History is filled the tipping points, or watershed moments, that we can point to as moments in time when everything changed. It can be an event, a place, a person, or even an invention: it really doesn’t matter. That is why I loved history so much as a kid and still teach it today. Using the evidence we have, historians look back and say this is the moment when everything changed. It is often followed with a statement that goes something like “without __________ happening, there would have been no _____________.”
Watershed moments can be tricky, because oftentimes we don’t know they are watershed moments until much after the fact. When we do realize it, though, the evidence is overwhelming. For example, we can now look at Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and the Battle of Waterloo as two different Watershed moments that led to his two different downfalls. The invention of the printing press changed literacy as we know it, and Martin Luther nailing the 95 Thesis to his local Catholic Church door in Wittenberg changed religion as we know it. Finally, the Stonewall Rebellion is now seen by historians as the watershed moment that started the LGBT Rights movement around the world.
In all of the examples above, you can see the exact moment when history is changed (can you tell I am geeking out right now?). The world is invariably better today because of those examples, but a historians job is never done. We are constantly looking at recent history to see if any more of these watershed moments have occurred and what is the result if they have. There is no question we have experienced a watershed moment in our nation’s history in regards to politics and the political parties many of us follow. Well, actually one party: the Republican Party.
The Republican Party, for better or worse, is one of the two parties are nation is stuck following. Over the years, they have had good ideas and bad ideas (for the record, I think the exact same thing about the democratic party. However, Something happened with the Republican Party. We are living in a time when I no longer understand the party of Lincoln and Reagan: two of the greatest Presidents this nation has ever seen. It seems like the Republican Party has sold its very soul and turned into something so grotesque that I am looking at friends and family members and I am left wondering how any decent human being could be ok with any of this.
I have racked my brain as to what we will end up considering the watershed moment of this change when we are 50 years removed from the present. You might think, as I did at first, that the Election of Donald Trump would be the Watershed Moment, but this is bigger than one racist misogynist winning an election (after all plenty of those have won before). Half the nation did not wake up on November 10, 2016 and started belting out the hateful and cheap rhetoric or silently acquiescing their approval of said rhetoric. All of that had to have been there before Trump.
Going forward, I just have one question for Trump Supporters, but more importantly, I have the same question for the many friends, family members, colleagues, and acquaintances that have come to know, love, and respect: When Did it Happen?
When did you start to agree and go along with things that the rest of us consider to unconscionable? When did you become supporters of tactics seen in police states and dictatorships? When did you decide to stop denouncing racism and extremism and thereby giving it your stamp of approval? When did it happen?
When did it become ok to rip families apart and shove them in cages? When did it become ok to deny those people in cages toothbrushes, showers, and basic human dignity products like feminine hygiene products? When was it decided we were now going to allow so many human beings to be shoved into one cage that had they been the actual dogs you consider them to be, ICE agents would be arrested for animal cruelty. When did it happen?
When did you decide you were no longer bothered by vandalized mosques and synagogues? When did it become ok to intimidate and belittle the Muslim faith? When did a scarf warn around the head as a symbol of deference to God become a symbol of oppression? When did you first start to believe that an entire religion was deemed unworthy of entrance to this nation of immigrants? When did it happen?
When was it decided that a football player, an alpine ski, a snowboarder, a figure skater, a championship basketball team, and a 4 time world championship female soccer team should be met with shouts of “I hope they lose!” or worse “I hope they break a leg!” for exercising their constitutional right to free speech? When did you start to believe they are getting paid millions of dollars to play ball so they should shut the hell up and dribble? When did you believe that professional athletes should not use the platforms and publicity that have to advocate for a better America for all people? When did it happen?
When did you decide that any family that does not look like your family is a threat? When did you decide that the family my brother and his fiancé are getting ready to start once they are married is less worthy of federal protection and recognition? When did start saying with anger “The only reason they are allowed to get married in the first place is because of one liberal justice?” When did you decide to support a party that is still actively trying to take away my brother’s right to marry the person of his choosing? When did it happen?
When did you decide to support a party that has catered itself on defending white nationalists and neo-nazis? When did you allow the Republican Party to go from the party of Lincoln and Reagan to the party of lies and racism? When did you decide to vote for old crusty white men who believe they know what is best for women and their bodies than the actual women and their doctors do? When did you become the party that gives free passes to rapists, misogynists, homophobes, and straight up assholes? When did it happen?
When did your views on America and what she represents to the world change? When did stop believing that America should be the shining city on a hill and start believing that the only way for America to succeed is for the rest of the world to fail? When did you decide that people from one of the largest and oldest continents on earth were nothing more than unworthy people from “shit hole countries? When did white people from Sweden become more worthy of existence than black people from Haiti? When did you decide that actual Americans were less worthy of federal disaster assistance because they speak Spanish and have brown skin? When did a desperate father willing to die trying to give his daughter a better life become a something we do not care about instead of a heartbreaking tragedy? When did it happen?
When did you give in to the fear mongering, the war mongering, environment raping, science denying, and branding news you do not like as fake or wrong? When did religion become something that was used to rationalize and defend family separations or marriages only between people of the opposite sex? When did the world become a world that only allowed science or religion, but not both? When did it happen?
When did you give into fear and stop believing in love? When did it happen?
If I were to ask each of you these questions face to face it would end in a couple of ways. Angry shouts about how I am wrong or misrepresenting your beliefs and positions. Many of you would try to flip the script and paint my beliefs and positions in a negative light. Usually, though, they all end the same way: loud and indignant protests of “that is not what I believe!”
My response to that is always the same: Then why are you not shouting that from the mountaintops? Why are you not calling and writing your elected officials and telling them that no of this is normal or ok? Why are going along with any of this? Why are you not being the people that I know and love and respect and standing up and rocking the boat? Why are you letting your silence help the oppressors and not the oppressed? When did it happen?
I humbly beg you to consider the following question and honestly think about it and try to answer it, because the future of the party you support and the future of this nation as a whole depends on it. When did racism, hatred, misogyny, homophobia, islamophobia, xenophobia, and bigotry become things we oppose or only when someone calls us out and forces us to give our opinions? When did it happen?