‘Taking long brisk walks’ while advocating for justice: An Open Letter to Garrison Keillor
In a recent article, Garrison Keillor wrote (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/11/10/1595290/-Garrison-Keillor-Trump-voters-will-see-his-disasters-fall-on-them-more-than-anyone-else)
“We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids, and we Democrats can go for a long, brisk walk and smell the roses.”
I could not disagree more! I don’t have the language to convey just how much I vehemently disagree.
This is a statement of privilege – from a privileged person (a person with white, male, and class privilege) to privileged people. As another person of privilege (white, male, heterosexual, and relative class privilege), I read this article as, in some ways, speaking directly to me – not so much as an elitist (I don’t consider myself so much an elitist) but as a white privileged man. I was aghast that Mr. Keillor, who I generally respect and enjoy, would suggest this as a cause of action. Now is decidedly NOT the time for us as liberals (elite or otherwise) to take a break from democracy! Now is NOT the time to allow others to deal with, and clean up, the mess that is this current election.
Let’s be clear, the mess we’re in is precisely because of white people and particularly white men. It is white men who most ferociously and utterly voted in solidarity with white and male privilege. It is, in short, white men who created this mess, white men need to be actively involved in helping to clean it up, not taking long walks and sipping artisan beers and smelling roses. It is our duty, our obligation, now, to stand alongside those folks who have been most harmed by Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and actions; and who are most at threat by his proposals and promises.
Not that I am speaking out against talking long walks in the woods, or smelling roses, or reading Jane Austen. I love the woods, and grow roses in my back yard. I’m not so much a Jane Austen fan, but I do love reading and baking cookies. All of this is important and a necessary part of who I am and how I sustain my activism and justice work. And I would agree that there are times when we all need to take a break from the hard work of creating and sustaining justice, and of maintaining our democracy. None of us can be on all the time. Like many of you, I was heart and soul-broken by the election last Tuesday. And a part of my response has included some time to grieve and rage and wonder and sit quietly in fear. But on the other side of this, it’s time to act! And as a part of this process, is a time to grieve and fear and be confused while also standing in solidarity with those who are more harmed and more threatened and more directly in the line of fire than I am
I don’t know about Mr. Keillor, but I have too many black and brown, and Muslim and Jewish, and female and transgender and GLB and working class people who I don’t know who are deeply harmed by Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign and who are seriously threatened by this promises and proposals. I cannot accept Mr. Keillor’s invitation to leave them to their own devices to respond to this mess! I owe them my active involvement and solidarity!
So for those of us who must – take walks in the woods, smell some roses, and read some good books. But also keep an eye on what is happening, and a foot in the game. Now is the time to act out of our best selves and deepen our connection with those who are most vulnerable to the threats that Mr. Trump poses. Now is the time (for us who are white and/or male) double down on our efforts to be allies in the call for justice, equality and respect.
© 2016 Rus Ervin Funk
 I do not self define as heterosexual, but am in a long-term committed relationship with a woman and as such, receive all of the heterosexual privilege.