In these days of continued political and cultural tensions I have been thinking of you. I have been thinking of reaching out to you with a plea. I know we promised not to try to convince each other of anything. So, in the spirit of seeking to understand, and to be understood, I just want to share with you that I, and some of my closest friends and family, have started having conversations about leaving the country.
In recent years, some associates of mine have moved, to Canada. One, a close friend and inspiring group process facilitator, left before gay marriage was legalized because he was finding life difficult here as a gay man. Just last year, some colleagues, a Jewish couple who have been pioneers and leaders in the field of conflict resolution, moved as well.
Another dear friend of mine, a brilliant woman of deep integrity, spent last year out of the country with her husband and their 14-year-old son. They are now back and living on meager savings in order to work day and night as volunteers on an electoral campaign. She told me that if things don’t start to turn around with this election, she plans to leave the US, because, she said, “I won’t raise my son under fascism.”
Fascism is, indeed, what I fear. I was raised on stories of the Holocaust, and told to always remember, because it could happen here; that the Jews of Germany were completely assimilated and felt safe there, before Hitler. I was never sure whether to believe them. Now I do. This is not just a Christmas tree in the Capitol. This is my people being gunned down because they are together to pray Jewish prayers, and because they are acting on that same ancestral experience to support other refugees.
I do not believe that it doesn’t matter what our President and other elected officials say. I do not believe that it’s just the work of lone crazies in Orlando and Charleston and the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee and at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. The leaders set the tone; they signal what is acceptable.
In addition to rising hatred and fascism, I also fear rising sea levels, and the other huge disruptions of climate change – like famines, and like floods – floods of water, floods of climate refugees. The fear comes as deeply pessimistic thoughts, and as fantasies of escape to another planet, or a parallel universe. Sometimes it comes as dreams – that the piano teacher who lives on the corner and trims her lawn meticulously turns out to be a neo-Nazi. That the restaurant I’m sitting in begins to flood and I have to stand up, then climb on the table, to breathe. When I’m awake, and honest with myself, and paying attention, it comes as heart-pounding, adrenaline-rushing anxiety.
Yes, the problems and crises in our world need strong leadership – but not strong-arm leadership. We need wise leadership. And failing that, at least we need checks and balances, we need constraint.
So here, after all, is my plea, and I apologize if making it crosses a boundary: If any part of you is wondering, as one of you once voiced, whether your support of Donald Trump might have been a pact with the Devil; if any part of you wonders whether the Russians might be behind Trump’s success, or wonders whether some of your views could possibly be based on misinformation, I ask that you open to that part of yourself, and give it a hearing. And, maybe, hedge your bets. Just in case you’ve been unknowingly supporting the forces of hatred, fear, greed, and destruction. Just in case you’ve been on the wrong side of history.
It’s not too late to turn things around. This midterm election could be a turning point. Not, I hope, another wild swing of a pendulum, but a gentle and firm turning, towards sanity, towards civility, towards bi-partisan problem-solving, towards bi-lateral negotiation; a turning towards each other, rather than away from each other.
I don’t want to leave this country, because it’s my home. I probably won’t, unless things continue to get a lot worse. And even then, I might not, because it would feel like abandoning others who have less than I do, who are more targeted by hatred and more impacted by economic and environmental exploitation than I am, and who don’t have the resources to pick up and move in relative comfort as I would.
I won’t suggest you stay home on Nov. 6th, or suggest who you should vote for. But I’m writing to you because I want you to know that things are already bad enough that I’m considering leaving, and that some people like me have already left. I deeply and sincerely hope that you don’t want me and people like me to leave. And if you don’t, please vote your deeper conscience. And please share this with friends if you feel moved to do so.
1 thought on “To my Conservative friends”
Thank you, Becca. Beautifully put. I so appreciate posts like this. Your writing is evocative and provacative, AND with a steady even voice. Our peaceful, civil and bipartisan coexistence is both an urgent and sensitve matter. Much love to you, and a deep bow.