I had to pass an edict at the Darkside Cinema that there will be no discussion on the premises of the presidential race and its outcome. We have a small lobby. I’ve watched discussions travel from one cluster of people to another like a grass fire or a good blunt. (Which is a different kind of grass fire, I guess.) I do not want a place we’ve spent 20 years cultivating into a center for art and culture turned into the downtown Portland melee after the election.
In a statement I sent out the night of the election, I noted that the emotional tone of our community was reminiscent of the tone after the 9/11 tragedy. People feel like they’ve been slapped in the face with a wet cod. So many did not see the election turning out the way it did and they are mad as hell about it. Those who are happy about the election are choosing to keep their opinions close to their chests—and they are among our community. Just look at how the voting broke down for our county.
I’ve always felt a little bored with being surrounded by people who think the way I do. Thus, my friends’ opinions are pretty closely divided between the two presidential candidates. I have told neither camp how I voted and will not tell them. First of all, there’s that whole secret ballot thing. And B, I tend to hang onto friends for a long time and one of the secrets to that is not needing to convince them to think the way I do. In the interest of keeping things civil, they afford me the same courtesy. If they ask an opinion on a particular subject, I can pontificate at length about immigration or how Trump really isn’t just saying the things we’re all thinking. But to hell with people who don’t see the Kawasaki 650KLR as one of the finest motorcycles ever made, and anyone who thinks Harleys are outdated is an idiot. Film versus digital? Film, you Philistine.
Since the election, reports of hate crimes are increasing. Trump’s multiple comments about gays, people of color, immigrants, women, and the environment, among others, have led to the less cognitively advantaged among us to feel it is now okay to let their lesser selves run free. I have elected to use this as a filtering process. People who hold hate in their hearts that runs so deeply that they allow it to spill out into the real world have always been part of our community. We now know who they are. Though many of my friends voted for Trump, none of them condone racism, misogyny, or any of the other skidmarks on the underwear that was his campaign. My Trump friends would be the first to step between a troglodyte and a Muslim, person of colour, homosexual, or anyone if they were being victimized. In no small part because they themselves have had to retreat to the closet to avoid being victimized for the side of the fence they fell on by choosing between what they believed were two shit choices for president.
Some of the bad behaviour we’ve been seeing has manifested as vandalism. Aside from the cognitive dissonance that inspires some people to bust up other other people’s shit because they’re pissed, hate speech seems to be on the rise. Willamette Week magazine published pictures of the graffiti Sharpied onto a rest room wall. What they have done is taken something that could have been painted over, and made it immortal—forever ensconced on the walls of the internet. The person who penned such hatred on the classy forum of a rest room wall is undoubtedly giddy with joy over their work being spread far and wide. We know vandalism is happening. We do not need pornographic evidence that serves nothing, except maybe as an indicator WW feels the National Enquirer is their new beacon of journalistic excellence. We could have been informed that the hate leaked out, which is good to know, without giving the vandals exactly what they wanted. If someone is tagging hate speech in my community, I sure as hell would want to know. But, I do not need to see it.
Those of us who have lived through this before know that this too shall pass. Nixon, Vietnam, Monica Lewinsky, Stonewall and other players in our historic circus have diffused into a less emotional space. We can now look at these events and contextualize them without the rabid nationalism that rendered them unapproachable. Most of the haters have crawled back into their holes and those acting up now will soon descend back into their dingbat warrens. Spasms of stupidity have followed most social and political changes—good or bad. But it has always been community that mattered—and that mitigated the damage.
Things are not perfect when it comes to discrimination in this country, says the middle-aged white guy. But, as a child of the 60s, I think things are getting better. The biggest influence by my observation has been community reaction to national events. Our leadership can sway those less inclined to think for themselves, but here in our little slice of the Willamette Valley we will not let anyone feel uncomfortable because of who they pray to, who they love, or whether or not they think auto-tune is amazing. Our behaviour as a community is what really matters. Our new president will perpetuate any ‘ism he chooses. That won’t fly in my neighborhood. You want to spray paint stupidity on my wall? I’ll report it to the police, let them take pictures, then that shit is gone ASAP. You think you can be an ass to someone here? You’ll find yourself on the pointy end of a safety pin, being swarmed by a gaggle of people ready to stand up for those you hate. It wouldn’t be too generous to guess that more than a few in that gaggle will have voted for Trump.