America, Stop Protecting Your Monsters
This was originally published on The Establishment on October 18, 2016.
TW: This essay discusses rape.
Hey America: I know it’s close to Halloween and you’re all psyched to pull out your scary masks and get off on scaring the shit out of each other. But instead of embracing this romanticized idea of monsters as red/green/blue-faced creatures from some otherworld darkness or abyss, it’s time we realized that most of our monsters can be found by looking in the mirror.
I need you to stop pretending that we don’t create a slew of new monsters every damn day. It’s like we have a damn kit.
You know the kit I’m talking about. The one that convinces little white boys that their opinion is fact. The one that teaches little white girls to accept bullying and controlling from white boys because submission is feminine. The kit that makes heroes of murderers, gives them holidays, and puts their faces on money. The kit that demonizes people for the color of their skin and then bends over backwards to protect white men from being punished for their crimes. Even when they are caught in the act. Even when they planned, committed, and admitted to it. Even when they are proud of what they’ve done.
You know that kit.
It’s the Brock Turner “prison would ruin his life but to hell with that woman he was caught raping” kit.
It’s the Martin Blake “yeah he raped his 12-year old daughter but all he deserves is probation” kit.
It’s the Dylan Roof “deserves our sympathy instead of being labeled a terrorist” kit.
It’s the Donald Trump “grab them by the pussy doesn’t eliminate him as a presidential candidate” kit.
It’s the Nate Parker “he was acquitted of rape and his writing partner’s case was dismissed” kit.
It’s the men who protect each other, the women who protect men, and the way both groups directly take a shit on anyone who tries to make the criminal justice system address criminals, instead of those who just look like they might be up to something.
It’s the rabid protection of patriarchy, folks. And it’s killing us.
Let’s be real. We have sexual predators in Congress, law enforcement, and the judicial system. We have sexual predators in the church. New stories about pastors and priests who have molested and raped children come out all the time. Known abusers like Roman Polanski and Woody Allen still haven’t been punished for their crimes.
We see patriarchy being protected with the long-ass list of men who are barely punished when they are convicted of rape, like Martin Blake, Brock Turner, David Becker, and Kraigen Grooms. We see it with physical and sexual abusers, the men who enable abuse, and the enforcers who refuse to enforce the laws.
We saw the affluenza teen’s mother get arrested to protect her murderous son from prison. Then, in a classic example of white privilege, we saw her released on house arrest, after fleeing the country with her criminal kid, who is now seeking early release—because white male privilege knows no limits.
Like Frankenstein’s monster, patriarchy, white lies, and white privilege have been sutured together, helping America reach peak fuckery with this election. We have women defending Donald Trump’s horrific campaign built on racism, xenophobia, white supremacy, and lies. His lies are so numerous that we can’t even keep track anymore. And still this corrupt, immoral piece of shit is considered a better candidate than Hillary Clinton, who is guilty of being a politician, just like every other person who has run in the past 20 years. She’s problematic and dangerous, especially to Black Americans and brown people in other countries, but she hasn’t threatened more than half the population with deportation, groping, and prison.
And I get it—the bar feels pretty fucking low. The reason for that is that America has been lowering the bar since its inception. From founding fathers condemning slavery while owning slaves, to doctors performing non-consensual experiments on Black people and prisoners, America has a shitty track record on human rights. From old Jim Crow to new Jim Crow, from women’s rights and reproductive rights to police reform, America is in the red. Time and time again, we prioritize profits over people, to the point that our health system is driven solely by profit and tied to our employment, making it extremely difficult for those who are unemployed or self-employed to get health care. We see the prices of medications manipulated by shareholders, adjusted by health systems, and ultimately harming people in need. Companies poison entire communities and governments scramble to protect themselves from fixing their damage.
We are a country that looks at its neighbors, neighbors whose lawns we’ve poisoned, and say, “at least we’re better than that.” Then we pat ourselves on the back, lower the bar, and spend untold amounts of time and money hiding the damage we’re doing to ourselves and everyone else.
We are a country filled with monsters who ravage and kill the vulnerable among us, but who are enabled to prowl unseen in the darkness of America.
And here’s the thing: We don’t have to be this way. We can be good and human. We can relocate residents of Flint. Buy their homes and offer them the option of moving, either temporarily or permanently as we fix the infrastructure. But will we? Nope. Instead we’ll start a bureaucratic process to talk about where the funds will come from and start making excuses as to why this is too expensive an endeavor to undertake. In the meantime, people continue to live with a poisoned water supply, owing money on a home they can’t sell, and facing legal repercussions for abandoning the area, not to mention ruining their credit and fucking up their financial prospects—also known as modern-day shackles.
We have homes sitting empty and food rotting in dumpsters every day because giving any of this away undermines our capitalist system.
We have avenues for police reform, but that would mean enforcing the laws on the enforcers who have always held themselves above the law.
And so we leave people to be poisoned, starve, freeze, and die because it’s just too hard.
No. It’s not that it’s too hard. It’s that our system is designed to keep everything as it is and to protect monstrous people from their own monstrosity. Every single time we manipulate the truth, i.e. lie, we make it easier for the next person to get away with being deplorable. When you protect your fucked-up kid, brother, uncle, husband, you make it possible for the next person to use that same convoluted logic to protect themselves. We are empowering them and eventually that monster runs for president.
When your teenage son has sex with a 7-year-old, he’s a pedophile. There is no defense for that.
When your grown son has sex with someone without consent, he is a rapist. There is no defense for that.
When your kid kills anyone who isn’t attacking him, he’s a murderer. When he kills many people, he’s a mass murderer. I don’t care how many family trips he took or how loving he was before he decided to shoot up a school, theater, club, park, or church. He’s a mass murderer. There is no defense for that.
I’m not blaming parents for giving birth to people who do terrible things. It happens all the time. Every asshole you meet has parents. Every liar, every murderer, every rapist, every abuser. They also have extended family, friends, teachers, schools, jobs, and a slew of other people who opt out of calling people on their shit and decide to let it slide.
As a country, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to make our murderers, rapists, and abusers look like they were created in isolation instead of flourishing in the society we created. We try real hard to separate them from the rest of us, because who wants to feel like they are responsible for the horrific decisions of others? Who wants that guilt? Who wants that blood on their hands?
But we have to ask the question—how much of their monstrousness is a result of America’s teachings?
Because a lot of times they learned to be better monsters by watching other monsters. They learned it by watching you.
Did you protect them from their lies? Their thefts? Their abuses? Their crimes?
Did you lie for them? Did you enable them? Did you help them inflict damage on more and more people?
Were you silent when you could have spoken? Did you cause someone else harm with your silence?
Are you complicit in the damage being done in our country? In the world?
I have been, and now I’m working to change that shit.
There comes a point when you have to accept your responsibility in unleashing American monstrosity—when you must pull it from the shadows, and drag it into the light.
Every time you do, you are saving someone—including yourself.