Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Surviving Freedom, Hatred & Donald Trump

Freedom of speech is an amazing thing.

Survivors, who have to come to terms with their illnesses, crisis and traumas, struggle everyday to have a voice. A voice that rises above the pain, the sadness, the fear, the guilt, and the shame. A voice that speaks for their value and lights the way of their healing. A voice that some days may merely manage the barest of whispers, while struggling not to drown in the depth of their own screams.

Anyone who has ever had to fight to be heard knows that Freedom of Speech is not free. It comes at a great cost. Many have died for it, both figuratively and literally. But, it is a cost worth paying, protecting and fighting for, even when it isn't pretty or kind or easy.

Sometimes the ugliest speech has paved the way for this freedom, solely because it has raged the loudest and offended the most. Larry Flynt fought for it, so did the Klu Klux Klan.

Other times the silenced voices have spoken volumes shining a light on the cost of human rights and personal freedoms. Nelson Mandela did this from a prison cell, while Anne Frank did this from an attic.

In this country, we have the hard-earned right to free speech and you don't have to be a billionaire to have a voice or speak your mind.

However, currently, here in the United States, there is a self-proclaimed billionaire speaking his mind:

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America - Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0,

"They're killers and rapists." - regarding Mexicans.
"Laziness is a trait in blacks." - regarding African Americans.
"I hate it, I'm a traditionalist." - regarding homosexual relationships.
"Disgusting." - regarding the opposing counsel in one of his trials who needed to take a break to breast-feed her 3-month old baby.
"You have to treat 'em like shit." - regarding how to handle women.

Donald Trump said these things and so much more. You can quote him all day. You can quote him in context or out of it. And, it just takes a few minutes on the internet, on the news, or on a twitter feed to find some other quote to provoke. Words, not just from the current Presidential election race, but spanning back decades.

One quote is a mistake, two quotes is a judgement call, but three quotes, or in this particular case three-hundred quotes, is a pattern.

Sadly, on June 12, 2016 an American walked into a night club in Orlando, Florida and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle. In a brutal act of hate and terrorism, he murdered 49 human beings and wounded another 53, many of whom have years of recovery ahead of them.

Afterwards, Donald Trump did not call for gun-control or increasing access to mental health treatments or promoting tolerance through education, but instead, again called for a ban on Muslim immigrants, despite the fact that the killer was an American, born in the United States to parents who had legally immigrated here. 

Trump has a lot to say on immigrants, but has selective memory on his own linage. Donald Trump's grandfather, as a teenager, was an immigrant from Germany, who as an adult, actually tried to return to his homeland. But, Germany deported him back to the United States as a draft dodger, since he managed to avoid his mandatory military service in Germany during his years in the United States.

No matter our politics or beliefs, it is time to stop the hypocrisy. Freedom of speech is not the right to loathe or voice outrage at acts of violence, whether organized or random, while routinely supporting hate or bigotry in lesser forms. 

Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to murder people because they are different from you or their belief system is different than yours. 
Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to kill because you believe your God is more important than someone else's God.
Freedom of speech is not an act of hatred to belittle others because you believe you are of more worth then someone else.
Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to destroy other cultures because you value your culture more.

Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to spread bigotry and fear in an attempt to justify your cause.
Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to victimize others in an attempt to empower yourself.
Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to demoralize humanity in an attempt to ram your morals down someone else's throat.

Sadly, Freedom of Speech does not protect any of us from hatred. 
But, it does allow us the right to speak out against it. Loudly and often.

On November 8, 2016, many Americans will walk into voting booths. There is a good chance, in a brutal act of democracy, some of them will vote for hate by casting their ballot for Donald Trump.

But, one of the most amazing things about Freedom of Speech is that we have the right not only to speak with our voices from our hearts, but also the freedom and the right to speak with our votes.

We are the roads to our own enlightenment.

As a survivor, I truly know it's an act of freedom to speak up for our own survival and the survival of others. It isn't always easy. It comes at a great cost. But, we must speak up.

I am not telling you who to vote for, what to vote for, or how to vote for it, I am merely speaking up, like I have the freedom to do.

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