This morning, CBS interviewed a group of people who voted for Trump. I watched and listened because I know full well that understanding these individuals is the key to my healing. That seems a bizarre statement to make after a presidential election. That healing is needed. I get that. I’m sixty-six. This is not the first election I’ve seen go to the ‘other side.’
This one was different for a variety of reasons. Social media is a big factor. Lots of fake or maybe worse, very slanted, news on the internet. Even the once-trusted news channels – CBS, NBC, ABC – whipped up a profit-inspired frenzy on both sides, demanding drama in order to win those free minutes each night in the national spotlight. But, I believe I would have woven a path around those piles of crap, and accepted our new president if I had not had a visceral reaction to Donald Trump himself.
He opened his campaign by maligning an entire group of people, a group which includes my youngest son. By doing so he created an instant us-against-them mentality. He whipped up fear of those among us who worship Mohammad, when clearly, statistically, those who profess to revere Jesus have killed more of us in mass attacks than Muslims.
He cultivated a cult of personality. Only I, Donald J Trump can save you. And then, because the election wasn’t surreal enough, the media released video of our new president bragging, yes, bragging, about assaulting women. I do not want to dredge all this up again, but if you’re going to understand the rest of this essay, you need to understand and, yes accept, that my reaction and the reaction of tens of thousands of others like me, is not based on a disagreement over Keynesian versus Trickle-down economics, or universal health care versus private insurance, or coal versus clean energy.
My reaction of disgust to the election of Donald J Trump is based on the fear that economics was more important to those who voted for him than human rights. I am still coming to terms with the knowledge that voters were willing to overlook the Muslim-blaming, the thinly veiled links to white supremacy groups, the week it took him to gently disavow the support of the KKK. In the end, it didn’t matter to them. And while people of color in this country, LGBT people, people who do not worship in churches with crosses on their steeples, have known this for years and years and years, it was a shock to my naive white understanding of America.
So, the election is a week behind us. And here’s where I am – and I share this, not because the healing of one old white woman matters much at all, but because I am not alone in this struggle to come to terms with where our nation now stands. I’ve read enough essays by Trump voters and listened to them enough to understand that they do not see their vote as a condoning of hatred, or bigotry, or assault of those with less power. I still cannot understand how they could have made that decision, but clearly, they did.
One of the women on the panel of Trump voters this morning on CBS said she was frightened to publicly admit she voted for him. That she had received threats. That’s not right. It shames me that anyone in this country would threaten another person with violence for any reason, let alone over the execution of a constitutionally-guaranteed right. Voting, protesting lawfully, speaking out about that with which we disagree – all that is our right and our duty.
I am still struggling with trusting those who voted for Trump. I am able now to behave respectfully toward these individuals. I can walk in the mall without studying each face, wondering which of them thinks that, as a woman I have no right to my own body, which of them only affords me safety based on the color of my skin or my non-hijab-covered gray hair. I have come this far in my own personal healing because I have come to realize that many of the people who voted for Trump, voted for Obama in earlier elections. While I believe that Trump’s campaign, and certainly his victory, stirred the bottom of the muck in this country, I must believe the haters are a minority, that many Trump supporters stand against hate, and against violence, and against blaming entire groups of people based on the actions of a few.
I believe all of this in my mind. In my heart, I still distrust, still suspect that my safety around Trump’s people requires diligence on my part. But then, it’s only been a week since the election. The commentator this morning on CBS advised that we all, on both sides of the aisle, just calm down.
Always an effective strategy – telling anyone, man or woman, to just calm down.
A more useful suggestion, for me anyway, is to channel my passion into constructive action. I donated to Planned Parenthood. Yes, I made sure to do so in honor of Mike Pence so he’ll receive yet another certificate. Yes, that is petty and vindictive, a clear fuck you to the man who is now vice president. That’s why I did it.
I volunteered to be an escort at PP.
As a small-time student of history, for months I have seen similarities between the rise of Trump and the rise of Hitler. Both movements were hate-fueled cults of personality. That’s how it looks to me. I understand that’s not how it looks to those of you who voted for Trump. But, I keep wandering if Germans by the tens of thousands showed up on the streets of their towns and cities after Kristalnacht. Did ordinary people step up and stand against the hate? Or had they left it too late? Did fear of retaliation keep them home? Or were they quietly, secretly undisturbed by hate against a group of people who, after all, were different from them?
And I don’t have to go that far from home to see historical examples of times when hate ruled. Right here in my beloved California, my ancestors or men very much like them, killed thousands of Native Americans when they arrived seeking their own fortunes. In the 1940’s The Native Sons of the Golden West, of which my dad was, briefly, a member, were instrumental in interning the Japanese among us. Internment – that’s a polite word for locking people up and stealing their land and possessions.
Hate has won in the past. Hate has won because good people got lazy, or were more concerned with their own success than with protecting the civil rights of people who were, in one way or another, different than they were.
So, no, don’t tell me to just calm down. Those of us protesting are doing our best to send a clear message that we will not allow hate to win. In the end, it doesn’t matter who any of us voted for. Politicians come and go. What matters is that we stand together against hate.