions of people losing healthcare: the sick and the already vulnerable, sexual assault victims, the mentally ill, women—simply because the name Obama is attached to such care.

I’ve noticed your conspicuous silence about families still separated at the border, about hundreds of people shut out of polling sites in Kentucky, bout legislative assaults on women’s autonomy over their own bodies, about the disproportionate effect of this pandemic on people of color, about a president’s supremacists tweets.

Honestly friend, it doesn’t seem that all lives really do matter to you.

It feels like your support for life is far more selective than that.

It seems like what matters to you—are straight, white, American, Republican, Christian lives; preferably those who live in your neighborhoods or attend your churches or seem the most like you. Everyone else seems like a threat or a problem or an afterthought.

All lives don’t seem to include immigrant lives, Latino lives, LGBTQ lives, Muslim lives, poor lives, Democrat lives, Atheist lives, women’s lives—and no, not black lives either.

And I want to be wrong about you. If I am, then it will be a joyous mistake. But I need you to know that this is how it appears from the outside, with only your words and your actions as a measurement.

This is what your life is saying, repeatedly, loudly, emphatically. It is the declaration of your politics and your religion and your social media profile and your dinner table diatribes. It sounds and feels like you have contempt and fear for a great deal of those who comprise our shared humanity. And as horrible as that would be, I can work with that kind of authentic bigotry that shows itself.

I can’t work with dishonesty.

I can’t work with someone who outwardly declares the value of all lives, while having so little regard for so many of them. I can’t work with someone gaslighting me or lying to themselves.

I want to understand you, I really do. I want to find a way forward that is life-affirming and redemptive—but I can’t do that until you put all your cards on the table and plainly speak your truth.

If all lives really matter you—it’s impossible to tell.

 

 

 

 

These Republicans Are Terrified of American Voters. They Should Be.

These Republicans are telling you something right now, America.

If you listen carefully, you can hear them.

With every panicked and quivering move they are clearly testifying.

They are confirming how frightened they are right now.

There is no other logical conclusion to be reached.

There is only one reason they cull down the polling sites for thousands of people, to only one.
It’s the same reason they condemn voting by mail—after repeatedly voting by mail.
The same reason they continually gerrymander themselves a more favorable playing field.
The same reason they oppose paper ballots and absentee votes.
The same reason they remove active voters from the rolls.
The same reason they continue to attempt sleight of hand legislation to sneak in more restrictive voter ID laws:

The reason they do all of these things—is that they are mortally terrified of American voters.

We are their only outstanding obstacle to unabated rule.

We are the single remaining line of defense Democracy has left here.

We the People, are the last-gasp breath of a dying Republic being slowly suffocated beneath the weight of institutionalized racism and disdain for the poor and contempt for diversity.

These leaders do not want Americans to speak.

They know that if the voices of the people are heard, they will in one glorious, sprawling, clarion choir—declare them fraudulent and malignant and unequivocally undeserving of stewarding this nation a single day longer.

And they know that if they lose their current, tenuous stranglehold on this nation they will likely never get it back, as the swift current of changing demographics will soon swallow them up, taking with them the unearned spoils of privilege that once seemed permanent.

They know that this could well be their last moment of unmolested barbarism, and so like cornered, wounded animals they are frantic and flailing and unpredictably violent in saving themselves.

Which is why we need to show up now: in numbers that cannot be manipulated, in a show of strength and resolve that is simply unalterable, in a moment so immune from pollution that it will be undeniable.

We need to throw aside our petty semantic squabbles and our minor skirmishes of preference and our lesser battle purity politics and our litmus test deal breakers, because these things only dilute the full potency of our collective presence—and that is what the fearful people want. They want us to not only have to overcome their malfeasance, but our fatigue and ego and apathy as well.

Because that is the great truth of these days and they know it: that despite their every jittery, panicked attempt to stack the deck and tip the odds, despite every clandestine legislative maneuver, despite this President’s unapologetic efforts at perverting the system—we still have the numbers and we can still save this flawed but promising experiment in liberty, and find out what it might be capable of if the full expanse of humanity was welcomed at the table for the first time.

We can see if the old parchment promises can still yield a new promised land of equity for everyone, without caveat or condition; if it still has enough life and liberty and happiness for all of us to have a full helping.

I think that would be something beautiful to behold, I think it might alter the history of this planet, and I think it’s worth whatever is required between now and November to see it.

Friends, this is not about defeating people who have voted and normally would vote Republican. They are not the enemy. This is about defeating this President and these Republicans, who have no love for America or Conservatism or Jesus, who are historically corrupt and uniquely parasitic and who threaten good people of every distinction. 

I firmly believe that decent and disparate people of every political leaning, religious tradition, and value system can navigate those real and profound differences, if we create a space where that is the sincere desire and honest objective. I also believe that this cannot happen with this President and with these particular leaders in power and it’s as simple as that.

Yes, these Republicans are fully terrified of us, America.

Let’s make them right to be afraid.

Let’s make November their worst nightmare.

Then we can find the American Dream.

 

 

The White Privilege of Ignoring the News

Yesterday, an old friend of mine who happens to be white, posted her frustration with the proliferation of news sources: the difficulty discerning what was true in the swirling storm of so much information, and her exasperation at the perceived partisan nature of media. She wanted to crowdsource strategies for navigating the challenges of getting reliable information about the events of the day, when those days are so filled with turbulence.

One of my other white friends chimed in with a response that dumbfounded me:

“I haven’t consumed any news in two months!” he said, seemingly proud of the fact.

Two months.

I wanted to throw up.

Then I grieved over my friend.

Then I got really angry at him.

If there is evidence of privilege, that’s it: to feel so insulated from adversity, so inoculated from suffering, so immune from struggle, so unaffected by reality—that you could simply turn off the news, because the act feels inconsequential to your existence. It reveals that not only do you feel the events of the day have no tangible or lasting effect on you, but you’re blissfully ignorant to the way those events are painful, invasive, and even deadly to less fortunate people who lack the luxury of being oblivious; that soft, warm, intoxicating place you’ve chosen to nestle down into while the world is burning. 

To be a member of a vulnerable community is to get no mental vacation from injustice, have no physical shield from the tumult, find no easy emotional escapism from the terrors of the day—and to intentionally avoid their non-optional nightmares is an abdication of our responsibility as people living in larger community with them.

For all the ways white people conveniently wield national pride and love of country, opting out of the lives of millions of Americans because those lives interrupt our day with unwelcome news is to declare our patriotism incredibly selective and largely self-centered. Yes, we want America but we want it without the warts and scars and wounds that people of color show us we have.

A month ago, a dear friend took a bad fall and hit her head. She was hospitalized and under sedation for three weeks, waking in the throes of the protests over the murder of George Floyd. She had no idea who he was, the horrifying circumstances of his death, the sickening response of the president, the massive outpouring of outrage by disparate Americans, the brutal response from law enforcement, the tear gas, Trump’s upside-down Bible photo-op, and the seeming sea change of formerly antagonist organizations like the NFL to the Black Lives Matter movement. She has missed what seemed like a lifetime in just a few weeks.

As she recuperated, it was dizzying for her to catch up with it all, but she was trying.

As much as I envied her, I also felt sorry for her. I couldn’t imagine missing days so filled with both urgency and invitation. I would have felt robbed of participation in Humanity that I’d been fortunate to experience.

The difference for her, was that unlike my friend on social media—she had been medically sedated, not voluntarily anesthetizing herself. She was not choosing to sleep through other people’s pain, even if that would afford her less worry or require more wrestling or mean being interrupted with difficult truth.

When I hear white people say, “I just ignore all that political stuff,” or “I don’t look at the news,” it reminds me that America is still afflicted with inequity; that white people here are still afforded the option of indifference solely by our pigmentation, and that while that is true we have work to do.

Until we are so tethered in mutual relationship to vulnerable people that we refuse to look away from reality because we know our destinies are tied together, America is not the place we imagine it is. It is not the place of the stirring songs and the stratospheric anthems and the glorious (but whitewashed) story we tell ourselves about it.

As long as we have the luxury of ignoring the difficult reality of America, we’ll be perpetuating it.

That’s the real news, white friends.

Don’t look away.