A woman called into my radio program recently, sobbing. She was both terrified and angry about the way the GOP is scapegoating queer youth and the impact it is having on her daughter and her friends.
“My daughter is gay and some of her good friends are trans and she’s terrified. She has a friend in Florida who just tried to commit suicide. I just want to tell everybody, please, this is just the beginning. I’ve been saying this since Trump came into power. That it’s just starting.
“I don’t feel safe. My kids go out … and the fact that my daughter is afraid to be here; I’m terrified and I’m angry and I’m tired of everybody debating this.
“I just want everybody to know that they’re starting with them. They’re starting with LGBTQ people, but they’re going to come for you and your kids, too. Stop debating because we need to take care of ourselves and our families.
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am right now. I’m sorry, but just watching the pain on these kids’ faces, I worry about my own family, and I’m so angry. It’s been years of this now…”
This person is being ground down by the fear- and hate-mongers on Fox “News,” trolls on social media, and blowhards on rightwing hate radio.
By the Republican politicians who’ve determined that Hitler was right when the first marginalized group he went after in 1933 were gay men and women and trans people.
By Republican legislators, police, and courts that don’t take seriously — or even encourage — gender-based attacks on queer people and women.
Black people in America know this phenomenon well. It’s called “weathering”: the slow, steady, daily drip-drip-drip of closed doors to opportunity, microaggressions, and distrust, all punctuated by the occasional violent or even deadly all-out attack.
Dr. Shamard Charles describes weathering — “a phenomenon that kills us in slow, less obvious ways” — as follows:
“Borrowing the term from environmental studies, weathering is similar to the soil erosion that happens over time due to exposure to the elements — a small buildup of negatively impacting events eventually leads to a massive landslide or avalanche.…
“Racism forms cracks in our spirit, like cracks in the pavement of a busy road. Constant bouts of discrimination fill and expand the crack, like raindrops. Over time, the crack becomes a pothole that no longer resembles its original form.”
Weathering of African Americans explains why they’re more likely to die young and to suffer a wide variety of physical and psychological ailments at younger ages than white people.
Dr. Charles noted:
“In humans, this erosion is the accumulation of a broad range of adverse and largely preventable health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and poorer mental health, that lead to early death.”
A study titled “Racial differences in weathering and its associations with psychosocial stress” published by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and the Mayo Clinic found that: “Blacks weathered 6.1 years faster than Whites.”
Because of systemic racism and daily confrontations with the bigotry of individual white people, Black people have it the worst in American society, and it shows in virtually every statistical analysis.
But the process of weathering can affect any minority group that’s the victim of active, aggressive, hate and persecution.
Queer people, people of color, folks who don’t conform to traditional gender stereotypes, young people concerned about climate change in the face of Republican inaction and ridicule, students overwhelmed by debt, sick people afraid to go to the doctor or cutting pills in half because of cost, working people who can only barely afford rent and food, parents who don’t have enough money to properly dress or prepare their kids for school, seniors fearing the GOP will finally succeed in killing off Social Security and Medicare: all are being weathered to different degrees.
And it’s tough work taking on the morbidly rich and their corporate allies. They’re ubiquitous and tireless.
There’s literally not a city, town, or rural area in America that can’t tune in rightwing hate radio: there are three stations that carry it 24/7 here in “liberal” Portland, two owned by wealthy individuals.
Fox “News” is on every cable and satellite channel and all the online portals, Facebook and Twitter both appear to heavily slant their algorithms toward rightwing content, and an army of trolls ranging from American Nazis to Russian intelligence operatives pour out a minute-by-minute stream of lies, hate, and disinformation.
Since five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court legalized political bribery with Citizens United, the entire GOP and a good-sized handful of elected Democrats (looking at you, Manchin, Gottheimer, and Sinema) dance to the tune of billionaire and corporate interests, routinely ignoring the wishes of clear majorities of American citizens. Corporate-owned “Problem Solvers” have infected both political parties and are now threatening to field a third-party candidate for president in 2024.
It is exhausting.
Today, every state controlled by a Republican legislature is passing laws making it harder to vote, criminalizing voter registration drives, and reducing access to the ballot, all while systematically purging their voter rolls of people living in largely Democratic areas, be they Black people, students, or Social Security voters.
They’re using the lie of “voter fraud” to justify this corrosion of democracy; the lie of “groomers” to vilify queer people, teachers, and librarians; and the lie of “abortion right up to the day of birth” to attack politicians defending women’s right to access reproductive healthcare.
The rightwing billionaires, bought-off or true-believer judges, and giant predatory corporations driving this process are relentless. Oil, gas, health insurance, hospitals, Big Pharma, corporate landlords: they’re all working tirelessly to pick our pockets and reduce us to poverty while using our money to buy another private jet, yacht, or 40-room chalet for the CEO.
They have more money than God, and it seems there’s a never-ending supply of shills and hired guns more than happy to do their dirty work for the right price. Who will do whatever it takes to disenfranchise and intimidate good and honest people who simply want a decent, trusting, loving America.
So, what do we do? Our best lessons come from the people who’ve struggled with this the longest: African Americans and Native Americans.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., paraphrasing an 1853 quote from the Massachusetts abolitionist pastor Theodor Parker, said so eloquently, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
This does not mean justice is inevitable or that the hate and fascism mobilized today by the GOP and their billionaire media allies must lose, at least over the short term. As gays, Jews, and union workers learned in 1933 Germany, fear and violence often enjoy short-lived but brutal victories.
Instead, it tells us all — members of marginalized communities who are receiving the brunt of the Republican Party’s campaign of hate, obstruction, and fear, and their allies alike — that we must never give up. The vast majority of Americans just want peace.
They want a decent life for themselves and their children. They want access to good paying jobs, healthcare, and education. They want people to get along with each other, and the slaughter of our children to stop. They want the hate, lies, and obstruction to end.
And if enough of us turn out at the polls in 18 months, we may be able to pull it off. As Jim Morrison once sang, “They got the guns, but we got the numbers.”