There are certain kinds of fear and disgust that I do not understand.
The notion that criminals in prison, by virtue of their being in prison, forfeit their right to humane treatment.
The notion that undocumented immigrants, by virtue of their being undocumented, forfeit their right to humane treatment.
The notion that speaking languages not understood by the observer strips away humanity.
The notion that being poor is a character flaw to be punished by humiliation and further poverty.
The notion that being sick is a ploy to get free things that others must work to attain.
The notion that bodily autonomy is a privilege reserved for those who meet a cultural standard of maleness that is ill-defined and exclusionary.
The, the idea that nothing bad will happen to a person because they work hard and follow a moral code, so therefore everyone who has had ill-fortune is a freeloading sinner anarchist who deserves all bad things.
The notion that difference is inherently a crime to be punished.
The idea that one’s rightness and goodness are determined by one’s rank in terms of economic success, that the more people are in crushing poverty below one, the better one is.
I do not understand these things.
I mean, I can mentally walk through how a person gets to those ideas, sure. In much the same way that I can understand a phobia, or a bad relationship pattern, or a fear of public speaking.
But I believe that people, myself included (myself most of all, actually,) have a *duty* to attempt to correct these misapprehensions and flaws in thinking as soon as we notice them. When I was presented with an opportunity to take swim lessons and work on my water phobia, I did so. When told I am being racist, or classist, or just an ass, I apologize and try to make amends. I am imperfect at these things, yes, yes, obviously, yes. But I believe I have an *obligation* to other people to try to be rational, to try to be civil, to try to be a cooperating and productive member of society.
The ideas listed above seem fundamentally opposed to life in civil society. I struggle to comprehend how a person can hold these views and not be cripplingly ashamed of themself. When people have, in the past, pointed out the racism of my feminism, the classism of my views on prisons, the white privilege of my notions of academic success, I have been ashamed.
The fact that some people genuinely believe that the sickest and most disabled among us do not deserve more than a fixed dollar amount of care each year, and after that they can first go bankrupt and then die? This is incomprehensible to me.
I am not … I wish I was more articulate about this. I wish I was funnier, or had better facts, or could string together a compelling and re-tweetable argument that would sway others. But I don’t have that. All I have is a sort of stunned and angry lack of understanding. I want to grab Paul Ryan by the lapels and ask him, “what is WRONG with you that you are not weepingly ASHAMED????”
But he isn’t.
They are not.
They … they really think difference — queer, black, Muslim, ill, disabled, old, young, trans, Latino, immigrant — is something to be punished. That we are different, and therefore we deserve less.
If you livin’ on your knees, you rise up
Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up
Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up
When are folks like me and you gonna rise up?
Every city, every hood, we need to rise up
All my soldiers, what’s good? We need to wise up
We ain’t got no other choice, we need to wise up