, here are my notes from the "Next Four Years" discussion session that was held at the Beyond The Love poly conference in Columbus, Ohio, the weekend before last. It was four days after the election.
The Next Four Years: Poly in the Time of Trump
Discussion session at Beyond The Love, Columbus, Ohio
Twenty people gathered in a freshly-scheduled discussion of what the election means for the poly community — in particular, how to support each other, “provide for the common defense,” and move boldly forward. Many people were scared, especially those with nonwhite and/or queer identities in addition to being on the cultural edge with poly.
The session ran about 40 minutes. Here’s my summary of thoughts expressed. (Some quotes are paraphrased.)
● Trump may not care about the right’s social/sexual agenda, but the power behind the throne is likely to be Mike Pence, a nasty piece of work who does. Someone said he’s announced that he wants to re-establish the McCarthy-era House Un-American Activities Committee, and to defund HIV clinics and instead fund conversion therapy (quack treatments to try to turn gays straight). Even more than Dick Cheney was for the not-too-bright George W. Bush, Pence may become the “shadow president.”
● We polys will probably be very far down on the list of targets. We’re too few and unimportant (and never came up in the campaign). A lot of us are pretty privileged. But we have many intersectionalities with the people under more immediate threat: black and Latino people, independent women, queer/LGBT, non-Christians, other non-traditionalists in general.
“Very few of us are just one thing,” remarked someone. “I’m also an atheist. I’m also in BDSM. Trump has put it on the map that it’s okay to be a bully. We have to be resolute in speaking up to say ‘No, you cannot do that’ wherever we see it.”
● Several said that privileged polyfolks should use their privilege to get out front early against racist and fascist outbreaks. Pastor Niemöller was quoted.
● Will the current upsurge of ugly incidents blow over? An attendee from Scotland told how the same things erupted after the UK’s Brexit vote last summer. But they died back in the face of public rebuke. He said that according to police records, in the three weeks after the Brexit vote, the UK had a 51% increase in racist incidents and a 141% increase in homophobic incidents. But by six weeks after the vote, the rates fell back to “normal.” “I think it may have been because society said No,” he said. “Speak up to say this is not normal, this is not our country, not who we are.”
● A recurring theme was polyfolks’ need to ally with communities under threat. “If we defend them, they’ll defend us.”
● Are we overstating the threat? Someone pointed out that we’re currently in shock, and that makes people prone to worst-fears extremifying. Beware of your echo chamber. Your echo chamber will over-amplify what you fear, and will keep you from the other perspectives, maybe more realistic, that you need.
● Resist the instinct to polarize. “We distill things down to opposites: Good and Evil. Right and Wrong. But it’s much more complicated than that. None of us fit in a little box. Each one of us believes we make the choices we make because we are good people. Every one of us is complicated and full of the unexpected.”
The point? Put aside our emotional reactions and reach out to our Trump-voting relatives, co-workers, etc. with curiosity; engage with them in a way that they can hear. [Remember this over Thanksgiving!]
Many people continued this theme:
● Write to family and friends who voted Trump: “I know you are a good and ethical person, not a racist or KKK supporter. So, now it’s up to you to speak up and say ‘No, this stuff is wrong.’ Or else you’re complicit in it. Because your vote did set it loose.”
● A suggested variant: “I know you, I know you’re not a racist bully, but your vote has made lot of actual racists think they have your okay to terrorize people and take away their civil rights. People are scared. Can you come out and say, ‘Yes, I voted for him for [whatever reason], but I didn’t give anyone my okay to do [whatever awfulness the discussion is about].’ ”
● Another: “If you pretend it’s not happening when it is happening, you’re just giving them cover. They'll see it as a wink of the eye. And that makes you part of it. Is that really what you want?”
● “We can’t just demonize people. We have to address the reasons they voted as they did.”
● It’s important to make anti-Trump and anti-reactionary opinions safe to voice in public. “Speak up at work, when you are out and about, among people who have contrasting perspectives.”
● “The Southern Poverty Law Center is keeping track of hate crimes.” If polys become a target, make sure incidents get reported as such to the SPLC.
● The Polyamory Leadership Network should recommend organizations to donate to. “Planned Parenthood, SPLC, Relationship Equality Foundation....”
● “Never underestimate the power of personal interaction with people different from you. Talk to people outside your group. Listen with respect. Ask them questions.”
● “Remain respectful when engaging with people with opposing viewpoints. Think about your words. Break those barriers down, so they can hear us.”
● “At conventions, offer classes/workshops on how to do anti-bullying intervention.” Many good materials are available. Learn how to defuse a situation. If you see someone being harassed or threatened, go stand next to them and ask “Are you okay?” directly to their face. Sit or stand there with them, look them in the eye, engage them in conversation and say “I’m here so you’re okay.” Ignore the problem person or people around you; do not respond to them.
Yep, if you wear that safety pin, you’re promising to offer up your safety at any moment. Else take it off now. Training will help you keep focused under stress.
● “Most people who voted for Trump did so reluctantly, as the lesser of two evils.” So if they thought he was an evil, tell them they need to speak up now that there's just one.
SPEAKING FOR MYSELF: I was impressed by the quality of the discussion. Looking long-term, I would add “Don’t be stupid.” Seriously. This is going to be a long war, and ‘war’ is how the conservative side sees it whether you do or not. Being smart means thinking ahead realistically in terms of tactics and strategy. Being stupid means thinking in terms of taking a moral stance, as if that were enough. When liberals walk out on an open battlefield unarmed and shout at the enemy "You're wrong!", the other side laughs at how stupid liberals are — at how easy they are to trick, flummox, and blow away.
Be smart enough that they will stop thinking you’re stupid. That means always gathering new information and perspectives, being quick to spot changing situations, seeing opportunities early and taking advantage of them.
Also: How to argue effectively with someone who holds different opinions or values.
Labels: politics, Trump