It’s Hard To Be Friends With Republicans While They’re Suffocating You With A Pillow
I like Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy. His bromance with colleague Brian Schatz from Hawaii is adorable, so I was disappointed when I saw this tweet on Saturday.
I am a progressive Democrat. But I'm friends with Republicans. I frequent businesses owned by Republicans. I root for sports teams full of Republicans.
This is a weird sentiment to express after no — as in zero — Republicans voted for President Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief bill. None of Murphy's Republican Senate colleagues are likely to support the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Joe Manchin will probably determine its fate. Maybe Murphy's Republican besties are not among the 76 percent of self-identified Republicans who believe the Big Lie about the 2020 election. I wouldn't suggest he stop patronizing Republican-owned businesses, bu he could also show some love to more Black-owned Connecticut businesses whose proprietors probably voted for him. I bet they even think Biden's a legitimate president and everything.
When (mostly white male) Democrats boast about their cordial, everyday relationships with Republicans, as if they are the wolf and the dog from Looney Tunes, it can feel as if they are forgetting all about the sheep their “friends" are actively trying to consume. We don't get to clock out at the end of the day. Murphy might not intend this, but you can't help but notice a subtle dig at (mostly minority and women) Democrats who aren't on the best terms with Republicans. This isn't because House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Murphy's former colleague Vice President Kamala Harris can't build consensus. Republicans actively demonize them for political gain. Their lives are at risk because of Republican rhetoric.
There's a Chris Rock routine about women who like the most disgusting, misogynist rap songs. "He ain't talking about me" was their defense. If you're proudly friends with people who professionally target (mostly minority and women) Democrats, who lie about them and claim they are the source for all America's ills, you must, deep down, not think they're "talking about you."
I confess this line really annoyed me:
I've devoted my life to politics, but I'm careful not to let my politics consume me.
That's mighty impressive, Senator White Man! Your politics don't “consume" you because politics don't determine your status as a person. Even if trans people could just switch off the TV whenever Republicans dehumanize them during a Senate confirmation hearing, they still have to live in a nation where this viciousness isn't a deal breaker for Republicans. Worse, it appeals to a significant number of Republican voters (yes, even the “good" ones). LGBTQ+ Americans will watch Republicans kill the Equality Act in the name of religious freedom or just-plain “queer people suck" bigotry. Republicans will kill the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act so they can limit Black voters to just Candace Owens and Clarence Thomas. It's very personal when a single political party consistently stands in the way of your full citizenship. To borrow from Muhammad Ali: Republicans are our opposers when we want freedom. Republicans are our opposers when we want justice. Republicans are our opposers when we want equality.
It often seems like people think marginalized groups are "consumed with politics" for fun. "Virtue signaling" or "wokeness" is somehow our hobby. But it's not. It's exhausting. It's stressful. And it's not something we can just turn off and go watch WandaVisionwith our Trump-supporting relatives.
The scene in The Matrix when Cypher explains why he's betrayed his friends and everything he once believed resonates with me because I've faced that breaking point so many times in my life: "I'm tired, Trinity. I'm tired of this war. I'm tired of fighting." It's tempting to just give up because every damn day can offer a new horror.
All I ask of the elected officials I assume are on my side is that they understand why we're fighting and what's at stake for us. If Democrats want to extend a hand to Republicans, at least pull us up from the abyss with the other. Or, even better, fuck Republicans and offer both hands to the marginalized voters who put you in office.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."