Don’t Defund, Dismantle.
On February 27 of this crazy, horrible year, I wrote the following on Facebook:
I’m calling it now: If we are headed toward a global pandemic that brings about the fall of human civilization, the culprit will be not the coronavirus itself, but fear and bigotry stemming from ignorance and lies.
My words were in response to an article about anti-Asian sentiment that had emptied San Francisco’s Chinatown of visitors, well before any stay-at-home orders or social distancing measures were put into place. Racism targeted at Chinese people has continued throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, but the nation’s focus has now shifted to anti-black racism in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and now Rayshard Brooks. Solidarity protests are erupting worldwide, Confederate monuments are being toppled, and US-Americans are having serious discussions about defunding the police.
I want to be hopeful that this unprecedented attention to the Black Lives Matter movement will result in tangible, positive change. However, as a queer black trans atheist I am constantly reminded that the “liberty and justice for all” promised to citizens of this country was never intended for people like me.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The United States was founded by and for the benefit of straight white cisgender male theistic landowners. I will not stop repeating this fact until the masses recognize that true equity is impossible without dismantling our entire oppressive system of government.
Democrats who are determined to preserve our failed two-party system are quick to reassure voters that “defunding the police” doesn’t mean getting rid of police officers entirely. But that is exactly what we must do to achieve justice. As long as government officials can quickly and legally execute their fellow citizens with firearms, that power will be used to suppress the most marginalized and keep white supremacy intact.
Gun control measures are meaningless as long as police can use these weapons with impunity to terrorize our own citizens. The NRA is not interested in arming black folks to fight back against government overreach; instead, they and the President are blaming the boogeyman Antifa (which is literally an anti-fascist movement, not an organization) for the violence and unrest, and calling for even more lethal force.
Yes, George Floyd and some other victims of police violence have been murdered without guns. But the white officer who casually crushed the life out of Floyd with his body weight was armed, as were his three fellow officers. Any attempt by bystanders to physically interfere with his actions would have resulted in swift and likely lethal force. Those who have bullied and blamed the black teenager who filmed the murder would do well to keep that in mind.
The legal use of lethal weapons is also held by the military. No talk of defunding or dismantling the police is complete without recognizing the terror our armed forces have inflicted throughout the world. It is not enough to defund the domestic police while continuing to stockpile nuclear weapons and send soldiers and drones to eliminate whoever the current administration has designated as our “enemies”.
Here are some of the changes that I would like to see to move toward a truly just society, not only for those who live in what we now call the United States, but for the entire world.
An End to Gun Ownership
I want every single firearm destroyed. I explained my rationale for this, and responded to anticipated objections, in detail in my story above. Though it’s received very little attention to date, I consider “Dare to disarm” to be one of the most important essays I’ve ever written.
I dream of police officers and soldiers quitting their professions en masse. I dream of gun owners voluntarily turning in their weapons and ammunition, not to the police, but to trained artisans who safely dismantle and melt them down during huge peace gatherings. I dream of every child being educated not about gun safety, but about how guns are so terrible and dangerous that they should never be owned or used by anyone, under any circumstances.
An End to Two-Party Politics
I am beyond fed up with vote-shaming from liberals who claim to have my best interests in mind. I have not voted for a Democrat for president since 1992, and that is not changing this year (assuming we even still have a presidential election at this volatile point). If Trump wins again, I am putting the blame squarely on the people who voted for him, just as I did in 2016.
The defenders of white supremacy installed an unrepentant bigot with no electoral experience as the “leader of the free world”. Trump and his campaign were seen by many as a joke, and that joke has now been in the Oval Office for over three years. No one can ever again claim that experience, intelligence, or, indeed, morals are required to hold the highest office in the land. In our two-party system, all you need is a lot of money and pandering to the religious base.
If you feel sincerely that Joe Biden would be a good leader for all people and enact meaningful change, I’m not going to try to talk you out of voting for him. But if you are only voting for Biden because of pressure from fellow liberals who want to get Trump out of the White House at any cost, please consider at least looking at progressive third-party and independent candidates. (I am affiliated with no party and endorse no one; I have yet to decide who I will vote for, but it won’t be for either the Democratic or Republican candidates.)
Don’t ever let people convince you that “now is not the time to vote your conscience”. Voting without a conscience does not overcome oppression; it preserves it.
An End to Government Support of Religion
Want to Support Queer and Trans People? Fix Your Churches.
Protecting our rights and dignity at a more fundamental level than “getting out the vote”
The separation of church and state in this country is a sick and sad joke. We are an overwhelmingly Christian country, founded in intolerance, despite what mainstream history books might tell you. Religious bigots have used the Bible as an excuse to oppress the marginalized for centuries. Most recently, irresponsible church leaders have endangered the health of others by defying orders and holding services during the pandemic.
I recognize that the church is an important part of the community for many black and brown folks. As an atheist raised in a secular, semi-Jewish household, I acknowledge that my experience is different from most in that regard. But ending government support of churches doesn’t mean ending church or religion itself. We just need to question why Judeo-Christian faiths are given prominence over other religions and atheism when it comes to tax breaks, invocations, and the constant reminder on our currency that “In God We Trust”.
The history of Christianity is rife with colonization and erasure of the lifeways of indigenous people. We cannot end white supremacy without ending the dominance and favoritism granted to Christians in the United States.
My ideas are radical, and I don’t expect these changes will be adopted in my lifetime. But most every major shift in society was considered radical when first proposed. We need to dream big to break the shackles of oppression once and for all.