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Why I Welcome MAGA And Q Defectors

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“Your past doesn’t have to define you,” Sarah Silverman tweeted earlier this month to MAGA or Q conspiracy defectors. She said they could come sit next to her. She acknowledged how scary it must be for folks to turn their backs on their communities. She invited them to “move forward together.” She was offering a virtual olive branch.

Silverman got a lot of support for her forgiving attitude, but she also got a ton of pushback, and rightly so.

“Sarah, you’re Jewish and they wear Camp Auschwitz hoodies with ‘staff’ written on the back. Do you REALLY think they want to sit next to you?” one tweeter said.

The rebukes kept coming. “We POC have to just keep ‘understanding’ while white supremacy is allowed to overtake this country AGAIN. WE have to be understanding. WE have to understand THEIR ‘pain.’ To hell with the pain WE as a people have been subjected to for centuries who get murdered for far less.”

“White supremacy is giving an endless amount of chances to white supremacists to do better next time”

“Try extending kindness later this summer perhaps once we’re done worrying about getting blown up or shot in the street by these cultists.”

“Don’t you want to first make eye contact a couple of days before inviting them to the table. Just to be safe?”

“I’m surrounded by these people. They have made me and mine feel unsafe for too long. They can sit by themselves and reflect for while.”

The criticism of the “come sit with me” approach is absolutely valid — especially when it’s coming from folks who belong to marginalized groups. People are justifiably angry at the mess Trump supporters have made of our country, tired of the racism, bigotry, selfishness, and hate, exhausted from trying to confront and disprove the constant lies and absurd conspiracy theories.

Many of the actions of folks from the MAGA camp fall under the category of “unforgivable,” truly. And I’m angry too. Spitting angry, almost blindingly angry, to the point that I sometimes have uncharacteristically violent thoughts toward these people. I call them stupid, pathetic, and irredeemable; I have said they are a waste of perfectly good oxygen, that they should all be dumped on an island somewhere together with all their guns and just let that situation lead where it may.

And yet, when push comes to shove, I’m with Silverman. If someone in the MAGA or Q camp has an epiphany and realizes they’ve allowed themselves to be misled, if they snap out of their delusion and see they’re on the wrong side of history, then they are welcome to come sit with me. Yes, even if they once thought and said terrible things. (If they did terrible things, though, they need to be legally accountable.) If they are honestly repentant, if they truly want to do better, I will be there to welcome them to sanity and help further detach them from the vast web of lies they once believed.

Will I fully trust them immediately? Hell no — I’m not suggesting that defectors be accepted without question and with immediate and total forgiveness. But will I be willing to listen? Will I support their continued learning so they never fall down a rabbit hole of misinformation again? Will I even try to understand? One hundred percent, yes, I will.

KYLE GRILLOT/AFP/Getty

AFP via Getty Images

But why? Why not just tell these people to go kick rocks? Why not just socially ostracize them, shame them, permanently cancel them? Why not make them pay for the lies and chaos to which they’ve contributed?

Part of my reasoning is purely practical. It’s sickening to think about, but 74.2 million people voted for Donald Trump — that’s the second highest number of votes received by any presidential candidate in U.S. history. Granted, Biden still had 7 million votes more than Trump, a wide margin, but 74.2 million isn’t a statistically insignificant number. This number, if we don’t reduce it, represents an ongoing and tangible threat, not just to the goals we as progressives aim to realize in order to establish a more inclusive, equitable, and healthy society, but to our democracy — to the very fabric of our society. On a purely practical level, we need defectors.

The other part of my reasoning is psychological. Given how deep the delusion is in the MAGA camp and with Q, and given how tyrannical and mean-spirited these people are, I believe it really does take an act of courage to snap out of that brainwashing and walk away. Does realizing one has been misled excuse a person from the shitty things they did? Nope. Acknowledging fault is critical. But we have all seen how blindly cohesive the cult of Trump is. We’ve seen what they plan for people who dare find fault in their methods. They were ready to string up Mike Pence on the steps of the Capitol. They had bombs. They had zip-tie restraints. Some of these people were planning real harm — Amazon’s release of Parler conversations show hundreds of threats of torture, rape, and murder. These people don’t treat “traitors” well.

Do you have to be weak-minded as hell to get drawn into that shit in the first place? Yep. And racist? Yep. And homophobic? Yep. Xenophobic? That too. And all of those issues need to be addressed. People should be held accountable for their hurtful beliefs and actions. But I still maintain, walking away from these lunatics is a scary and courageous thing to do. If no one is there to welcome a defector and encourage their ongoing personal growth, where are they meant to go? If no one accepts them, they’ll go right back to MAGA Land and add to that horrifying 74.2 million number.

I am in no way suggesting that marginalized people who’ve been hurt by Trump and his minions be the ones to engage in this “come sit with me” mindset. In fact, I’m not suggesting that anyone should who doesn’t want to. Everyone has a right to maintain boundaries in order to protect their mental health.

But for those of us who have the emotional bandwidth, when someone from the MAGA camp tells us they’re really rethinking all this stuff they used to be sure was true, we need to pull up a chair. It won’t do our country any good to turn our backs on these people so that they end up feeling like the only place they’ll be accepted is with the very people from whom they were hoping to distance themselves.

So, I’m with Sarah: the defectors can come sit with me. I’ll be happy to provide them with a dose of reality so we can move forward and start to repair this broken country.

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