I am exhausted. I spent the entirety of yesterday with my mother in the emergency room until she was admitted to the hospital and had a breakdown when I got home because it’s scary when a parent is in the hospital and you have that moment when you realize your they aren’t immortal. I just wanted to take a nap, or take a break, or try to distract myself from worrying about her when I got a message from a Clinton supporter friend of mine regarding BernieBros. I almost lost it.
I made a mistake last week. I tried to engage someone in civil debate on Facebook. I know, I know. I should know better. I know the internet is horrible. The comments section tends to be particularly horrible. In a piece I wrote recently, I was called a “Disgusting supremacist Nazi.” So there’s that.
So why did I engage? Because a very large piece of me still believes that people I look up to, people who I deeply respect might behave better than random trolls on Reddit.
Facebook hasn’t yet figured out if I’m on Team Sanders or on Team Clinton, so I see posts from friends on both teams. And, idealistically, I assume that these people are rational. That they will engage me in civil conversation. Because they are not random trolls on Reddit. They are people deeply invested in the political realities we face–people who fight for the same things I fight for: gender equality, social justice, and a better and more just world. These are people who do good work every single day.
So it saddens me to say that when I tried to engage with someone I deeply admire, the experience was so disgusting, it’s made me never want to talk politics on social media again. And that’s sad. Because I think we’re better than that. I really do think we are.
When the media blew up last week at Killer Mike’s statements at a Sanders rally, I saw someone who I deeply respected post something that was factually untrue. I don’t do well with factually untrue. It was 10pm at night. I almost didn’t respond. But a part of me just couldn’t let it go. The post read:
“Happening right now….
‘A uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States,’ explains sexist pig Killer Mike at a Bernie Sanders rally.
Well, thanks for filling us in.”
Some context: The full quote reads like this:
“When people tell us, hold on, wait a while, and that’s what the other Democrat is telling you. Hold on Black Lives Matter, just wait a while. Hold on young people in this country, just wait a while. And then she get good, she have your own momma come to you, your momma sit down and say, ‘Well, you’re a woman.’ But I talked to Jane Elliott a few weeks ago and Jane said, ‘Michael, a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States. You have to be, you have to have policy that’s reflective of social justice.’ Paying women a fair wage is social justice. Making sure that minorities have jobs is social justice.”
So, I tried to point out, politely, that Killer Mike didn’t actually say this and that he was quoting Jane Elliot. Seriously. Was just trying to clarify that point since this person’s post implied that these were Killer Mike’s own words. I also posted the quote in its entirety hoping that that would help add some nuance and context to his words. I also added my observation that there was a lot of ugliness on this thread (i.e. comments like “Where are their Berniebabes? Handcuffed and gagged in the closet??” or “Killer Mike is a disgusting piece of shit.“) Call me crazy, but those comments don’t seem very helpful or productive.
The response I received:
“The clip of the speech is posted above. He said what he said.”
To which I replied, “Right, but those weren’t his own words.”
Replies by thread-goers/followers:
“But he chose to repeat them.”
“Any woman who reduces herself to defending this crap, is getting what she deserves for her vote.”
“It’s called Stockholm Syndrome.”
Me: “Fair enough, but is calling Killer Mike a ‘disgusting piece of shit’ helpful? Again you can advocate for your candidate without tearing those on the other side apart. Critique misogyny. I’m not saying you can’t. But I worry about the tenor of comments made in both camps. Just calling for civility.”
Reply: “Come to join the discussion if you wish. Don’t come to lecture. You can leave now.”
End scene. I took down my comments realizing this was going nowhere, and went to bed.
The reason I recount this incident is that I feel it is emblematic of the complete lack of civility that is tearing the party apart.
I write this because I feel, in the words of Jake Flores, that “I’m starting to think that this is the last season of America and the writers are just going nuts.”
I write this not to defend Killer Mike. Or Sanders’s comments on Killer Mike’s comments.
I write this because I’m seeing people whom I admire and respect engaging in behavior that isn’t tolerated in pre-school.
I write this because I’m seeing people I deeply respect on Team Clinton and Team Sanders getting so entrenched in fighting for their candidates that they say things like “Unite my ass. I will not unite with anyone for some party.” I’ve seen it on both sides now. Those claiming that they will sit out of this election if their candidate doesn’t win the nomination. And that scares me to death.
As Propane Jane points out (yes, I realize I’m quoting someone named Propane Jane),
Right. Criticize Republicans all you want, but they understand the importance of voting. Just look at how many times they’ve tried to make it more difficult.
As Robert Reich, a strong Sanders supporter has claimed “The Democratic race in New Hampshire has become particularly heated, and tempers are running high. I’ve received a number of intemperate calls and emails from angry supporters of Hillary and of Bernie, each accusing the other camp of dishonest or disrespectful campaigning. Please remember that the differences dividing us are far less than the differences dividing us from the Republicans. At some point over the next six months Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters will have to unite if we are to defeat the right-wing zealots who pose a far greater danger to America and the world.”
Remember who is currently leading the polls on the right? Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich. I have heard Clinton supporters compare Sanders to Trump and vice versa. If there is one thing I know for certain, Secretary Clinton is no Donald Trump. To imply so is patently false and insulting.
Allison Hantschel captured this sentiment quite well in this piece claiming, “There was a Democratic debate Thursday night or during the Super Bowl or whenever, and two candidates on stage — a Jew and a woman, both the first of those groups to win major primaries — were discussing their responses to systemic racism. Systemic. Racism. They were discussing institutionalized hatred of black people and the dehumanization of them by the government. Yes, later John Lewis and Bernie Sanders supporters snapped at each other on Twitter and yes, Hillary could not get away with having a prominent supporter who goes by ‘Killer Mike’ because of sexism. But at that debate OUR PARTY HAD A GODDAMN DISCUSSION ABOUT FIXING RACISM. The Republicans, at their debate last night, were fighting over who gets to hold the fire hoses and unleash the German Shepherds. And not for nothing, but a few weeks ago we had a sitting U.S. Goddamn President name of Barack Hussein Obama who spoke not tentatively, not neutrally, not cautiously but ADMIRINGLY of the courage of young gay men and women living their lives as full citizens of the United States. He PRAISED THEM. As role models not just to other gay people but to everybody, in front of a joint session of Congress, behind a fucking podium with a seal on it, to thunderous applause. Later, at the Republican debate, a bunch of guys talked about if we could put Don’t Ask Don’t Tell back into effect somehow and make everybody forget if Gunny Highway likes dudes and stack the Supreme Court with people who will go around forcibly divorcing every gay married couple on earth. The differences between Bernie and Hillary are real (see Kissinger, Henry and Dead, Why Isn’t He Yet) and explanations of them are welcome and necessary. But the constant online whining about behavior of campaign supporters towards one another and the over-identification with the candidates personally* is starting to feel like therapy for the comfortable commentator class. Maybe we’re forgetting that BEN CARSON DOESN’T KNOW WHAT THE DEBT CEILING IS.”
I quote this piece in length because it serves as an important reminder of, once again, what this election is really about.
For those of you who “Feel the Bern,” will you rally behind Secretary Clinton if she wins the nomination? And conversely, will Clinton supporters knock doors and fundraise for Senator Sanders if he wins?
Because while we’re talking about Killer Mike or debating about what transpired at a Nevada caucus, children in Flint are dying.
While we’re online berating each other, we forget that there are college students living out of their cars or in abandoned buildings because we lack social programs to help these homeless students.
I could go on. But I’m exhausted. And I am privileged to be exhausted and to be able to write about these things because I’m not homeless. I’m not dying of lead poisoning, or watching my children die in front of my eyes.
My mother will be fine due in part because she has insurance to cover her hospital bill, and didn’t have to hesitate to wonder whether or not she would be able to afford a trip to the emergency room. We both kept wondering though, how many other mothers out there would have to stay at home, wondering if they’re having a heart attack because an emergency room visit would bankrupt them?
So please. I beg of my dear progressive friends: stop. Please. Stop. This ugliness will not help get our nominee elected. It further divides us and if you truly care about this election, promote your candidate. Laud their efforts, background, and experience. Fight for your team. We can do so without calling Secretary Clinton “the devil incarnate” or a “stupid c**t.” And we can do so without belittling each other in the process.