Bigotry In My Backyard

Bigotry In My Backyard November 15, 2016

I spent over seven years of my life in Bloomington, Indiana. And then this happened.

A scene from Brown County, IN. Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Diego Delso.
A scene from Brown County, IN. Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Diego Delso.

A church in Brown County, Indiana was vandalized with a swastika, a “Heil Trump,” and slurs against gay people overnight. For those who don’t know, Brown County is the next county over from Indiana University, where I did my graduate work. It’s a 20 minute drive to a cute town, Nashville, where we’d go for shopping, food, hiking, and occasionally a gig.

I lived in Bloomington long enough to get a sense for the town. I felt safe there. I know that we’re basically a blue dot in the Midwest, the university a progressive oasis hosting all kinds of different people (all genders, sexualities, religions, nationalities, etc.)… but I really didn’t think that bigoted folks would be so quick to encroach.

I feel betrayed and sickened. For those saying that the election results aren’t that bad, that Trump won’t follow up on his campaign promises… well, clearly some of his followers intend to follow up on the hate speech and bigotry. They intend to deface the holy places of groups that are well-inclined toward people like me – Jews, queers, liberals – because they wish us ill. I mean, what else does a swastika convey?!

Other friends in Bloomington have shown me pictures and reports of hate crimes happening around town. This is Bloomington, people, a place that sports multiple gay bars, a place where international students have always been welcome, a place I called home for seven years. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. And I need to work through my shock and grief enough to be ready when it does.

That’s all this post really is – me sharing yet another news-worthy instance of post-election hate crimes, and pondering how much it hurts when it hits that close to home. As I’ve written, we all process things differently, and I think for me there’s an element of mourning that needs to happen, when I’ve formed a higher opinion of the people I’ve lived alongside than is actually true. This is a bummer, but since I’m an educator and activist, it’s also a call to action.

Confronting bigotry is no longer an option when it’s happening so close to home. I don’t know what the next step is, but becoming aware of it, and processing our emotional responses to it, are good places to start.

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