In November, something broke inside me. In the space of thirty days, the election combined with two other profound personal disappointments which sent me reeling. In hindsight, those three events had a lot in common. They were all about the shattering of illusion – seeing people and situations for who they really are, or what they had become. These experiences hobbled me, showing that my superpower for seeing light in every person and situation isn’t enough for them to shine. They humbled me, showing limits to my ability to change things alone. In November, I lost more of my waning innocence.
Losing innocence can be a good thing; a necessary developmental step in evolution. Conservatives are right to criticize liberals for being too idealistic and naïve at times. We have two profoundly different worldviews: one sees abundance, nurturing and opportunity; the other sees scarcity, hostility, and challenge. Both views have strengths which have been key to our survival as a species and nation, but we have become imbalanced towards the latter.
Generally speaking, people think others are like them. I learned this lesson at 26 when my boyfriend not only cheated on me, he felt justified since he believed I’d been unfaithful. I hadn’t cheated, but I had told him about being in compromising circumstances with an ex lover (hoping to solve the relationship problems this incident uncovered). I realized after his infidelity he never believed I hadn’t cheated, because given similar circumstances he would have cheated on me.
As a straight cis woman, my romantic relationships with men have taught me my hardest lessons about people. I’ve learned the best way to identify men to avoid is to listen closely on the first few dates – and believe them. (Non-sociopaths are surprisingly frank about being unfaithful, irresponsible, controlling or dishonest – most women laugh off these confessions then live to regret it.) I’ve learned the surest way to identify a weak, dishonest or wishy-washy man is to pay attention to his behavior over time – and believe him. I’ve learned that when I talk and talk with my partner yet still cry alone in the bathroom at 3 a.m. over his cruelty, the time for talk has passed. It’s time to set fierce boundaries or leave.
Like a woman to her abusive spouse, it’s time for progressives to stop talking, stand our ground and show our teeth to the right-wing extremists and white supremacists trying to take over our country. We’ve been too nice, and it’s hurting our collective future. When our leaders show us that they’re liars and cheats who neither respect us, nor the values and rules of this nation, we must believe them. When our leaders don’t know, understand or defer to facts, we must believe them. Progressives’ default problem solving tactic is talking things out and trying to understand. But dialogue only works when there is equitable commitment to discovering truth together and taking responsibility for outcomes. When someone demonstrates they aren’t willing, or able, to do both, the time for talk is over. Keep reading on The Huffington Post!