Please Vote Like We’re Family
To my beloved chosen family this will be an already understood glimpse into life of those on the margins. For some of my beloved natal, biological, and legal family members and literal neighbors, my heartfelt begging will remain foreign, unrelatable, and ignored. Which is gutting, as we are, in fact, related. And you do, in fact, know how to read. You could practice listening if it’s still really so difficult.
I come from the same backwoods as you. (Shoot, I still live in the backwoods.) I wear hand-me-down clothes, hunt with rifles with small magazines, drive tractors, have been licked by long, slimy calf tongues, and can still farmer-blow my nose like a champion. I chop wood when I am stressed. There is more than one old welding machine in the pole shed. You know me. We send holiday cards and share rotisserie chicken at reunions.
Please, I am begging you.
Stop acting, thinking, and VOTING like you don’t love a family member who:
- Has a college education but isn’t a snob about filthy workboots,
- Is deeply in debt for that precious education that liberals would like to make more affordable for everyone, so we can really get rid of that ignorant, isolated stereotype,
- Has worked hard at a full-time job while also using food stamps, food pantries, and free lunch for the kids at school,
- Is a teacher who lives in poverty while still budgeting money to buy my children’s school supplies, all of my own desk needs, and plenty for my students who have even less than I do,
- Has been a peaceful protester, standing politely with a goddamn permit while being pepper sprayed and under the threat of police batons, rubber bullets, and water cannons,
- Is consistently in need of protesting for basic human and civil rights like marriage, being listened to after sexual assaults, and not being lynched after announcing reaching for a wallet with a conceal to carry permit, crying on the ground for Mama, or calling for a medical, mental health emergency,
- Has been treated horribly by police officers responding to a domestic incident call, and, in fact, yelled at to leave while bleeding from a fresh injury,
- Is consistently treated as less reliable, honest, and worthy in the court system, because the other testimony is from a charming white man whose needs are the primary concern,
- Has a collection of non-assault rifles for hunting, is still a better shot than you without even semi-automatic or a scope (yeah, you heard me; you’re bad at hunting and guns if you need more than a bolt action with iron sights to get a deer), and has never had ANY of them even close to taken away by fellow liberals (remember when Clinton and Obama didn’t take any of our guns away),
- Is not white,
- Loves a family member who immigrated to the United States,
- Loves a family member whose first language is not English,
- Loves a family member who is not Christian, but is Jewish, Muslim, atheist, etc.,
- Loves someone of the same sex/gender/orientation and has been berated and discriminated against by society and community,
- Has had an abortion, but will never tell you about it, despite the heartbreaking circumstances that even you would find valid, because you publicly and privately belittle women who have had to make this choice for themselves,
- Has had children taken away due to speaking up negatively about the systems of abuse they were trying to escape,
- Has been grabbed by the pussy and nobody in power cared about the multiple assaults, because the perpetrator was a charming white dude,
- Has more than one medical condition that is considered pre-existing conditions, which can’t afford to be covered by insurance companies when young, lucky, healthier adults aren’t also paying into health care systems,
- Has a visible disability that has been repeatedly mocked and derided just like that journalist mocked by a president for having an arm that works differently,
- Has a farm pushed further into poverty by a needless trade war and farm subsidy policies that won’t ever lift farmers up, on roads abandoned by Republican state legislators who dropped gas taxes and asked us to live with the cracks and potholes,
- Can’t declare bankruptcy, because Republicans made that more difficult for farmers, too,
- Has switched to farming organic, cage-free, or free-range because they get paid better for these products, were taught to be stewards of the land, and because they don’t want to pollute the soil, water table, pollinators, and the workers who have to actually be exposed to the pesticides,
- Has been in the hospital with anything contagious and dangerous,
- Works in healthcare,
- Studied chemistry, statistics, and experimental design,
- Understands even basic high school biology germ theory,
- Understands middle school histories of slavery, genocide, and authoritarianism, or
- Understands basic preschool golden rules and empathy guidelines to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, not just another mean, grumpy, isolated, lucky, selfish, conservative born into a family taught to consider themselves better than others.
A lot of those are me, myself, and I. Plenty more are our family members who I could name to you if they weren’t already hurt and afraid of your selfish, isolated perspectives on other human beings. We are your family. You are hurting us with your votes that are still dedicated to your hopes and dreams that you’re better than the rest of us, because you’re adamantly traditional. Like Jesus would tell you to build a wall to keep desperate neighbors out, and then pardon stealing their children as punishment, while not offering them a path to gladly pay taxes in exchange for a social security number? NOPE.
I have seen the posts from desperate, scared, angry, fed-up beloveds telling their family to unfollow them if that family continues to vote against their lived experiences that affect them each and every dang day. I don’t want to do that. I want you to hear me, and many others in our family, when we tell you that this is our real life in question. These aren’t distant, theoretical, academic, or political exercises and thought experiments (though, you could also learn how to carry out those with kindness and precision).
This isn’t a vague, loosely held belief that those who make more than $400,000 per year shouldn’t be taxed more than those making average wages, because maybe one of us could win the lottery some day and join them. (We’re never going to be up there. You’re always going to be down here in the mud with the rest of us. We know mud. Nothing wrong with mud. You’re not better than us. I do not have to respect your opinion that you are better than me just because you think of yourself more often than you think of others in need.)
These are our everyday lives. Please VOTE like you care that I was punched in the vagina, that you love your nephew with disabilities, and you understand that the working poor have to buy smartphones to operate as modern adults in this world.
This is my real life. This is our real life. Our family is suffering from these biases. We’re abandoning our neighbors to these biases.
Instead of unfriending me, just put on a goddam mask, wash your hands to and from the store in town, VOTE to be a good neighbor, uncle, cousin, and decent human being valuing your family more than assault rifles, rich people’s money (that we’ll never have), and xenophobia based on stereotypes that you’ve never really confronted. You either already do know all of these big words and concepts that you begrudge, or you would if you spent as much time educating yourself as this particular Mattson. You too could have moved beyond reading Grandma’s dusty collection of National Geographics. It hasn’t been easy. It has cost me a lot. But you know me. I’m not scared of the hard work of learning and fighting for what is right. You know us. You know all of those struggling in the above list of actual human beings in our family circle. You know that we were also once broke immigrants struggling. VOTE like we’re more important than scoffing at an imaginary liberal elite, in favor of a conservative elite that you will never be able to join.
Please, VOTE like we’re family.