- Stephen Gaddis
Whatever leadership identity I may occupy at the Narrative Therapy Initiative has me experiencing a responsibility to respond to the white supremacist-fueled events in Charlottesville. I also want to speak out personally.
I was abused as a boy, physically. When my father was unhappy, I was at risk of being whipped, and hurt badly. I learned what he was capable of from a very early age. More often than not, however, he would intimidate me to oppress me and not physically hurt me. All he would have to do is undo his belt buckle to keep me frightened enough to submit to whatever he demanded. I never witnessed anyone stand up to him and hold him accountable for the suffering he inflicted on me physically, emotionally, or psychologically, suffering that still has effects on me to this day. Without a community naming and speaking out against the acts of violence my father perpetrated on me, I was left confused, lost, afraid, alone, and vulnerable to thinking I was the problem.
So, it is clear to me that white supremacist “protestors” who bring torches, clubs, and Nazi symbols to an event are inflicting violence onto persons and ethnic, racial, and religious communities that have been subject to the worst possible atrocities. It is also an terrorist act toward LGBTQ people who have long histories of being murdered in the name of heterosexist supremacy.
It is horrifying these people claim to represent Christian identities and ideals to justify their hate. If you are walking with those people, at a “protest” or in complicit silence, you might as well also have been standing alongside my father cheering him on while he beat me as a boy.
If enough people had stood up to my dad and insisted what he was doing was not okay, he may have not been able to so easily continue his engagement with abuse. If enough people stand up to ideas that link U.S. identity, Christianity and white supremacy, that story may be driven back into the kind of submission that generations of people sacrificed for that to have happened.
We white, Christian-ancestored, United Statesian people have never been loud enough or active enough to hold the stories of white supremacy accountable for the ways they have justified genocide, and broken people, families, and communities, or the ways most white people benefit today from the history of those white supremacist narratives. So alongside our righteously and morally outraged family members of color, our Jewish friends, and every additional person and group marginalized and disqualified by the intersections of patriarchal - heterosexist - Christian - nationalist - white supremacist discourse, let’s speak out in as large a community as possible.
Donald Trump is in the position he is in because too many people ignored his obvious relationship with neo-fascist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic ideas. He was elected because too many people were okay with his platform of legitimizing the “alt-right.” Trump was always morally unfit to be President and should have been disqualified on numerous occasions during the election, but too many people didn’t care about the history of injustice in our country for people of color, women, LGBTQ and non-Christians. And the capitalist/economic injustices that poor white people have suffered were exploited for recruitment.
If I heard even one person make it directly known to my father that they stood against his ways of relating to his children, I believe the lasting effects of his abuse would have been less. Don’t let the scale of the problem trick you into thinking whatever action you take is not big enough. You could start by adding your voice to this post. Write a reflection that identifies you as someone who wants to stand up and speak out, unless you are understandably concerned that puts you at risk in some way. If that is the case, you can send me an email or letter and I will post it anonymously for you.
Many of you already dedicate huge amounts of energy and time speaking and acting out, and you inspire me.
Intimidation is violence. Re-traumatizing people is abuse. Driving a car into a crowd is terrorism and murder. I do not support abuse or violence in any form.