The televisions in the food court at the mall are nearly always on CNN, so when I go to get a water refill or go to the bathroom I have a look to see what news is scrolling across the bottom of the screens. I have the timing to generally note the bad news. Shootings. Terrorism. War.
It rolls off my back because that’s the way it is. I always thought I believed that people as a whole are jerks; so it goes. It won’t get better in my lifetime, and I’ve resigned myself to this. I live my life helping people in small ways, bigger ways when I can. I do no harm, and that’s all I can do to make the world a better place, in cliche-speak.
But as it turns out, in spite of everything, I must have had a streak of Anne Frankish good-at-heart philosophy, and I think that streak of optimism died a lonely, miserably swift death today.
This morning as I walked past, I read 42% of Republicans support Trump’s Muslim ban.
I have never experienced the feeling that I experienced just then. A literal chill went down my spine; I have never considered that anything but a metaphor. That muddy familiarity in my mind that physically defines déjà vu entered my head, then sank to my stomach.
This is what surreality feels like.
Forty-two percent. That’s nearly half. How many of their fellow Republicans can they convince to go along with this? How many Democrats? How many Other? How many nonpartisans?
I fear the answer is enough.
I can see this happening, and it frightens me.
I know good, otherwise sensible people who would join in lynchings and mosque burnings. People who would never dream of supporting Hitler or discriminating against Jews. People who are reasonably intelligent but find it easier to simply believe what they’re told by the media. People who are afraid for their families when they have no real reason to be afraid.
And yet they are afraid, afraid enough to make terrible mistakes in the name of safety and security. They would possibly even claim that it is in the name of freedom.
It is tragic, because these are people that I like and respect. Or at least, respected at one time. And the millions of others making this same mistake in their fear are the friends and loved ones of people just like me who cannot understand how they can possibly justify these actions.
I am saddened to believe that I will soon be in the minority. That live and let live and do unto others as you would have them do unto you are becoming fair-weather mottoes.
But more than I mourn poor decision-making, I fear the future consequences. Not even the far future consequences, but the near future ones. I fear that the life I live every day will disappear, swallowed up by xenophobia and mass hysteria. I sit here in my home and I look at my Christmas tree and I wonder how many or how few Christmases will it still stand here, in this living room, before we have to flee for our lives because we still choose to be decent human beings, to treat others with the dignity and respect that they have earned by simply being.
We deny that we are killing each other, and we deny that we are killing innocent people. And like that, our denial becomes truth.
It isn’t true, but it’s easier to believe the lies.