I was born in America. I've lived here my entire 40+ years. Though I am white, and male, for much of my life I've felt like an observer. I've had only a modest stake in the success of this nation, because I've been told I don't actually belong.
Yeah, I'm an atheist, too. I'm not a lapsed Christian or any other brand of religion. My father was the son of a jack-Mormon, and my mother abandoned her faith after an abusive upbringing taught her not to trust anything her parents said. It wasn't a deliberate act, they just neither of them had any interest in taking me inside a church, and indeed I never saw the inside of a church until age 16.
For most of my life I have been able to easily pass amongst you as one of you because I am white, and male, and very ordinary-looking (if you consider ordinary to be white, that is). I only got in trouble when I opened my mouth, but since I am not shy about doing so, I got in trouble a lot. I have been the target of numerous arrogant scolding lectures as to my morality and the failures of my character, which did absolutely nothing to convince me to join any church or subject myself to any religious view.
I became a liberal in 1989, when the first George Bush sat on his hands while everyone I knew was losing their jobs, and after he said that an atheist couldn't be a true patriot. Not only did that fail to inspire me to take up with any religion or church, it hardened my formerly "agnostic" posture towards religion. Bush rejected me because I wasn't a Christian. I rejected all forms of religion because of that.
Prior to that, I had no political identity and was in fact apathetic.
I think this is relevant because the conversion I experienced over 20 years ago is more or less what just cost the GOP their last real chance at power for a generation if not ever. For no reason whatseover, the dominant political party and religion chose to attack me and my beliefs, and to belittle my opinions, and to shit on my identity. Conservatives who view me as angry are exactly right:I Am. You would be too if people jumped down your fucking throat the way evangelist Christians do mine when I mention my beliefs.
I grew up reading profusely and widely throughout my childhood. I knew at a very early age huge chunks of historical and scientific and philosophical knowledge that most kids didn't experience until college. I had a reverence for the Founders and the sincere belief they had in self-determination, religious freedom, and the enlightenment of humankind. I visited Washington, DC in the ninth grade and loved it, and I've been back twice since then.
But I was shocked to come to adulthood and find out that people who ought to know better still acted like schoolyard children, taunting and harassing others for completely insignificant reasons.
I was shocked to find out how glibly some people would simply cast aside all of the principles our nation was founded on, and I was insulted to see these people calling themselves "Patriots" and telling me I wasn't one.
When Bush started the un-necessary war with Iraq in 2003, I remember seeing Sean Hannity gloating after the first few days of the easy invasion, telling all of us objectors that we were traitors and terrorist-lovers. This was very similar to what I'd been hearing all of my life, and it absolutely hardened my already-firm identity as not that fucking stupid asshole or anyone like him.
And my experience is the experience of the Latinos who voted this year. The LBGT commnity. The women. The African-Americans. I voted not just to choose the better candidate, but also as my chance to slap the faces of the mother-fuckers who would dare deny me my identity as an American. Yes, I voted to punish, to take revenge, to piss off. I voted because for four years, and actually for more than that, the mother-fuckers in that picture above, and many many more like them, have been jamming their thumbs in my eye for no good reason.
Divisive politics is toxic. It is the opposite of leadership. People who need to use divisive politics to win elections almost invariably have something to hide, are not telling us the truth of their agenda, are not being straight about their intentions. They are changing the subject to something tribal, something identity-based, something irrelevant, to keep the focus off of their agenda.
I think we've proven that identity politics can only take you so far.
To re-state from my last column, if you want to succeed, long-term, in politics, remember that the government is for all of us, not just some of us, the country is for all of us, not just some of us, and that people absolutely never forget being attacked by a politician or party over their identity. The GOP's anonymous assault on me and my beliefs has left a burn in my psyche for over 20 years. I didn't forget, and I sure as shit have no intention of forgiving.
Try campaigning and governing on issues, next time. Or don't. I can see the GOP isn't giving up their identity politics or racism, so this is just another tiny alarm bell in what must be a blaring cacophany: you (the right-wing racist GOP) are headed for oblivion if you don't change your bigoted ways. Good riddance.
Most importantly, remember I AM AN AMERICAN and YOU CANNOT TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.
The more you try, the harder I will fight back.