Alan Vervaeke - Isims

  • Published in Columns

“Not that I condone fascism; or any ism for that matter. Isms, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself.” — Ferris Bueller

I have opinions, and that’s no surprise to anyone. I’ve a right to opinions per the 1st Amendment, but I don’t have a right to have it agreed with. If I attempt to force or coerce you to agree with me, that’s fascism. Fascism runs in the face of data, facts, and logical persuasion. I write to be heard and (occasionally) agreed with — not feared. Fascism is resurgent lately with powerful individuals wanting to bend others to their will. To fine them. To fire them. To punish them. The NFL and the press are examples. Isms are bad things, especially when they are coming from our leaders. It is up to us to prevent this abomination in our country. We’ve fought against it in too many others not to.

When Black Lives Matter started in the aftermath of Ferguson, there were many angry people. Persons of color had things to say and —many times — those things occurred with anger and frustration. As a white person, I have opinions about racism, Ferguson, #BLM, and Baltimore. But as a white person, I was frequently told to simply shut up since I wasn’t black, I enjoyed “white privilege,” and I lived out in “CrackerLand.” What could I possibly add to improve the dialogue? Racism is a double-edged sword when it’s employed to shut down discussions about race. Who better to talk to whites about racism than other whites? When has any conversation about racism that starts with shouting down another about their own perceived racism made a difference? Never — that’s when.

In the past year, we’ve seen a tremendous upheaval between men and women. We heard substantial chatter during Hillary Clinton’s campaign about the capabilities of women. I saw women brutalizing other women for not voting for Hillary. When I’d enter into a discussion to remind everyone that feminism was a movement to support and strengthen women in the face of male dominance, I’d be invited to exit the conversation because as a man I had no right to speak on the topic. Feminism begets sexism when you lose track of the equality you are supposedly fighting for. And it needs to be said that while men have indeed been the pigs in this particular poke, how can there not be any associated culpability when women in positions of responsibility protected and turned a blind eye to men like Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer? Can’t we be frustrated with victims who sat silently for decades only to suddenly come out of the shadows after someone with sufficient courage finally did? Time Magazine just made these women into their “Persons of the Year.” Not for 1986. Not for 1993. Not for 2006. No — they are the Person of the Year for 2017 for coming out now for things that happened years and even decades ago. Some of it is well-deserved comeuppance for years of coercion, abuse, and degradation, but if it was kept in the dark so that a career could be made or a cash cow maintained? There is indeed a sense that women are “piling on” now, and while that doesn’t erase the original sin of those who perpetrated the offense it also doesn’t absolve those who benefited from their own silence.

For forty-plus years, I’ve done my best to treat women as equals and heroes ... only to find out that the truth is pretty murky. We’re seeing a rush to judgment on people before they have an opportunity to be investigated and have truths revealed — free of hearsay and innuendo. If a Hollywood director is thrown out on his ass for piggish and grotesque behavior, I couldn’t care less. When it’s a politician of EITHER PARTY I want to see the power of our institutions brought to bear; to investigate, to exonerate or censure, and expel them as needed. We DESERVE a solid example of our elected representatives doing the right things for the right reasons; for the government that is elected BY the People to act FOR those same people in policing their own. Roy Moore of Alabama should get judged. So should Donald Trump and Al Franken. If these men are found guilty of what they’ve been accused of, then there is no place for them in government. Period. No matter what good they may have done in office, the stain they brought to it must be cleansed. Politics is no reason for us to subvert our morals. Or common sense.

I’m only 57 — silver-haired, male, and white. Being called a “Stale Pale Male” is insulting. I was once in my 20s. I started a family. I went to college. The difference between a Millennial and myself is 30 to 35 years and how I was raised. Millennials think they’ve cornered the market on concerns for the future because “the future is theirs.” Guess what kids — the future is still mine AND yours. I’m still working and paying taxes. My generation is paying college loans for your brethren. You get all excited about Bernie Sanders and yet you think folks my age don’t have the same concerns you do? What a load of crap. It’s said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I’M THAT HISTORY! This is called ageism and one day it’ll happen to you.

Ferris is right. Isms affect us all. Every day. Extremism and fanaticism? Nihilism? Nativism? Even patriotism can be (and has been) perverted. If we allow these things to run amok in our lives and the lives of others, then the final ism is right around the corner — defeatism. One can only hope we never give in to that. This country and our very way of life depend on it.

(Alan Vervaeke is a veteran and father happily living in Gilford.)