[Content Note: Oppression; dehumanization.]
A funny thing happens every time I write something defending Chris Christie against fat hatred, or Sarah Palin against misogyny, or Dr. Ben Carson against racism, or any conservative from a marginalized population against prejudice and mockery on the basis of their identity.
I get a comment from some self-identified progressive, somewhere, telling me I'm wrong to defend them. That I'm hurting the cause. (What is "the cause," then?) That those conservatives wouldn't defend me in return. (As if I didn't know.)
Now, obviously these dispatches are indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding of how oppression works. This is social justice 101 stuff: Marginalizing people based on their identities only works (so to speak) because it monolithizes entire populations.
The reason fat jokes are used against Chris Christie is because they are shorthand that invokes shitty narratives against all fat people. And thus all fat people are harmed by those jokes used against any of us, because they are designed to demean all of us. Demeaning all of us is what gives those jokes their power.
But, additionally, the comments about how I shouldn't waste my time defending conservatives against bias reflect something rather more horrible than failing to understand the most basic tenets of social justice: The reason I defend anyone against bias is because they are people deserving of the dignity that one is afforded by judging them on their actions and policies, rather than judging them based on their identities.
The suggestion that someone does not deserve that defense because they are conservative necessarily rests in robbing them of their humanity.
Othering each other—progressives vs. conservatives, Blue States vs. Red States, Democrats vs. Republicans—is intrinsic to US politics, underwritten by this intractable two-party system. (Even though many of us don't have beliefs that fit neatly, or at all, into either party.) And that othering inevitably leads to dehumanization.
I resist that. I can see my ideological components as human beings, and I can still disagree with them vehemently on just about everything.
I don't know if I share a single political position in common with Chris Christie, but that doesn't prevent me from seeing him as a human being. Even if it prevents him from seeing me as one. Someone respecting my humanity isn't a prerequisite for my respecting theirs.
I expect more. Of myself.
And I can hold these two thoughts in my head at the same time: Chris Christie is a human being, and Chris Christie is a bully who espouses horrendo nightmare policy.
And yeah, I know he would not afford me the same consideration. But I aspire to do better than Chris Christie, not race him to the bottom.