Fascism in the Family
Far from living “in a bubble,” some of us are intimately familiar with fascists.
I read this tweet by A.R. Moxon two nights ago at 3 a.m., having fallen asleep in my clothes again, then gotten up to brush my teeth, tip-toeing past my 12-year-old on a couch — eyes closed and mouth open — because only when in the same room with her parents can she relax enough to fall asleep these days.
Reading Twitter at 3 a.m. is the exact opposite of sleep hygiene. What exhausted parent in their right mind would risk catapulting themself into outrage during those precious hours of rest? But I can’t claim to have been in my right mind since 2016, so that’s the choice I made.
The tweet is almost two years old, but perhaps the recent discourse around fascism brought it to the surface again.
The thing about the wee hours of the morning when you’re a parent is that it’s the only truly quiet time. Everyone — from people who might email me, to the alerts from my kids’ schools, to my children, to the dogs — is asleep. The darkness hides the chaos around me: unfolded laundry, unread magazines, unfiled papers, undone tasks. During the day, I feel constantly hemmed in by demands on my attention. At night, the blackness of my room is the closest I get to infinite space. My emotions, which stay tightly coiled most of the time, or muffled under a thick blanket of being tired, unravel. So for the first time since my cousin’s death months previously, I felt around the edges of my complicated feelings about him.
I quote-tweeted A.R. Moxon’s tweet and wrote:
I know people choose family harmony over condemning fascism. I don’t say this with distain: rupturing your family is hard. But being the brown, queer, disabled person in my family meant I couldn’t avoid the implications of my family’s voting choices: they voted for my death.
Does that sound dramatic? It’s factual. GOP policies — from anti-universal healthcare to criminalizing LGBTQ+ people to abolishing the right to reproductive freedom — are all policies that could facilitate my death. If not mine personally, then the lives of people I care about–
–people who have been there for me in my life more than those family members have (which is why chosen family is a big deal in the LGBTQ+ community).
My fascist family members have always been personally nice to me. We’re not close, but they haven’t rejected me for being brown, queer, or disabled. But I’m also probably the only brown, queer, and disabled person they’ve ever been social with.
After Trump, I could no longer look away from how their political beliefs denied people like my friends and me our basic humanity. Our lives are disposable to them to preserve their personal gun rights. It’s really that simple.
My political beliefs would not strip them of rights — not even the “right” to own a reasonable number of guns — nor criminalize who they are, nor facilitate their deaths. Trans people accessing affirming healthcare and living without fear does not harm them. Undocumented immigrants pick their food in the fields and cook it in restaurants — then support their retirement with tax dollars.
Their fears about Obama’s administration — healthcare “death panels,” jack-booted thugs confiscating their guns, escalating crime, unchecked drug trade conducted by “illegal immigrants” — never came to pass. Under Trump, however, asylum seeker families were separated and contained in filthy conditions for months and years, hate crimes against non-white Americans and immigrants exploded, gun violence increased in frequency, healthcare access declined, global climate change worsened, and a global pandemic tore through the U.S., resulting in the unnecessary deaths of over a million Americans and immigrants over four years.
Our values are opposite, but that doesn’t mean they are equally harmful to the their opposition.
I believe in democracy. They believe in fascism. Their beliefs, if enacted fully, would be far more materially harmful to other Americans than mine. But this has been framed as merely “a difference of opinion” for…my entire lifetime.
My cousin died a few months ago from cancer. His family is drowning in medical debt. I didn’t go to his funeral because I was dealing with panic and stress from being targeted by a right-wing hate group. They chanted my name. They mentioned my kids.
There was nothing the police could do, even if I had wanted their help.
I had meant to go to his funeral. But, so preoccupied with working on safety for my family, I forgot the day and time until it was too late. But afterwards, I realized it was entirely possible that members of that hate group could have been friends with my cousin.
I believe “forgetting” was subconscious self-preservation.
I am sad that my cousin is no longer in the world. He had a big heart for the people he cared about, including me.
But I’m also sad that his mind and heart were poisoned against people like me, so that while he could love me in particular, he could never see my communities as fully human, deserving of rights, respect, and support for our lives.
When I did a report on MLK and Malcolm X in 11th grade, I learned the word “agape” from MLK’s writings and speeches. Although I rejected Christianity in 4th grade, the principle of a divine love for humanity still resonated with me.
That principle is one of the pillars of my beliefs: every single life matters. My cousin’s particular life mattered. But also, Black Lives Matter. For me to decide that my particular cousin’s life should matter more to institutions than all Black lives, any Black life, is immoral.
That’s not a principle my cousin could embrace, even though he considered himself a good and devout Christian. But to believe that certain lives matter more than others? To believe that all cops’ lives matter more than all Black lives? That’s fascism.
My cousin probably thought, as many cops do, that “Black Lives Matter” meant that Black lives were somehow supposed to matter more than his. What he couldn’t see is that Black Lives Matter meant valuing Black lives as much as cops’ lives, instead of less — which is the reality now.
I tried to argue with my cousin, but after Trump, I had to divorce myself, for my own self-preservation. My dad (light-skinned, cisgender and straight, able-bodied) tried to argue with him his whole life — teenhood to cancer diagnosis — but fruitlessly. Our blood ties were simply not enough to move him.
He couldn’t value my particular life, then extend agape to value all the lives that I represented: the brown lives, the queer lives, the disabled lives. And that was our fundamental difference.
I loved my cousin. I even, for the most part, liked him. But it didn’t change the fact that my cousin chose fascism, again and again. It’s hard to look into the hearts of people we love and see that they embrace an ideology of hate when they’re not hateful to us personally.
But this is literally how atrocities happen. This is why “civility” is death — death for people like me, and death to our democracy. There’s no “nice” way to tell someone you love they’re a fascist. I don’t have a solution, but avoiding the truth will NEVER set us free.