Today, a mayor of a mid-size city in Virginia said some really, really dumb shit. I mean, damn. It was, really, the worst thing you could say. And luckily, in today’s day and age, when someone (especially an elected official) says something idiotic, it goes viral. Here’s what Mayor Bowers, the Mayor of Roanoke, VA had to say about Syrian refugees and the global humanitarian crisis today:
And, as I said, when you say stupid shit, people notice. Already, just today, the one true prophet George Takei has taken notice on his Facebook page, Jezebel had some nice things to say…it’s in USA Today, the LA Times…yeah, people notice. Not a great look for Roanoke, but then again, it’s not really about Roanoke, is it?
Here’s what I’m going to say. And if you’re reading this, and thinking it’s about you, maybe it is, but please don’t take it personally. I probably think you are great and wonderful and it is likely you are much smarter than me but I didn’t pay for this fancy domain name to not be honest and say stuff that I think is true. This is not a reaction to any of the current response in light of this imbecile opening his mouth (err, keyboard). It’s a request for moving forward (is it fuel for forward? Maybe. See what I did there? Come on, I’m building a brand here, folks).
I would urge the wonderful, smart, ambitious, kind, generous, compassionate people of Roanoke to see the terrifying bit of irony that dances off the page when you feel angry, defeated, determined to overcome, because a person is purporting to represent a piece of your identity and doing it in a way that is NOT. YOUR. TRUTH. and that is harmful to you and the people you care about who share that identity. And you have every right to be indignant. But I URGE YOU. People are going to keep talking about Mayor Bowers. Probably not for long, as we have a lot of other scarier, more influential politicians saying things that are just as dangerous and frightening and really, really f*cking stupid…but they will talk. And they will notice how you respond. So respond. Respond to an issue that is bigger than you and your wonderful city. Respond to a critique that is not really about the city of Roanoke at all, but how the elected officials in this country speak about other human beings…and think it is acceptable. Think it is representative of the beliefs and needs of not just you in your city, but of the American people – and for that reason, they even think xenophobia and racism and fear-based, hate-based, violent rhetoric is good politics.
Don’t let the origin of the hate speech distract you from the fact that it’s hate speech. And there are real people who are living horrors that the people of Roanoke will likely never even have to imagine. The rhetoric that Mayor Bowers is spewing is violent and dangerous – not just for the representation of the wonderful people of Roanoke, VA – but for the refugees who are already living in the U.S. who are once again in fear for their lives and safety. For the thousands of people who have been waiting over a year, sometimes two, to finally find hope and a chance at a new life for their children. Roanoke is a beautiful city and has a long history of being a welcoming, enriching place for refugees to start a new life. Continue that tradition by reaching out a hand to them now.
Being misrepresented is awful. For you, it casts a dark shadow on the city that you love to live, play, work, learn, make friends, fall in love, drink good beer, enjoy fresh air, go through hard times and so much more in. For refugees, it means being turned away, being targeted, fearing retaliation and violence and anger and political backlash for things they did not do. If you are going to be indignant, be indignant with them. If you are going to fight misrepresentation, pick the bigger, scarier fight with fatal consequences. Or at least, fight both. Call Mayor David Bowers. His phone number is 540-853-2444. Email him. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. According to his website, he’s a friendly mayor; I think he’d welcome the conversation. And this decision isn’t up to one idiot in one small city that most people likely won’t be able to point out on a map when they read about this idiot tomorrow. There are a lot of lawmakers saying these things. THAT’S what we should be angry and scared and indignant about.
Bottom line (TL;DR?): This isn’t just embarrassing. Rhetoric like this has fatal consequences. David Bowers isn’t just saying things that make a really cool city look bad – he’s justifying halting the resettlement of people who are in their most urgent, most terrifying hour of need and turning them away. Let’s all get really, really freakin’ angry about that, together, and do something about it. Please.
Thanks in advance for being one amazing city that’s about to be mad as hell on behalf of those who don’t have the privilege to be mad as hell.