Fool me once…

In the photo, nemophila “Pennie Black.” It’s a trick — the bloom is about the diameter of a large pea, and gorgeous all the same. The photo makes it look almost petunia-esque!

How easy it is to be fooled.

Some years back, on a clear Monday evening in Mexico, I was “fooled” into thinking I was being taken to the precinct for a few simple questions. Those who know me know the story. I ended up in jail. And while I weathered that storm that came with incarceration under false pretenses — only with the ferocious help of friends and strangers — I am left with a few overwhelming feelings that surface from time to time. One is an impatience with feelings of impotence — I was supposed to “believe” that my lot was secure in the hands of others (older white men who had an interest only in their own bottom line) as I struggled to mobilize any other alternative. Another is intolerance for bearing false witness. I was behind bars because people lied.

So many in my progressive circles are upset and angry at the way the current electoral season is being hijacked by the King of Entertainment. I’m with them, certainly. Yet I have, as well, an almost physical revulsion to the lumbering monster of deceit and sleight of speech that trumples innocents underfoot. I am taxed by the memory of men who said “trust me on this” when there was no clear evidence that I should. Just believe.

The parallels with the current election season have me grasping for something, anything that can turn around what feels like a hostage situation.

What saved me “back in the day” was solidarity. Good people who had good connections and good energy who used it toward bringing truth to light. We didn’t leave things in “belief.” We acted.

I don’t know what action we good citizens are to take faced with so many friends and family who have been trumpled underfoot by the expert psych campaign that paints Trump as someone who truly cares… Wait… what? An entire lifetime of caring only for his own bottom line vs. her lifetime of public service? I am supposed to make a leap of faith to believe him on that? Faith does not belong in politics and… no, I do not believe you, as there is zero evidence in 70 years that public good has ever been your thing. Enter the smoke and mirrors of now and the many carefully crafted words that are supposed to belie the actions of a lifetime spent maneuvering both sides against the middle for his own gain. Really? You care about me? Woman… friend of immigrants… solidary with People of Color… lover of sane discourse… and Mexicophile?

OK, so clearly he isn’t for me. And just like when I was in jail, I wasn’t going to convince the other side that here in front of me — with this Oaxacan lawyer the color of rain-soaked earth we have a solution. And that didn’t stop all of us from trying. Letters and interviews and disciplined pleading and discussions and good heads put together… And what could have been 14 years was only 33 days.

I think it is folly to imagine that any of us can turn around a Trump supporter. But what if each of us found that person in our circle, and asked a curious question? Not a confrontation, but a probing… Help me understand where you are coming from. Without falling into immediate disbelief and really LISTENING. It is a good exercise in what democratic discussion can/should be — if we all keep our hats on. So we don’t turn anyone around, but we have demonstrated sane discourse. We have urged them to answer important questions they might not have asked themselves. AND we are a little closer to perhaps understanding what drives a good swath of today’s America.

I have tried this in my own small circle with glacially-paced success. I don’t know if the people I am curious with are too busy, too disinterested in probing their own views, or simply can’t. These issues transcend pure politics and hover over an area that feels like limited freedom and justice for all — and I don’t want our future to be solely in the hands of older white men who care only for their own bottom line.


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