Donald J. Trump is kind of an asshole. Rather than seeking to unite the country after a bitter, hate-filled campaign, he has instead mocked and belittled those Americans who voted for a different candidate. He embarked on a victory tour not to bring the country together, but to revel in the adoration of his base. His New Year’s tweet was basically a middle finger to the majority of Americans who voted for someone else, calling us enemies and sore losers:
Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2016
Compare that to President Obama’s truly historic victory in 2008, when Obama sought to move forward as the President of all Americans. Here’s what he said:
And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.
Trump’s merry band of hate-spewing rage-monkeys have taken their cue from the petulant, mango-hued man-baby. Completely unaware of the concept of irony, retrograde loudmouths who plaster their house and truck with confederate flags are telling liberals to “get over it.” Trump supporters, who applauded for every insulting and discriminatory statement throughout the campaign as a celebration of “telling it like it is,” now cringe at being labeled racists and bigots for the mere act of supporting a white nationalist bigot.
Liberal elites have jumped on the bandwagon, trying to “reach out” to hard-hit industrials towns to get quotes from “real Americans,” because us liberals are not real people. A million hot take thinkpieces have been written, with coastal elites rushing to the Midwest to Trumpsplain away quotes dripping with thinly-veiled racism and sexism as merely “feelings of being left behind” because Hillary Clinton dared to talk about Black Lives Matter. When you are so privileged that every campaign in your lifetime has been geared towards your interests, it feels like oppression when a candidate dares speak directly to other segments of the population.
Despite evidence that racism and sexism were better predictors of Trump support than economic anxiety, those of us who loudly proclaim that those voters empowered a bigoted agenda are shouted down as not doing our part to heal the nation. We are being silenced by both liberals and conservatives in the name of…what, exactly?
Vann R. Newkirk, writing in The Atlantic specifically about racism, sums it up nicely:
If calling out racism is largely counterproductive, using a systemic definition like white supremacy is also unacceptable, and stigmatizing or shaming those who espouse racist beliefs is self-defeating, what tools remain? The only form of productive debate that people of color can engage in, it seems, is the gentle persuasion of white people who may or may not hold retrograde views.
Gentle persuasion? Not a chance. At times like this, I shut everyone out and crank up the Dixie Chicks:
I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
Damn right I am still mad as hell. How is it my job to heal the hatred and division Trump and his supporters used to rip this nation apart? They spent months literally terrorizing and mocking every traditionally disadvantaged group in America, and now we liberals have to clean up their mess?
Apparently, it is the responsibility of people of color to listen to the complaints of the unemployed white man who blames any and every ethnic and religious minority for all his problems. Bewilderingly, it is the job of every Muslim to be the model of his or her faith, lest they be unfairly blamed for any violent act committed by an apostate (white Christians are given a pass by talking about their “mental health,” but sure, let’s pretend white privilege is a myth). Somehow it falls upon the queer community to reach out and better understand homophobes, the very people who are seeking to relegate the queer community to second-class status.
Far too many people are making it the job of the oppressed to make the oppressor feel better about bigotry.
I call bullshit. As Natalie Maines said, “I can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should.” Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley put it another way:
“I am not one of those who think that this needs to be an era of reconciliation here with the candidate that has been elected. You know Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not reconcile with the Nazis, Archbishop Romero did not reconcile with the oligarchs of El Salvador, and Martin Luther King did not reconcile with the KKK.”
Here’s a novel idea: How about Americans not be racist sexist bigots, huh? How about we don’t give a pass to Trump voters who supported a Klansman in a suit just because those voters are white and we don’t want to offend them? Instead of media profiles glorifying “alt-right” white supremacists, how about profiles on huge swaths of Americans who literally sided with the Nazis on November 8th?
Instead of demanding that the oppressed understand more about the oppressor, why are we not demanding that those voting for racist and bigoted policies understand more about those whom they are oppressing?
And when we who care about “the least of these” are angry, we will scream – from now until the end of this hellscape of an administration – WHEN PEOPLE VOTE TO EMPOWER RACISM AND BIGOTRY IT IS NOT “GOING LOW” TO CALL OUT THEIR SUPPORT FOR RACISM AND BIGOTRY.
Oh no, there I go destroying civility. I might offend the delicate sensibilities of someone who voted to degrade entire groups of people through empowering a racist sexual predator. As if my words, and not their actions, are the offensive part of this equation. Again to quote Vann Newkirk:
Civility is not the highest moral imperative—especially in response to perceived injustices—nor is hand-holding and guiding reluctant people to confront their bigotry gently. American history is full of fights, including the ongoing struggle for civil rights, that have been as fierce as they are ultimately effective. Civility is overrated.
So instead of “guiding reluctant people to confront their bigotry gently,” we could take a different approach.
How about whenever we encounter a Trump voter, remind them that they voted in favor of tearing apart Hispanic families.
How about we relentlessly call out Trump voters when gay and transgender teens are bullied to the point of suicide.
How about every time the religious right masks bigotry in the language of “religious liberty,” we remind them in no uncertain terms that they voted in favor banning an entire religion from our shores.
Let’s remind greedy Trump voters that the mythical tax cut they dream of getting (but probably won’t unless they are in the top 1%) comes at the cost of empowering bigotry, racism, and hatred.
Speaking out loudly and directly will not necessarily change hearts and minds (although that would be nice), but we do it because it is the right thing to do.
If we see a bully in a schoolyard, are we not proud of the child who yells, “Stop! You are bullying!”? Do we admonish that child for hurting the feelings of the bully by labeling him a “bully”? If the child being bullied is angry at being pushed to the ground, do we tell that child to “get over it”?
We who see bullying towards our brothers and sisters will not hold our tongues. We will not swallow our feelings. We will not go gently into the nightmarish abomination that is to come. We will not be silenced by bigots on the right nor apologists on the left.
We will – vehemently and repeatedly – call out this behavior for what it is. We will label it accurately. And we will prioritize the well-being of the oppressed; feelings of the oppressors be damned.
What about forgiveness? I’m not opposed to forgiveness. But forgiveness only comes when the offending party acknowledges the wrong they have done and asks for said forgiveness. Rather than seek any sort of reconciliation, Trump and today’s Republicans have made abundantly clear that they are not interested in healing a divided country.
Trump voters: You need to speak up against the offensive actions and policies of the Trump Administration. Show some damn remorse for the pain and suffering your actions have caused and are causing.
If you don’t want to be labeled a supporter of white supremacy, speak out about Trump giving avowed white supremacists like Steve Bannon high positions in the White House.
If you don’t want to be labeled anti-women, call your House of Representatives member and urge them to fund Planned Parenthood fully.
Use social media to speak out against the racism, sexism, and bigotry that Trump is elevating in his administration.
Your actions elevated and empowered all kinds of hatred to the highest levels of our government. For a party that claims to prize “personal responsibility,” how about you not shirk your responsibility at this critical moment in our nation’s history.
Instead, Trump supporters are either egging on a bully or remaining silent. And silence leads me, and others like me, to believe that you still support all of Trump’s actions. After all, you did vote for him.
When you – the winning side that voted in favor of oppressing minorities, women, and the LGBTQ community – are ready to help heal the wounds you created, I hope you do. But don’t act like you are doing anything more than rectifying wrongs you made possible. Expect there to be lingering anger at your actions. Not everyone is ready to make nice.
And don’t be surprised to find us progressives unable or unwilling to coddle those who empower oppressors. We’re too busy mitigating the damage you let loose.
Sometimes in writing, your audience is broad. Sometimes, you have a particular subset of folks in mind. And sometimes, you just preach to the choir. To quote Drew Magary from GQ, “I am preaching to the sad little choir in my soul here.” Other posts will be more “constructive.” But if the anger in your soul over the election results has not yet subsided, this was for you, too.