Choose

I admit that I am privileged to be male, white, straight, of European descent, of Christian upbringing (though I now identify as apathetic agnostic), etc.—all things that permit me to not be a target of the hatred that emanates from Washington these days. I also admit that I take advantage of this privilege to stay largely quiet on the news, as I prioritize my own mental health over the desire to comment on and be active against said hatred. Today, however, I make an exception.

No matter which party you identify with (or don’t, or if you identify with “none of the above”) it’s okay if you don’t agree with everything that the likes of AOC or Ilhan Omar say. It’s okay if you think some of these “new deal” plans are socialist. It’s okay if you think criticizing Israeli actions in Palestine is a slippery slope. It’s okay if you think Nancy Pelosi is the wrong person to lead a party. All of these opinions are okay to believe. I think you’re wrong on some of them, but you’re entitled to your wrong opinion.

It’s not okay to say that because of what you say or believe, you must leave the country. Like it or not, nearly all of the targets of the President and his party are American citizens by birth, and are entitled to all of the rights that entails, including the right to speak their minds on whatever topic motivates them to do so. (Rep. Omar, while not born American, is a naturalized citizen and entitled to her rights on that basis.) There is no legal basis or precedent for anyone forfeiting the rights as a citizen simply because they said something that made the President or his enablers mad. For the President, and his lackeys in Congress, to say so is deeply racist, xenophobic, and hateful. Again, the President and other Republicans are American citizens; they have the right to believe these things, repugnant as they are. Whether or not the President of this nation should be a person who believes such hateful things and uses this hatred to attack and divide fellow Americans is a question for every American to decide for themself. (You should already know where I stand.)

And there’s the thing. How many people who call Trump a racist, AOC a socialist, Omar anti-semitic, Pelosi senile, etc. will go out next year and vote against them? Not enough. But that is how we deal with leaders who are unfit to lead in this country. At the ballot box. Not in the media. Not at mob-like rallies. Not on Twitter or Facebook. With a ballot.

I didn’t vote for Trump. He won anyway. I, and the rest of us, have to live with that. But not forever. Remember these vicious attacks next year when you go to vote. I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but your choice comes down to reelecting the President, or not. If you vote to reelect, in my mind, you’re endorsing his racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and everything else about him. And while that is your right, I’m going to find it very hard to forgive you for that. In my mind, this is not about “the lesser of two evils.” This is about people making a conscious decision to end this dude or give him four more years to foment fear, uncertainty, doubt, hatred, and (yes) violence among the public. However extreme some of the positions of some of his opponents might be, I don’t think you can equate them at all when it comes to whether they are a net positive to America as a nation and a society. Every politician today, the President included, is a package deal. You can’t ignore the rhetoric, or the positions you don’t like, just because you think they have good points. You are voting for everything about your chosen candidate, like it or not. Choose wisely, and choose the candidate who, in your opinion, best balances the positive with the negative. No one is neutral or unbiased in this race.

And don’t pretend you’re not to blame for the bad actions of whoever wins. We are all to blame. Those who voted for the bad actor are to blame because of how they voted. Those who didn’t vote at all, but were able to, are to blame because they shirked their responsibility as Americans. The rest of us are to blame because we didn’t work hard enough to dissuade others from voting for a bad actor. We can argue (though I’d rather not) over who holds the most blame, but none of us are off the hook.

We all hold some responsibility for the actions of the President since 2017. We will all hold responsibility for the results of the next election and whether they mean a new direction, or four years of doubling down on this term. If you agree with me that the President is a force of evil, vote him out. If you disagree and think he’s doing the right thing, reelect him. Either way, we all own the result. Choose wisely.

The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
Choose:
For we meet by one or the other.
- Carl Sandburg