Over the course of this election season, I’ve at times taken a Zen approach to it all and said to more than a few people, “Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.” And there is definitely still a part of me that believes this may, in fact, be true—sometimes I don’t think anything will change some people’s minds about how our society needs to be run except them experiencing hardship themselves, though I also know that experiencing hardship in and of itself does not produce the same outcomes of belief in all people and can sometimes more deeply ingrain stereotypes and biases…
But aside from all the little spins I can put on the argument to make it seem like a good one, as I’ve thought more about this in the past few weeks, I’ve come to conclude it’s a dangerous outlook for me to have for one simple reason: I’m speaking from a point of privilege.
Over the past few months I’ve also talked to many about how I’m a straight, young, white male, and how that pretty much puts me at the top of the “Privilege Olympics”. So I continue to work toward equality and equity for all people. But continually recognizing and “checking” one’s privilege is a 24/7 job, and it’s easy to let your guard down.
Whenever I’ve said that maybe “it has to get worse”, I’ve subconsciously been confident that whatever “worse” means, it doesn’t mean worse for me:
- If Roe v. Wade is reversed, I won’t be the one who has to suffer the consequences it would have for the control of my body and reproductive choice.
- If salary inequality continues such that women are paid only 70-80% of what men are paid, or if that percentage decreases, I won’t be losing any money from it.
- If voter ID laws that disproportionately affect the poor, elderly, and people of color continue to be rolled out and applied, I won’t have to worry about losing my ability to vote.
- If the movement of equal rights of homosexuals is halted, and gains made in the past years reversed, I won’t experience the consequences of any of those changes.
- If Obamacare is repealed or amended, I’ll still have health insurance or be able to afford coverage.
- If the economy takes another downturn, I’ll probably still have a full-time job. And even if I should lose it, I have significant savings that could last me for a while and have everything working in my favor to help me get a new job faster than others in a similar position. And even if worst comes to worst, I have grandparents who own their homes outright that I could live with (in addition to parents with a partially paid off home).
- If religious rights of non-Christians are curtailed, it won’t affect how and if I want to worship as I see fit.
- If we continue to fight wars, allow drone attacks, and permit oppressive governments to bring about terrible lives for people around the world, it won’t be my life that’s affected.
So while it may not matter to me personally if “it has to get worse before it gets better”, it sure does matter for many others (well over half the country, actually). If I’m going to be fighting for the rights of ALL people, to be striving for equality for the oppressed and marginalized, then I need to be taking a stand toward creating a better country for us ALL to live in and recognizing that when changes for the worse happen, even if they don’t affect me directly, they still matter and aren’t just “collateral damage” for some eventual change that may happen some day.
So when you and I go to the ballot box and vote (and even those who choose not to vote), it’s important to remember that it’s not all about “me” but about all those we know and don’t know who will be affected by the very real consequences of decisions made by those we elect to positions in our government. Our choices matter and directly impact the lives of other around the country and around the world. It’s not to be taken lightly; I’m going to continue to try to remember that, and I hope you do, too.