I’ve held onto this picture for a long time. Last year I was tipped with this dollar bill while working at my cafe. I no longer have the actual bill. It is long gone, floating somewhere among the sea of billfolds and purses in the world. It doesn’t matter. This picture holds a lot of emotion. A lot of pain. A lot of fear. A lot of dehumanization. There has been a lot of that over the past few years. Dehumanization. Fear. Confusion.
I remember when Donald Trump won the election. My entire city of Portland, a place that I have fallen deeply in love with, was in a state of depression. The fear and sorrow in the air were palpable. Ask anyone in Portland if they remember what it was like after the 2016 election, and they remember it. It is weird to be in a city of thousands of people and not to hear a word spoken on the streets. It was an impactful moment of my life. A scary moment if I am honest. What would happen to my immigrant neighbors? What about my gay family? What about my POC loved ones? These are all people who have shown me immense love when I wasn’t capable of loving myself. I get it. I get the fear. I remember walking through the park with a friend and crying a few days after the election. I understand the fear and the confusion all too well. I suppose that makes me one of those “liberal snowflakes.”
The United States of America, in the year 2016, elected a man who openly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy, mocked disabled people, and equated immigrants as “bad hombres.” This election was in short….revolting. So seeing a dollar bill like this floating around the urbanized “Upper Left” of the United States is no surprise to me. Of course, the dehumanization went both ways. Hillary Clinton during her campaign called Trump supporters a “basket of deplorable.” While at the same time touting a when-they-go-low-we-go-high-attitude as if she wasn’t involved in the mud slinging. This attitude honestly scares me. I see it in the streets. I see it in my place of work. I have met people who have stated that they hope Donald Trump has a heart attack while on live tv. That way they can rewind it and watch it over and over again. Their reasoning: “He is a hateful man and needs to die.” I have sat with people who want for nothing more than Hillary to be locked up in a cell to rot. It doesn’t take us long to hear these sentiments either. Log onto social media, and you will be bombarded with dehumanizing memes, posts, and statuses alike. All of them attacking people with different ideologies and morals. Dehumanizing the other. Us vs. them mentality. We are all guilty of it.
We dehumanize those with different opinions, ideologies, religions, and stances from us. We paint our neighbor or family member as the enemy. “They voted for (insert name here).” In doing so, we lose trust and get angrier at those who are different than us. We solidify our idea of “who is in and who is out.” In doing so, we lose our ability to listen. We lose our ability to make true friendship. We find ourselves unable to communicate with, or even have empathy for others. We push the people with whom we disagree with into the dangerous territory of moral exclusion. Telling them that they aren’t welcome in the same space we are.
It is honestly sickening to me. It is hurtful. This is me being publicly vulnerable. It is hurtful when I hear my friends telling me that those who voted for Trump are all white supremacist and the world would be better off without them. Guess what? I have members of my family who I love, who voted for Trump. Guess what else? They are not white supremacist. They voted for him because he wasn’t Hillary and they wanted to see an economic reform. It is hurtful when I hear my friends saying that those who don’t support Trump are deplorable humans who should leave and start their own country. Guess what? I didn’t vote for Trump either. I still don’t think he is a good president. Do you think this world would be better off without me?
We place people into camps of “conservative” and “liberal.” We are stuck in this vicious cycle of dehumanizing each other. We need to stop tolerating this status quo. Dehumanization is the primary instrument of violence that has been used throughout history to justify the most deplorable of human acts. We reduce Muslims to terrorists. Reduce Mexicans to “illegal.” Reduce police officers to murders. In the process of dehumanizing others, we reduce and dehumanize ourselves.
If we claim to value social justice and reconciliation, then we can not value the moral exclusion that “us vs. them” brings. Even more so if you are a part of a faith community that asks you to find the face of God in every human, you come in contact with. When we decrease the image of God in others, we decrease the image of God in ourselves. If you get offended at a meme claiming that Bernie supporters are ignorant sheep, you should be just as offended when you see a meme portraying Trump as a bumbling idiot. If you get offended when the president calls women bitches whom you can do whatever you want too, then you should be as equally disgusted when you hear people calling Ivanka a whore and a gold digger. If you are upset when your children are bullied, you should be equally offended when Barron Trump is attacked in the media for not “dressing the part.”
It is time for us to come back to our humanity. It is time for us to rehumanize those who are on the outside of our camp. It is time that we sit and listen to people with other views than ours. It is time that we intentionally spend time with people who are different while staying true to who we are. This is an everlasting battle. Not losing ourselves. It is a spiritual exercise to practice presence. It takes a strong person to be able to be present and share their authentic self with the world. At the same time finding sacredness in being a part of something while standing alone. Being present with people does not require you to change who you are. It requires you to realize your own humanity all while recognizing the humanity in others.
It is going to be hard. It is going to require listening and hard conversations. It is going to require love. We are going to have to take part of shared pain and joy with which we may not agree. It is going to require that we become more curious than defensive. It is going to require us to seek togetherness. Togetherness is a practice that isn’t easy. It requires vulnerability. It requires us to get uncomfortable and to learn how to be present while not losing ourselves.It is going to require that we overlook a multitude of offenses. It is going to require us to hold onto love above all else.
It is time for all of this dehumanizing to come to an end.