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The Mass Media

The midterm elections went okay; I’m still worried

Joey+waits+around+with+documents+for+tabling+regarding+the+upcoming+election.
Olivia Reid
Joey waits around with documents for tabling regarding the upcoming election. Photo by Olivia Reid / Mass Media Staff

As I write this article, the results of the 2022 midterm elections are still trickling out. It’s looking like the GOP will do pretty well—but not nearly as well as most were predicting. The struggle they have already seen during a time that, historically, should have been nothing but net for them, has become a rude awakening for the right.

Conversely, the Democrats have already beaten the odds against them. To do even as well as they have during a midterm election season where their man is in the White House is really impressive. John Fetterman’s win against Mehmet Oz, and the thus-far success of Raphael Warnock, are particularly important. So, while there was no hope for ‘blue wave,’ the ‘red wave’ seems to have broken over a blue seawall.

But what does this mean for the future? What happens now? It seems like we aren’t too far from where we were before, and it’s certainly invigorating that so many have voted for progress, democracy and a fair deal over hate, religious authoritarianism and brutal, unchecked crony capitalism. Yet the races have been disturbingly close—and ‘where we were before’ wasn’t exactly a good place to plant our feet in the first place.

Case in point—this successful challenge by the Democrats has come after some serious ramping up of right-wing violence and threats. Just a few weeks ago, a man completely taken in by extremist right-wing conspiracy theories smashed Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s skull in with a hammer, while looking for Nancy—luckily her husband is alive and well. Apparently, he wanted to break her knees.

We also can’t forget the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. And during these midterms, right-wing pundits and politicians have recruited and encouraged armed ‘poll watchers’ to intimidate people just trying to vote. Meanwhile, antisemitism is growing in the United States, borne on the back of increasingly brazen rhetoric from the right.

So, what are we to expect when these groups have had their power severely threatened like this? Probably more violence, coming on the back of more election denialism and cries to “take our country back!” It’s a scary thought, and I really fear for the most vulnerable groups—particularly people of color, Muslims and Jews, and anyone who is not cisgendered and heterosexual.

This is why I’m begging every student, every faculty member and every staff member to please be careful out there. I know that some of you will be campaigning in future elections, protesting various issues or volunteering in other ways—as you should. But you should know that this will put you at some level of risk.

I believe that simple protests are going to become riskier and riskier as well. Up until now, violence at protests has generally matched the size of the protest itself—verbal abuse and minor scuffles at small demonstrations, serious and sometimes deadly violence at larger events. But I am getting very worried that serious violence will become more frequent and will begin rearing its ugly head at even minor demonstrations.

Many of you, though, fall into some category where you may be targeted while just going about your daily life. It makes my stomach churn to think about it. The LGBTQ+ community is seriously at risk right now. One of the most dangerous times for any marginalized demographic is just after a streak of progress, when the whip of reactionary politics snaps back in full force.

Make no mistake about it—violence against people who simply want to be themselves, but do not fully conform to traditionalist ideas of gender, sex and love is already increasing. It would be naïve to think that this will stop anytime soon.

And the antisemitism… this is one of the things I’m most scared of right now. Jewish temples in Europe have been guarded or monitored behind fences and gates for decades. But in the U.S., this has not traditionally been the case. However, over the past few years, due in large part to atrocities like the Tree of Life shooting, American temples have taken up European levels of security. This has disturbed me to my core.

This is why Kanye West’s ‘antics’ are not funny to me in the slightest. Here we see a man who has been completely taken in by right-wing propaganda, using his enormous influence and reach to spread antisemitic hate. While his endorsements are rapidly repudiating his rhetoric, the fact of the matter is that the cat is already out of the bag. It has now become normalized for antisemites to be perfectly open and brash about their disgusting beliefs.

There is still quite a bit of Muslim hate pinging around the American national discourse too. There are ignorant takes about the protests in Iran and France abound. To be clear, you can be a Muslim and not believe in mandatory coverings for women. Furthermore, both the protests in Iran and France are about freedom of choice, not the existence of hijabs.

Recently, hateful attacks against congresswoman Ilhan Omar based on equally ignorant and simplistic takes on the Israel-Palestine conflict have shown us that we are not past the post 9/11 ‘boogeyman’ era. Essentially, it has shown us that it is still demonstrably dangerous to be a Muslim—or even just a person with brown skin, a beard, a turban, or a hijab—with opinions.

When congresspeople call their own colleagues terrorists for nothing more than speaking out against human rights abuses, we are really in dark times. When they are reelected—which Margery Taylor Green has been—and pressured to fight back against the success of progressives tooth and nail during these midterms, we are in for even darker times yet.

And let’s not forget the attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in recent years. Anti-Chinese rhetoric—particularly from the right—has reached an incredible tenor. The right blames the left for being “soft on China”, and you can bet that a rash of left-wing success has activated them to retaliate even harder.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but the actions of the Chinese government do not excuse the craven and disgusting attacks on Chinese people here in the States—or anywhere else for that matter. And because many of our fellow Americans couldn’t care less about anything other than minor, superficial characteristics, this problem—as with Muslims and Sikhs—transcends the barrier of Chinese descendants. Every AAPI person is unfortunately at risk.

I know I sound a little paranoid. In fact, most of you will not encounter any serious violence, and I don’t want to cause anybody to descend into a state of panic. The point of this article is not to fearmonger, but to be frank about the risks of political and racial violence coming on the back of the failure of the right-wing in these midterm elections.

I really recommend that everyone take some self-defense classes and carry around pepper spray or a taser whenever you publicly engage in political action. It is better to be safe than sorry, and being safe is smart in these times. It’s also a good idea to reach out to the Counseling Center at UMass Boston in Quinn Administration, or through the other contact options on the UMass Boston website. Some students may also be interested in reaching out to the Interfaith Ministry on the third floor of McCormack, or by emailing [email protected].

So, stay engaged, but stay safe! Reach out for help if you are feeling stressed or fearful. Support your friends, family and colleagues. We all must stay in the fight, and that means taking care of yourself and others.

About the Contributors
James Cerone, Opinions Editor
Olivia Reid, Photo Editor