When Would've Been Soon Enough?

12 Jan 2021

Donald Trump and the Republican party are fascists. The Republican party has always dressed their white supremacy in American Christianity and the conservative movement. But it has always been about upholding the white supremacy at the core of America.

This isn't a new, sudden wave of white supremacy in the Republican party. This is who they've always been. Ronald Reagan, the Bush Family, Nixon — all fascist pieces of shit like Donald Trump.

Simply put, I don't want to unify with the fascists, and I'm furious that Democrats, as a whole, have been calling for that.

The anger I have over this isn't going anywhere, but its constant companion since all of this started is sadness. A deep sadness, one that I often ignore and bury. Compartmentalization is best for staying anything close to functioning, I guess. But I'm tired of pretending that fine is a thing we'll ever return to.

I'm exhausted at the mental toll this has taken on me, a queer white man from Idaho. I can't imagine how exhausted and broken the Black, female, trans members of my communities are. Rest doesn't feel like an option. Burying all this didn't help. So now what?

I've always found safety in the naming of things. The sooner I named the thing — the emotion, the action, the problem — the sooner it could be solved and no longer present a danger to me. Confronting the problem directly, having the hard conversation, making the shitty decision, has been a source of safety for me.

I miss my great aunt. She's the only family member from that generation that I have left. We grew up poor, but she was obnoxiously wealthy. Couldn't buy taste, but who needs taste when you own rooms full of clothing you bought and wore once?

When we drove to Missouri every year for Christmas, we'd spend Christmas Eve at her house. 50+ people every year. I had no idea who 40 of them where. They certainly weren't our family. In the kitchen that was the size of half our house, she’d slip the teens shots. A mediocre feast with three to five separate long tables, a dozen or more seated at each. It was height of opulence to my brain.

She bought us all dozens of gifts. They were always wrapped the same — tissue paper followed by a reflective neon plastic. It took 45 minutes for everyone's gifts to be distributed from the six Christmas trees she had set up around the house. Opening took over an hour in which she’d shout to each person to hold up the gift they just got. Because of the plastic, it sounded like everyone was opening a bag of Lay’s. It was chaos. It was love. It was bragging. She presided over the circus, a happy ring leader. We'd almost always return all of the gifts, which weren't anything we ever wanted, for the money. Because we needed cash more than half a dozen new Snow Village pieces.

Then her husband, the man who raised my father, got liver cancer. They didn't have health insurance. He survived. One of her family members laundered millions away from the family business. He got cancer again. He didn't survive. Christmas Eve got smaller and smaller until it stopped. She downsized the house. She got a job. Just because of my friends, she’d say. It's nice to see them every day. Don’t worry about me.

We stopped going to Missouri for Christmas, but every year, a package showed up. Knockoff snow village pieces from the Dollar General. I kept those. I set up a small village in my room every year in my teens because I loved my aunt, my aunt loved me, and she was trying.

We never spoke regularly. But whenever we did, it was a treasure. Right up until it wasn’t.

The last time I saw her, we all went to lunch as a family and talked for a few hours. March 2013. She felt off. The love that radiated off of her from our youth was replaced with an odd anger. Over a mediocre Chinese buffet, she dropped a birther reference. I remember saying, “Back up — what?” And we were off.

A rant about Obamacare, the destruction of our nation, food stamps, Cash For Clunkers, Benghazi. She preached the joys of medicare and social security. They were the only thing that kept her afloat. The whiplash from the incoherent racist Tea Party bullshit to the praise of America’s fragile and failing safety nets confused me. She told us to watch Fox News. We told her no. We stopped talking on the phone. But she asked about my brother and I every time she spoke to my parents. Wanted to know how we were doing and if we were happy.

In 2015, she called to let us know she was a proud deplorable. The Trump Train was full speed ahead and we should get on. I don’t think she asks about us anymore. I know I don’t.

I miss my dad’s best friend. He was always there with us growing up, teaching our Bible study, singing in church. He was kind, the type of kindness that was big. Felt bottomless. His soft laugh and a side hug readily available for whoever needed it. He started every sentence with a thoughtful "Well..." and considered every word before talking. Facebook chewed him up and spit out a racist asshole. Took a big ball of love and warmth and made him small and scared.

I miss the opportunity to have a real relationship with my partner’s parents. I love my family. So the idea of having a second family? Sign me up. Her mother and I share a birthday. I made a joke about how good our joint party was going to be. My partner told me to hold off on planning anything before I met her. No, I told her, I love parents and parents love me. I was incorrect.

Fast forward a few months and we’re sitting in a wine bar in Portland, arguing about how it’s racist to say that Mexicans are rapists. It doesn’t get better. It doesn’t resolve.

Jump forward a few years and we’re at a coffee shop in Montana, telling them how much it hurts us to have them continue to support Trump. A moment comes where they’re not getting it and in an effort to help them empathize, I tell them I’m not straight. That I’ve dated men and women my entire life.

I realize that this is the first time I’ve come out to parents before. I never felt the need with my parents — it’s not a secret. My parents have met me. Have her parents? I don't think so. I'm desperate to get through to them, so I tried complete honesty. Showing a part of myself they didn't earn.

It goes as well as you’d expect.

Thirty minutes later, my partner’s mother is shouting at me, pointing a finger at me, and repeatedly calling me an asshole. Everyone in the coffeeshop looks at us — at her — and I'm just so sad. They pull my partner aside and ask if she needs help getting away from me. I’m kidnapping her to Amsterdam and they won’t let it happen.

I miss the first man I ever loved. We met at summer camp. He married a beautiful blonde woman who made him recommit to his faith. A few years later, they're hashtagging MAGA while posting photos of them voting. I unfollowed them on Instagram immediately — I didn’t have the energy to have my heart broken by the conversation. So I just skipped it and went to straight to the heartache of losing him.

Most of all, I miss my best friend from college. Acts of service personified, he taught me so much about being a good friend and showing up. The effort he put into relationships and caring for people blew me away.

We met at a religious college — he was religious, I wasn’t. It caused its own set of problems, sure. We argued about marriage equality multiple times. Once it resulted in a full yelling match on a beach during sunset. That one ended with me pointing out that his parents' interracial marriage wouldn’t have been legal decades ago either. I think I changed his mind with that one? I don’t know, it never felt safe to check.

We pushed each other — argued about ideas and politics often. He graduated into the recession and struggled to find work for years. I redesigned his resume countless times. I threw him whatever leads I could. Eventually he found work running an assisted living facility that his grandfather owned. Great news for us — it was just a few hours from where I was living. One of us would go to other’s place for the weekend. Whoever was staying the night brought the gin.

He saved my life when my girlfriend moved out during Christmas in 2012. Without him, I would’ve fallen into a depressive episode that I’m not certain I would’ve been able to pull myself out of. Without hesitation, he provided a space for me to grieve and vent. During the following months, he checked in on me every day. He got me projects to keep me busy. He took over gin-purchasing altogether. He loved me at a time when I needed it most. Less than a year later, I returned the favor when his girlfriend broke up with him.

He was my first friend to meet my partner. The first photo I have with her is a selfie he took of the three of us. We got lost in a hospital while trying to find a park. He wanted to take a photo to commemorate it.

As 2015 rolled in, we were seeing each other regularly. We talked a lot about the election. I thought I had done a good job of explaining my fears. I guess I hadn’t.

Shortly after election night, at the height of my despair, we fought over FaceTime. His brother, who is not nearly as intelligent or kind, was being a dick. I asked (yelled at) his brother if he was comfortable with someone sexually assaulting his new wife. Because that’s the behavior you normalize when you vote for a rapist. He stormed off.

My friend could tell I was fucked up and he stayed on the call. When it was just him and me, I broke down. I told him how scared I was. How bad I thought it was going to be. How I was worried about camps and mass arrests and the DOJ classifying BLM as a terrorist organization. He said he knew but that it would be okay.

He didn’t apologize for his vote.

After everything he had taught me about brotherly love, I assumed he’d know how much his actions hurt me. That I needed an apology. That I wanted assurances his actions would change. That a desire for lower taxes wouldn’t overrule my right to marry who I want. That he would do the hard work of confronting his own racism, and his family’s, and come out the other side better for it. That I needed him to show up for me in his actions outside of our direct friendship.

So when he didn’t, I stopped putting in the effort for him. We drifted. Our daily texts became weekly became monthly became non-existent.

I miss all of these people so much. But I don’t know what else to do. The actions they took, and the actions they supported, have to have consequences. I can’t sweep voting for a white supremacist fascist under the rug. It wasn’t a secret who Donald Trump was.

I’ve come back to the same question over and over again in the last decade: When would’ve been soon enough?

How much earlier would’ve I had needed to talk with my aunt to get through to her? We lost her at some point to Fox News. Could I have called more before she fell in? Would that have made the difference?

Should I have flagged the behavior on Facebook earlier for my dad’s best friend? Tried to teach him about echo chambers and how Facebook feeds you rage because rage gets more engagement?

How could I have approached my partner’s parents differently, earlier? Would it have mattered? How soon do we need to catch someone before they fall?

What different ways could I have explained to my old best friend that I needed him to understand? Which phrases could I have used to get through? How could I have fixed this — prevented this?

The damage from the last four years will take the sum of our lives to undo. Accountability for that matters. There’s no healing without justice. There were thousands of people at the Capital building, and tens of millions just voted for the fascists to have a second term. I’m not interested in unity with them.

Did my best friend from college vote for him a second time? Did my aunt? I don't know. Is that the line? I don't know, but it really feels like one. Will an apology cut it? Will that be enough? Of course not. Will sustained actions towards showing regret and improvement be enough? I don't know. I don't know the depths of this hurt since I haven't fully felt it yet. We don't know the extent of the damage of the last five years yet. Seems like a great place to start.

As impeachment and accountability at the highest levels of government starts to take shape this week, we may have a way forward. I'm not holding my breath. But what does that look like for the people in our lives who hurt us? How do they come back? Can they? I don't know.

I'm stuck, sitting here thinking about what I could've said sooner that would've made them care. Why the love I had for them wasn't enough for them to just pause for a moment. That if I keep trying to come up with different ways for them to hear me in my head, maybe they're not too far gone. Maybe it'll be something that can still be saved.

If I keep writing this report, maybe that won't be it.

This has been an extended "Choose Your Own Report" edition of Taco Report. You can return to the original report or select the other option. If you aren't already a member, you can join Team Taco™ today. It's two bucks a month, and I file a new report every Tuesday. I promise next week's report will be happier.