On the Upside
Published in the December issue of Link Magazine
The night after Donald Trump was elected, I was driving with my dad. The radio was playing Tom Petty, like it normally does. Just as we crossed a bridge, out of nowhere he announces to me that he’s been inspired by the Trump phenomenon. My dad and I don’t talk about politics much. We’ve talked a bit about the outrageousness of the Trump situation, and the headlines-of-the-day, but really we just talk about funny things that happened to me on the Skytrain, or the day-to-day events that occur in our lives. But on that November night, my dad opened up and told me that he wanted to do better. He said he was making a personal effort to call out casual racism and people who make “harmless” comments.
This was pretty cool for me to hear. I’ve never considered my dad to be any shade of the bigotry rainbow, but I do think he (and a lot of other people) have reasons why they don’t speak up most of the time. My dad’s name is Rocky and he works in the construction industry. He owns his own business, and many years of managing large projects and employees inside the “trades” culture has made him into a “Rocky” kind of guy. However, I know him well enough to know that he is a bit crunchy on the outside, but soft and sweet on the inside.
I think everyone has their own reasons why they might not speak up about the harmful words they hear around them, and I can’t claim to know what all of those reasons are. Maybe they’re just too polite, or don’t want to rock the boat too much. Sometimes it seems easier in the moment to ignore it, brush it off and move on. But I’ve noticed a shift after the election results rang in. For a lot of people, like my dad, something about Donald Trump has changed them.
Rocky told me that he was making a personal pledge to do better, and combat the off-the-cuff bullshit he hears on the daily — little racist remarks, sexist comments and homophobic jabs. Because it’s little comments like these that snowball into larger problems. It’s hard to imagine how a dumb joke that someone makes on their lunch break contributes to a culture of violence. You may laugh it off politely, but what if that joke was directed at your kid, your neighbour, or your friend? I get it though; it can be uncomfortable to call someone out when they make an off-colour joke. But you know what else is uncomfortable? 1 in 4 women in North America will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The degree of separation between yourself and the victims of abuse, harassment and violence is not that large of a gap.
We all can become really passive to these statistics, but I think Donald Trump obnoxiously dominating the news for the past year has lit a real fire. People want to do better. I think now more than ever, Rockys are realizing that when they stay silent about the stuff they know in their gut is wrong, it’s like saying that it’s okay.
But there is good news. This situation is a reminder of a couple things. First, it’s a huge reminder about the power of voice and influence. What you or Donald Trump says has an impact on listening ears. Second, spawning from the first point, you can be influential and make positive change. I think Donald Trump has exposed a repulsive, hyper masculine part of our culture, and people, like my dad, no longer want to be associated with it and let it carry on. So he’s speaking up, which I think is a real shift away from just complaining about it. Don’t like what Trump stands for? Do something about it.