In a single day, I heard three white women declare that Republicans are not monsters.
“I’m not a monster,” a woman in one of my Facebook mom groups typed in a comment on a post about Republicans. The women in the group are professionals. Most of us hate Trump. A growing number of us are persistently vocal about our disgust with Republicans for their complicity in harm to marginalized people. We see no real difference between enthusiastically supporting racist policies and expressing concern about these policies but ultimately pulling the trigger to vote for them.
Earlier that same day, another white woman I know defended her Republican family members on Facebook, saying that they’re not monsters.
Later, I listened to an interview on NPR where a young white woman talked about how—after meeting some Republicans at work—she learned that, unlike she had been raised to believe by her liberal family, Republicans aren’t monsters, and so she’s now open to voting for them.
These women gaslight us to protect their monsters.
They can’t defend their actions, so they point the finger at our responses to those actions. You cannot defend a vote for a party that promises to gut healthcare, reduce food assistance to poor people, deport refugees, ban one religion from entering the country, and oppress and demonize many different marginalized groups. The policies are indefensible. The party is indefensible. Once you are aware of the harm that Republican policies cause, you have a duty to act to stop that harm.
In our fictional stories, we like to have clear divisions between hero and monster, between good and evil. A monster is someone scary, someone who wants to hurt you and the people you love. It’s someone who’s not even human. Grendel from Beowulf. The White Walkers from Game of Thrones. Voldemort from Harry Potter. They’re monsters. Some have always been monsters, and for the others, we learn the stories about when they left their humanity and became monsters. Once they became monsters, it was obvious to everyone and there was no turning back.
But this is real life. The monsters here in real life coach Little League and drive carpools. They fix things around the house and make sure we get our oil changed. These monsters might not have swastika tattoos or say the n-word, but they vote in the exact same ways as those who do—ways that harm people.
The books by Gavin de Becker called The Gift of Fearand Protecting the Gifttaught us that, while we’ve learned to fear monsters—strangers that appear out of nowhere to rape women and kidnap our children—women and children are most likely to be harmed by the very real humans that we know and love. The real monsters are our friends and family members. The real monsters would sit at our Thanksgiving table, pose for family photos with us, give us birthday presents—and then go beat their wives, molest children, or vote for a man who is a white supremacist sexual predator.
When a man like this is exposed as a rapist or abuser, there are always a handful of people standing by, ready to say that they could never have known, that he was a nice family man, that no one suspected he was a monster. And often, there are those who will continue to deny that this man could have done this thing, because they know him, and he’s not a monster like he’s been described. Even when he’s snarling in a courtroom, unable to contain his anger at being exposed for who he is, his defenders will insist that we did not see what we just saw. They will insist that this man is not a monster because he looks like your dad, he wears a suit, his wife looks distressed, his daughters wear pretty dresses.
Republican propaganda would have you believe that there aremonsters waiting to rape and kill women and children: immigrants, Muslims, Jews, transgender people, gay people, people of color. And yet, when we look at the facts, women and children are most likely to be harmed by their family members. White women—often held up as needing protection from all of these groups—are overwhelmingly likelier to be harmed by white men. Nearly all incidences of mass shootings have been committed by conservative white men. Republican propaganda would be the false fear that de Becker talks about in his books.
Yes, your Republican family member is a monster. The false propaganda that Republicans create and support harms women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQIA folks, disabled people, children, the elderly, poor people. It kills people. It jails people. It prevents people from being safe. It prevents people from being healthy. It prevents people from attaining economic prosperity. And fixing a broken garbage disposal or driving a carpool while you perpetuate all of this doesn’t make Uncle Joe not-a-monster. He’s just one of those nice monsters who would sit at our Thanksgiving table and then commit violence against us when the lights are turned out.
There was a movie about nice monsters called Monsters, Inc.In the beginning, we met Sully, a nice, lovable monster who wrongly believed that kids were toxic and who got paid to terrify kids so that their screams could be extracted and used as energy in Monstropolis, where all of the monsters lived. But once he realized what he was doing, he started a journey that led him to protect children and ultimately confront and change the system that harmed them. We would not care about him being a “good” monster if he continued to participate in the system that harmed kids. The only thing that mattered was his awareness and what he chose to do with that awareness. In the movie, Sully risked his job, his freedom, and his life to save Boo, a child who had accidentally ended up in the monster world. He had to overcome his irrational fear of children and he had to act to stop the harm. He ended up changing the world. He created a world where energy came from the children’s laughter instead of their screams.
But what about all of the other monsters who lived in Monstropolis off of the energy of children’s screams, but weren’t the monsters who did the dirty work of causing and extracting those screams? They’re monsters too.
Everyone who sees harm and injustice has a choice to make. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a hideous monster, an adorable monster, or not a monster at all. It matters that you stop harming people and that you stop the world from harming people. The Republican Party is being kept alive today with the energy of children’s screams. If you’re living off the energy of children’s screams, it doesn’t matter if you’re the monster who does the dirty work or the passive beneficiary of the system. You’re still a monster.