(This is a continuation from the previous story.)

My story joins multitudes of other stories from victims of racism and xenophobia all over the world. But I’m one of the lucky ones. Many victims do not have anyone to defend them. Many are in much more vulnerable situations. And many do not have the strength to simply shrug it off as someone else’s stupidity or malice, which in no way are reflections of themselves—their true selves.

Our stories continue, they do not come to a satisfying resolution—even when, at times, they seem tantalizingly close. Even when it seems, now more than ever, abundantly clear that we possess all the facts. Even when it seems, now more than ever, that we have all the reasoning and capability to respect each and every person as a fellow human being. Even when it seems, now more than ever, that we’ve had enough of these stories. We’ve had enough.

No, not with the surge in right-wing, anti-immigrant political parties throughout the world. Hate and injustice continue, spiraling, producing fractals, each spiraling and segmenting exponentially. Ongoing problems.

We debate endlessly whether certain immigrants can ever fully integrate, while the Trump administration has yet to reunite more than five hundred children with their families which they have callously separated for crossing the US border (source).

We debate if the burka or hijab symbolize the oppression of women, while powerful right-wing politicians and their supporters strive to ban Muslims from entering their countries. Ongoing problems.

We examine all the fine lines and gray areas of cultural appropriation, while people of color continue to be disrespected, berated, or physically attacked simply going about their daily lives. Ongoing problems.

These are all connected inasmuch that milder prejudices can be gateways to harsher forms of dehumanization. Yet, in contrast to the severity of the latter, the former seem more like matters of personal choice or taste rather than “problems”. In this context, we should see the former as the advanced sensibilities of a privileged society, blessed to have the wealth of multicultural diversity and its enormous advantages, culturally and economically, rather than something unpleasant to “tolerate” or some kind of reverse oppression. The co-existence of a different culture or language is not necessarily a “threat” as much as extremists claim otherwise.

The most pressing ongoing problems are not solely a “whites against minorities” issue, nor are they solely about race. Class and power also play key roles. There are good and bad people of all backgrounds and simply switching the roles of aggressor and victim by color will not solve any problems. But we cannot ignore the history of slavery and colonialism which has created and continues these stark inequalities along racial lines well into the present day. As much as people love to say they “don’t see color” and wish so dearly for race to simply be ignored, one cannot deny that the sense of inherited ownership of a country—its rights, its privileges, the inherited legacy of its “greatness” —is a fundamental justification for modern day hate.

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You might be living under a rock (and willfully so) if you haven’t noticed the recent footage circulating throughout social media of people caught in various acts of overt racism, verbally harassing, physically assaulting, or calling the authorities on others who have done nothing to provoke that hostility. These videos are usually shot by indignant bystanders, who recognize these acts as unjust, malicious and deliberate in their attack on minorities.

The aggressors have strong similarities, they seek to intimidate and remove certain people from certain places, places which they take it upon themselves to be guardians of. Aside from their obvious anger, they possess copious amounts of arrogance and authority. They are overconfident in their harsh assessment of the others—even if they are challenged by evidence to the contrary—and they expect to be fully vindicated by law enforcement.

As we are used to on the internet these days, we can debate the specific circumstances of each situation, the valid or invalid grounds for hostility. We can process multitudes of perspectives on the victims and the aggressors, from the empathetic to the critical, the balanced to the skewed, the kindest to the harshest. We could even debate the authenticity of the videos, or the fundamental meanings of free speech, truth, objectivity and reality itself.

All our arguments are then instantaneously compressed into quick memes and tweetable dichotomies: Either against immigrants or for open borders, either right-wing Nazi or leftist liberal, either for us or against us. But these stark divisions ignore the startling similarities extremes have with each other and the vast majority of people who fall in the enormous space in between. Such debates usually take us from nuance to mud-slinging to intractable divisions in no time flat.

They might very well be distracting us from making actual changes and asking ourselves an all-important question in these situations: What makes our society valuable to us and what are we willing to do to protect it?

Perhaps that answer might be “the Constitution”, “freedom”, or “human rights”. But, under the stress of real-life situations, I find that answer to be clearly, unanimously: comfort, security, and peace.

Having been in such hostile situations myself, multiple times in my life, what has always intrigued me the most are the reactions of the bystanders. Apart from the people directly involved, most bystanders make considerable effort not to involve themselves in the scene, even when the aggressor is yelling at the other person right next to them.

Avoiding involvement or confrontation is, for most of us (myself included), the default setting in stressful situations. Our own comfort, security and peace are far easier to uphold than any higher morals or ideals. There is so much focus on the anger, hate and outrage that spark and fuel such drama that subtle, commonplace behaviors go unnoticed—even though they effectively enable and support such incidents as well.

At especially traumatic times there was no one to defend me but deafening silence, or worse, an echoing hostility as if I must have done something wrong to earn that kind of hate. In a spiraling story with no end, it is clear that everyone loves a perpetual hero. A great hero is always there to save people, but nobody likes a perpetual victim. By the third or fourth act, people start to wonder if something is legitimately wrong with him or her. Why else would they attract trouble?

If the majority made it clear that they were against such crude behavior and racist ideologies to begin with, there would be no need for heroes. No need for victims. Aggressors interpret silence as support, inaction as complacency, and any form of attention as great exposure for their cause. Inciting violence is also a major motivation, as it provides them with much needed evidence to support the idea that they are being “threatened”. The best thing to do is support the victims. If we can show the person in trouble (even in a small way) that we care about their well-being we can make an impact.

When white nationalists harassed me and tried to get me fired from my job, I was very lucky that at least one person, the restaurant manager, Lloyd, stood up for me. Not only did he not sympathize with them, he also chose not to put his own comfort over mine. He valued and upheld the anti-discrimination laws that many other brave people of the Civil Rights movement fought for. The laws that truly make a country great for everyone not just an elite group. These laws are meaningless when there is no one to uphold them. Our democracy itself is in grave danger of being destroyed under an increasingly authoritarian Trump administration and the reckless hostility they inspire.

Under the stress of the extraordinary situation we currently find ourselves in, it should come as no surprise that there have been a surge of articles extolling the virtues of calm detachment from it all. In other words, directing us towards comfort, security and peace. As if all the initial ongoing problems weren’t enough! We must contend with the constant provocation of internet bots, trolls and endless divisive debates, while powerful media outlets push for a willfully blind sense of centrist “fairness” to persevere even amidst the encroaching injustices of surging authoritarianism.

The pressure compounds into a black hole at the center of this story spiral.

I was in a state of despair after reading such an article, beautifully written but resolutely complacent, when I came across the comments of another concerned person, Uriah Z Maynard:

I don’t disagree with everything said here, but at the same time I don’t believe that you can look objectively at the shift toward authoritarianism that the right has made since 9/11 and not be frightened. Fundamentally, the notion that it is our outrage over the outrageous that is the problem, and not the unprecedented evils of an increasingly extremist right wing government quite literally at odds with democracy and the established world order, is itself a delusion born of a deep-seated desire for peace and comfort (…) your view that the problem is one of incivility and not one of injustice indicates an extreme form of ideological blindness meant to justify inaction and discourage rational inquiry rather than support it.

This ideology of radical centrism and triangulated equivalence between left and right is not only not objective, it is actually injurious to the goal of peace and reconciliation.(…) Although it is important to give people the benefit of the doubt, to be respectful of others and engage in open dialogue whenever possible (…) and some numbers of intolerant people may be converted through patient dialogue and presentation of facts. The vast majority of those who support hate will not be persuaded, no matter how civil we are.

What’s needed now is not civility and compromise. What’s needed is resistance to the toxic ideology of hate spreading through the right wing, and repudiation of the false equivalencies made against those who actively oppose the intolerable. Reconciliation can only be achieved through the right wing losing both power and reputation, their power structures dismantled and their ideology of hate thoroughly discredited. Anything less is asking us to accept injustice, to accept the erosion of our democracy itself. Calls for civility at this point are not only inappropriate, they are actively harmful to the goal of a democratic society. (Quote has been modified from the original.)

Fittingly, it is the words of this decent person that give me great hope. Like Lloyd, like so many remarkable people who help others less fortunate than themselves. All those who value humanity over maintaining prejudices, over fragile egos, and over the comfort of the status quo are truly great. When decent people support each other and work together, we can leave this boring, repetitive story behind once and for all. We can find our way out of this stifling spiral we find ourselves in and explore much more wondrous galaxies in a beautiful, infinite universe.

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Text and pictures by M.P. Baecker.

26 thoughts on “Decent People to the End

  1. Another excellent entry, MP, I so admire your skill and mind! I read this a few days ago and then walked away because (a) I knew it would take some time to respond (you know me!), and (b) I wasn’t entirely sure I agreed. So I wanted to consider the words from different perspectives; let Tom be all kinds of different Tom for a few days.

    I’m not qualified to say what it is we should and should not do in the face of hate. Let me start with that. I’m a middle-aged, middle-class, white guy in America. I’m a former “compassionate conservative” turned “flamin’ liberal” if labels must be made. I also despise Donald Trump more than any party, Republican or Democrat. More to the truth, I despise what he stands for which is the absolute peak, the ultimate evolution, the apex of American/Capitalist corruption. So I have a bias, and I do not have the necessary perspective.

    I was a white kid growing up in East Salinas and went to a predominately Hispanic school. I was one of maybe a dozen white people in an all-brown school. Many of them were children of immigrants, and all of them were my friends, so I understand the plight of the outsider from their perspective, but I never felt like an outsider amongst them. Although I was in the “minority,” I never felt what minorities do. Off the top of my head I can say that most of the staff and teachers and administration (and city officials, and national officials, and folks on television) looked more like me than them, so I was always reminded (without ever really realizing it) who was still in charge around here. Here, I mean, in America.

    As an adult, and one who argues vehemently for the “left” side of things these days, in a family and community of “right” people, I am always at odds with my peers. But even when I am treated with disrespect, which I am at times, I counter with civility. Perhaps I can do that because I have a way with words and can cut them to the quick without vitriol. Or perhaps it is because I have never been truly bullied by their philosophical core. I am, in the end, “one of them.”

    I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I abhor the extreme right, and their hate. We should always punch Nazis, I said after Charlottesville, when I posted a meme of Captain America doing just that. I’m not real fond of the extreme left, either, or the tactics of Antifa. I hate hate so much I refuse to be a party of it. But I also realize that could be privilege talking.

    You’ve done so much more here than give me something to agree with, you’ve given me something more to consider. Evolution doesn’t happen when we are in our comfort zone, but when we are challenged and must adapt. You have challenged me; I must adapt.

    Thank you for writing so much and so well. Thank you for the challenge. From it, sister, I will grow. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful reading and your profoundly beautiful comment!!!

      I came across a meme recently that went something like this, “When we fight or disagree, remember we are fighting the problem, not each other.” I think this meme was meant for couples, but I couldn’t help apply it to all big problems, especially something emotional and vitriolic as racism or politics.

      I think you have a right to say “punch Nazis” after what happened in Charlottesville, I am inclined to agree, and I have felt (and fought) that urge immensely during these confrontations. But whenever I stared into their hate-filled eyes, I always saw fear and insecurity, nothing more. I can’t punch someone already so pathetic. However, I know I shouldn’t be telling people what they should and shouldn’t do, if a bully of any kind was saying derogatory things to someone I loved, I would probably drop-kick them off a building😭. But when a racist bully attacked me, I never felt violence or anger could improve my situation (though it would ease my emotions considerably)!😂Every situation is different and everyone has a different reaction, that’s the risk assholes take!👍

      I hope that you and everyone reading this don’t come away thinking I expect you to agree with me 100%. I propose supporting the victims as an alternative to the people who would rather not involve themselves or who don’t enjoy any form of confrontation. There is a second story of my encounters with racists that I excluded here for the sake of length, a horrible woman once grabbed a pillow from me (during a yoga class) and verbally insulted me, another woman who had witnessed the whole thing suddenly turned around and offered me her pillow. This small act of kindness was so incredibly meaningful to me, not only did I feel like someone saw I was hurt and the unfairness of the situation, but made the racist lady feel ashamed! I am always thankful for such people!

      When it comes to this topic, I feel a lot like Dr. Strange when he and the evil Dormammu are stuck in a time loop and Dormammu keeps destroying him, endlessly destroying him until finally he is able to strike a bargain with him. I am not as powerful as Dr. Strange (I wish I was), but I keep trying to find a way out of this brutal loop! We are spiraling into it deeper with Agent Orange at the helm! Once you write the words “racism” or “right-wing”, people want to place you in a certain category or try to downplay what you’ve experienced. I don’t consider myself left-wing, nor do I want to completely dismantle the system and go back to nature (as both the extreme right and the left desire). I’m with you brother, I’m with everyone who strives to eradicate racism, any way, any how. We are fighting the problem not each other. I hate hate!

      You’re one of the most amazing, incredibly decent people I’ve met Tom! You and all decent people make this all worthwhile! 🤗💐

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In as much we want to be decent people to the end, we have always created our own walls and boundaries. We have interests to embroid either the good or the bad that rises from our encounters. We have considered and consented I to escape in times when WE is in dire need. Another ongoing problem. Probably if the strength of I can embrace WE to do whatever it takes for each others survival, then we can start there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love your comment! It was especially beautiful what you wrote: “if the strength of I can embrace WE to do whatever it takes for each others survival, then we can start there.”👏👏👏👏 I totally agree! And you pointed out a powerful ongoing problem of the “I”–of self-interest at the cost of others–of the “we”. I think personal Incentives play a key role in ongoing problems with racism both subtle and blatant, the worst is that society often does not punish those who are hateful or racist, it even rewards them with lots of attention. But I believe if we really value the WE over the “I” and never try to benefit at the cost of others, this, in turn is incredibly beneficial to both the WE and the I.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There is an ideological meme growing on the left, which is aptly summed up in the “paradox of tolerance”. The left’s free speech libertarianism (support for Nazis marching in Skokie being the quintessential example) was part of what drew me in initially. It was only later that I warmed up to left leaning economics. So I have been quite annoyed by my friends on Facebook starting to employ “paradox of tolerance” type thinking. But intellectually, I have a lot more respect for you than I do for them, so at the least this is an idea I will have to take seriously going forward.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 😂 I appreciate and value your respect! All I can promise is to give my honest insight!! No doubt my limitations will all be revealed!!! 😄
      I first encountered the paradox, meme and all through an apolitical friend years ago after I told her about my encounter with the alt-right. I was trying to appeal to all parties and was unaware that people connect the paradox strongly to liberals and their hypocrisies. I think my essay and general ideas will be intact if I remove that portion, so I will! I have lots of criticism for the left, especially their own unwitting pathos and sacrifice narratives that paint immigrants as pathetic and always in need but I will have to save it for a different post as the Trump government is more pressing!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I am trying to more and more to focus my personal power on what I want to see in the world. What you focus on expands and gains power. For me it’s not the package a human being is born that determines if we peacefully coexist. For me it’s how they behave within that body. From my own experience with trying to coexist with people of a different color, nationality, creed etc. than myself, behavior has always been a core element of how well we got along. It’s behavior for me, not the labels on the human package (being black, white, Christian, Muslim, rich poor etc). I really hope, at some point, this species will evolve and realize everyone is here for a reason and a purpose.

    Liked by 3 people

    • 👏👏👏I love your entire comment! All I can say is I totally agree with you and I’m 100% with you on this! I think if people everywhere tried to think like you do, the world would have far less problems and we would be able to achieve the most incredible things!!! I really admire and respect you, the honesty with which you write and the heart and work you put into your art and writing👏👏👏👏! Even with all these difficult experiences I’ve had, the most negative of which had to do with my race, I have to admit that my own parents were somewhat racist themselves towards (of all people) other Asians and other minorities too! I’ve had to let go of these and many other false ideas to grow more as a person and to understand more about the world, this was hard, so I have compassion for people who still struggle with this. But I think honesty with yourself and empathy for others suffering will surely lead you there, they are more important than preconceived ideas and prejudices.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are so sweet MP. It comes through when you write back to me like this. It’s important to acknowledge the negative things happen but I notice if I let go or focus on the more of the positive aspects, that’s what I see more of than the negative. We call it PT Cruiser syndrome. Before my husband and I got together he told me his Mom drove a PT cruiser (car). Prior to his telling me that, I had not even really known they existed. After he told me that, I saw them everywhere! This has been true with many things. What you focus on expands and gains power and what you don’t diminishes in power. It’s like a reflex to focus on the negative for me, so what I say to you is a reminder to myself! 🙂 The exercise I’ve been doing with Gematria (number values of words) has been helpful with this. I am an Empath or very sensitive person and this is helping me distance myself from my feelings when I examine things. Anyhew – I send you a big hug through the wires. It’s not what we “wear” it’s how we behave in our “clothes” that shows ourselves and others who we truly are. You wear your “clothes” beautifully MP.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! After I wrote this, which took me a lot of drafts, a lot of time, I felt I had sliced myself in half, this is probably one of the most vulnerable things I’ve written–growing up in a family of conservative Republicans myself (a few of which voted for Trump), I do not enjoy talking about politics, not directly as I do here and I am very slow to castigate people, but the actions of this administration continuously compel me to speak out and draw the line.

      Liked by 2 people

        • I loved your post, “Not My Reality”, your editing of the Wikipedia entry was BRILLIANT!!!! With unhinged egos and unfiltered media on the loose, it’s no wonder we have this opened Pandora’s box feel to these times. Attention is so critical and scarce, I wish it would only go to those who truly earned it and hold it sacred.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Great read. Thoughtful, balanced and very well thought out. I disagree with a good amount of what you have stated here regarding the current administration. I’m a conservative and I don’t see Trump as the evil being that most do.
    This post caused me to take a look at where I stand on the many complex issues of immigration. I’ve told you before that I have no problem with someone who comes here legally and is willing to work for a better life.
    I have a problem with open borders, people pouring in carrying living room sets and becoming a drain on society. I have a problem with illegals, deported multiple times committing violent crimes against citizens. I have a problem with those that refuse to assimilate.
    I believe we have our own homeless and veterans that deserve housing and other services before refugees.
    It isn’t immigrants many are afraid of, it’s not our culture( we are stay multicultural), it’s just common sense.
    What you went through is unacceptable and is embarrassing to any good American. There is no excuse. But a sentiment of resistance to a mass of unvetted and possibly dangerous people is not completely beyond understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really appreciate that although you disagree with me, you have taken the time to read the whole article and you have communicated it so kindly, thoughtfully and civilly as you have done here. Thank you! What frustrates me is when people conceal their dislike or criticism of my work and I cannot grow as a person or understand their differing point of view.

      You may not agree with me regarding the current administration. But I agree with you 100% on all your concerns regarding open borders, people should definitely not be pouring in, taking advantage of the system and the government should be taking care of veterans, eliminate homelessness, nurturing and protecting their own citizens first and foremost. I hope that I didn’t give the impression anywhere in my writing that I want wealthy nations to simply open all their borders and bend over backwards to accommodate immigrants and refugees. I don’t think that will ever happen with any administration, Democrat, Republican or other.

      But I find it, based objectively on Trump’s own statements and tweets, difficult to believe that the hardline approach, enormous defense spending, and trickle-down economics he pushes so hard is at all effective in fixing any of the concerns you mentioned, not causing undue suffering to vulnerable migrant children, and exaggerating all these problems even further. One example is his debasement of Mexico’s president, if he could foster a civil dialogue with Mexico and other Latin American countries, they could tackle these migrant problems at the root: End weapons supplies to gangs, provide economic incentives or opportunities, weaken the drug cartels, etc. I don’t see how turning a blind eye to the enormous human suffering, terrible economic instability, and wars of poorer nations will “help” anything in the long run, not security, not anyone’s best interests.

      There seems to be an overarching narrative that certain kinds of immigrants/refugees are a danger or a burden to civilized society, because they refuse to assimilate and have nothing to contribute. While this has some basis in fact—some are certainly bad people who fit all those criteria, many are not. Yet, nearly all immigrants, like myself, are haunted and punished by this powerful narrative. I will never not be a “foreigner”. I will always have this aura of suspicion following me to the end of my days. We not only must integrate to the dominant culture and make efforts to learn a new language well, but try conquer that stigma that we take resources and jobs away from others. Some days, honestly, I am quite defeated by it.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I agree with everything you’ve said here. Thank you for being tolerant of my viewpoint.
        Your article was wonderful and I also think you are and balanced despite your experiences.
        You are right about Trump having a traditional conservative agenda but a true conservative, a true American, feels as I do. We want law and order and basic fairness.
        I strongly disagree with you on one thing, any good American would never look at you as anything other than being exactly what an immigrant should be. Educated, hard-working and willing to assimilate. I don’t think the animosity is as bad as you portray

        Liked by 1 person

        • I really love your honesty and kindness! And I wish above all that more people like you say that loud and proud, “any good American would never look at you as anything other than being exactly what an immigrant should be.” If I had heard that more often in my life, the negativity wouldn’t have hit me so hard. There were years where I isolated myself from society thinking people would never see me as anything else, it’s still a struggle for me now. As they say the “squeaky wheel gets the grease”, unfortunately the more vocal people have been the ones with extreme viewpoints, it’s time for all moderates, for all decent people of all walks of life, all political affiliations to make themselves known, and voice their support for human decency.

          Liked by 3 people

        • There are good people out there. Sometimes you have to look harder for them but they’re there. I wish I knew what makes people feel that they are better than others. We’re all basically the same on our wants and needs. I suppose they need to feel superior

          Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! If you ever want to talk I’m there! Possibly to point out some issues with my writing? Feel free to direct message me on Twitter or Instagram, or the “contact me” through this website. (Not everything I write will please everyone, especially something as political as this one!)

      Liked by 2 people

        • 👍😂I thought you were trying to discreetly tell me something😅! I’ve read some other blog entries from other people that got under my skin, on a few I considered writing them personally on it because I didn’t want to embarrass them on the comments section! Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable (and alive!) than communicating my honest thoughts to people!!! I think that’s the best thing about having a blog like mine and yours. I totally love and appreciate your honesty!!

          Liked by 2 people

  6. The rights of the individual are being encroached upon from all sides. We’re meant to operate as an organism where we each do our part and help each other as needed. As one united we can defeat the arbiters of division. We share more in our desired outcomes than in our ideas about how to arrive there, we need to be able to listen and consider all ideas

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your valuable insights! I can’t agree with you more that we need to be able to listen to each other, to listen without immediately demonizing or dividing ourselves into opposing groups. I hope I haven’t added to the division by voicing my story and opinions here, though some would say otherwise. Disagreement is not necessarily bad it is an essential part of freedom. But listening becomes impossible when people are dehumanized, silenced and persecuted.

      Liked by 3 people

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