Here’s Why I’m Not OK With Your Praise of Last Night’s SOTU Address

State of the Union 2011, from Wikipedia Commons

This blog post was originally a tweetstorm, found here.

As a woman, an American immigrant, a mixed race Latina, and a newly minted American, allow me to explain to you why I’m going to react poorly when you talk to me about how inspirational the President’s speech was last night.

Among the special invitees sat a family whose child was murdered by members of a terrifying Latin American gang, and a Homeland Security agent.

The honored guests at SOTU, while I’m sure all lovely people, were specifically picked to illicit a single response from you: an unshakeable feeling of “us vs. them”

My entire life, due to all those “labels” I outlined in the first tweet, I have deeply and painfully craved a world in which I was seen as a human, and not as an “other.”

“Othering” is the crux of what is so deeply painful to me about a Trump presidency. I’m not screaming bloody murder about half-true perceived constitutional violations or alternative facts. I am screaming because this political moment’s success is based on taking us away from the unified world I’ve desperately craved my entire life. The #SOTU looked like a “celebration of othering we can all agree with.”

I am frustrated with all sides of the political discussion in the United States. Because whether you’re talking about Russia collusion or Making America Great Again, you’re telling me you’re buying into the idea that some humans are more evil, and less worthy, than others. That’s shit.

But most importantly, your tacit approval of othering terrifies me. Because I know that the definitions of the ingroup and the outgroup are loose, and that one day I can belong, and the next day I could not.

I thought I found a unified world when I bought into the American Dream, when I moved to New York City, when I found the open-source community, etc etc etc etc, and then Donald Trump became President by selling the exact opposite.

Donald Trump’s political success is, by his own doing, contingent on convincing you that certain people are dangerous to you and therefore less human, and to eliminate them, certain other people – people like me – are acceptable casualties for the greater good.

So forgive me if I struggle to respond with calmness, rationality, and openness about how you were “pleasantly surprised” by the SOTU. Because nothing about it was pleasant or surprising to me. It was more of the same “us vs. them.”

What I hear is that your dislike of crime, your disdain for misinformation, your (insert other concerns here) supersedes your desire for a world in which we move past socially constructed differences and borders. I’m hearing “means to an end” arguments for temporarily suspending the one thing I have found to be nonnegotiable in a world of subjective opinion: to do unto others as we would want done unto us.

I was 14 the first time that somebody told me that I’m hard to talk to, and that it’s just easier to stay away from political discussions with me. I was completely heartbroken. I thought there was something wrong with me. I have spent so much energy apologizing, and acquiescing, for that.

I’ve learned that avoidance is a powerful self-defense mechanism – there’s few things more painful than the suggestion that you’ve behaved like a bad person. For so long, I’ve decided pushing further wasn’t worth it.

But I just can’t continue apologizing for making people uncomfortable with the most important thing in the world to me.

Feel free to discuss in the comments or in the original tweetstorm

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