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When reality is politicized, everything is political

Oliver Kiley
United States
Ann Arbor
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I’m sitting here trying to come to terms with what happened last night in our nation’s capital. To come to terms with something that, on one hand is horrific and shocking, but on the other hand was, unsurprisingly inevitable. Hindsight isn’t required - many people, myself included, assumed something was coming. And I am so disheartened that my fears came true.

I’m sitting here listening to my wife teach her highschool class over zoom - and having to kick off each of her classes with yet another political, “but don’t talk about politics,” crisis conversation. They have been far too many such conversations that I’ve heard over the past year. This shouldn’t be the state of affairs in our county - yet here we are.

The simple truth is that when the fabric of reality has been politicized, it makes everything political. It’s unreasonable, perhaps impossible, to expect teachers, or employees, or family members, or hobby enthusiasts to try and discuss current events without being political.

I don’t relish making political posts - now my third in this past year alone. But I do feel an obligation as a citizen of this county, as someone who believes in democracy and that we all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to speak out in the communities I am a part of.

Perhaps this darkest chapter in our country’s history was, in a cruel way, a necessary part of coming to terms with the reality of America.

These past four years have exposed much of the true nature of this country. Put simply, we have problems, and big ones. And the sooner we can all own up to those and acknowledge the parts we play, tacitly or incidentally, the sooner we can begin the work of correcting them.

It’s mind-boggling to think what the last four years have brought.

The past four years have brought us the Women’s Movement and #MeToo. For far too long in our society women have suffered abuse and unequal treatment at home, in work places, and at schools. For far too long the reality of the extent and pervasiveness of misogyny and abuse was swept under the rug, reality distorted to keep people silent, and to keep so many other people in the dark. But no longer will it be tolerated.

The past four years have brought us multiple investigations into collusion with foreign powers at the highest levels of our government. A President campaigning on draining the swamp saw instead numerous of his closest affiliates charged with a range of crimes. Crimes that he then pardoned them for. Pardons that come, implicity, with admission of guilt. The fragility of our democracy and the norms that hold it together have been laid bare. We can no longer be blind to these weaknesses. We must hold those who would seek to undermine our democracy accountable if there is to be justice.

The past four years have brought us the Black Lives Matter movement, underscoring the deep seated racism that has been boiling under the lid for generations. Many people, in naivety, assumed we were past this chapter. But unequal treatment of people of color by our laws, by law enforcement agencies, by institutions of government, and by individual people is now sitting in the open for all to see. It must be addressed if we are to move forward as a country. We can no longer pretend it isn’t happening. The truth is that it has been happening since before this county even was a country. But no longer can it be tolerated by anyone claiming to be a patriot.

The past four years have been punctuated by a humanitarian crisis of incalculable cruelty, borne out on our soil. Our xenophobia has put thousands of people into internment camps. It has seen innocent children permanently separated from their parents - a policy of deliberate cruelty. How soon the architects of these cruel practices forget that they themselves, or their parents or their grandparents were once immigrants as well. We must treat others how we wish to be treated. To seek empathy and understanding.

The past four years have witnessed a sustained attack on the truth, on scientific knowledge, and on expertise. Whether it is handling COVID-19, addressing Global Climate Change, peeling back environmental protections, providing affordable healthcare, or supporting the long-term health of our economy - expertise and knowledge, and indeed the very truth, has been routinely dismissed and spun as political opinion. We can no longer tolerate attacks on the truth.

The past four years have resoundingly shattered the illusion that America is exceptional.

We are not exceptional.

Our wealth gap, between the rich and poor, continues to widen. Our life expectancy is declining. Our public infrastructure is literally crumbling. Our security is weakening. Our reputation in the world has collapsed. Our educational system is failing our children. Our moral standing has been exposed as a lie.

And so, in ways both cruel and uncomfortable, this ugliness coming to light in our country may be necessary. By coming to the light, we hold up a mirror to ourselves and bear witness to what we are. Admission is the first step to recovery.

We have much work to do in turning this ship around. This work must begin with a commitment to the truth and building a shared understanding of reality. Not everyone will be on board the boat, for that is clear enough now. But we must continue to pursue and confront the truth, and to not be afraid of engaging in political conversations. When the reality around us is open for debate, politics are impossible to ignore. And we will never move forward without first building a common truth and purpose.

What happened last night in our nation's capital is a consequence of reality being politicized and twisted. The unraveling of truth is both terrifying and dangerous - but we cannot let it rule us. We must all find ways in which we can advance our quest for the truth and to live up to the values we share as a Americans and as human beings on this planet.
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