I have spent the last 24 hours thinking a lot about words.
In a moment of exhaustion and despair last night, I wrote this on my Facebook page: “If you voted for Trump, unfriend me now. And fuck you.”
I regretted posting that – it was the wrong thing to say – and changed it after a couple friends spoke reason to me. I also had a few Trump-supporting friends express shock and outrage that I would say such a thing.
People who voted for Donald Trump were offended.
I am tired, and I am mad.
I’ve spent so much time in the last year having the quiet, calm, reasonable conversations with people. Sending links to articles and videos, citing sources, finding neutral fact-check sources, explaining the realities of refugee intake, Planned Parenthood funding, abortion, immigration, economic analyses, gun laws, climate change, and then that Rick Astley music video just to lighten the mood.
I had so many of these conversations I eventually captured the facts most Trump supporters tried to argue about on a two-page document – even citing the nonpartisan resources – and would give it to people.
None of it mattered. No matter how renowned the source, it was biased. If it was Trump’s own words, he didn’t mean it. Documented facts weren’t to be trusted. Around and around, always landing in the same place: some variation on the response, “I know what I know.”
It was September, I think, when I stopped trying so hard. Because by then I’d learned it wouldn’t make a difference.
And by then it was obvious that NONE of those things were what the Trump movement was about.
Trumpism is based in bigotry. Plain and simple.
We were all so frustrated. After every debate, saying to each other: “Why can’t this election be about the issues?” Listening to Trump supporters dial into NPR, thinking: “Why is this what we’re talking about?”
What we didn’t understand was that Trump and his supporters were talking about the issues – their issues. Their issues and our issues, it turns out, are not the same.
We kind of knew, right? Last December Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States” (a policy proposal that remained, in that same form, on his website until this afternoon). It was his first widely-publicized foray from dog whistling into overt racism. But we thought it was just a preoccupation.
It’s the whole show. We know that now.
There is a difference between enthusiastic Trump supporters, and reluctant Trump voters.
But the reluctant Trump voters had 18 months to read the fine print. This is what they bought.
There is no “Get Out of Jail Free” card here. A Trump voter who says they don’t see it… if they are genuine… has a bigotry blind spot a mile wide.
If I’m on the highway, and only check one mirror before I change lanes, and cause a collision because a car was in my blind spot… it’s my fault.
Same deal here.
When you accept what Trumpism is, the inexplicable hypocrisy is not so inexplicable.
“You want someone who will eliminate debt… but Trump’s economic plan will add $5 trillion to it?”
“You want a candidate who’ll take care of the middle class… but Trump’s tax plan heavily favors the very wealthy?”
And on and on and on.
None of these things are the issues of Trumpism. That’s why the contradictions never sink in, no matter how dumbfounding. These are just the words people use to avoid harder conversations, like saying the Civil War was fought over “state’s rights” or Vegemite is delicious “if you spread it right.”
The real issues of the Trump movement are the Muslim ban, searching mosques, and a Muslim surveillance program. Rolling back gay marriage (and if we add in contributions from Gov. Pence, exempting LGBTQIA persons from anti-discrimination laws and using taxpayer money to fund gay conversion therapy). Mexicans as criminals and people of Mexican heritage unable to do their jobs. All of Black America living in a monolithic inner-city hellscape. Overt attacks on a Somali community. Mocking disabilities. The endorsement of White nationalist groups. Birtherism. Women as convenient carrying cases for pussies to be grabbed.
These are the only issues on which Trump has not flip-flopped. They’re his most consistent calls to action. They’re the themes that invariably emerged in his rallies.
The sun rose today on a country graffitied in swastikas and racial epithets, and where the KKK gathered on a bridge in North Carolina to celebrate their victory.
I personally know people whose children of color were racially bullied and even physically assaulted in school today. A friend of a friend shared on social media how a Latina child wrote her teacher a good-bye letter in school today, just in case.
The transgender suicide hotline, Trans Lifeline, is so swamped with calls today they can only answer 1/3 of them.
When I was helping organize a counter rally when Trump came to my city – something I did quietly, explicitly trying to hide my name – I was flooded with death threats. One guy told me he knew where I lived and was going to slaughter me and my children. Another told me he hoped I liked having my name on the list “for the ovens.”
This is Trumpism. This is what it’s about. It’s why all the polls were wrong, all the projections missed it.
Because those of us who aren’t part of it had no idea these were issues. We thought we’d had these conversations already. NONE of our methodologies accounted for racial resentment as a unifier. When bigotry emerged, we batted it away, didn’t take it seriously enough.
We thought it was just a few loonies.
We thought the majority was with us already.
We thought everyone else was in on the joke, too.
A lot of Trump supporters don’t like to use the frank language.
They are very careful with their words. Despite the fact that one of the biggest reasons they love their guy is because “he says it as it is,” and they’re “tired of everything being so PC,” they don’t put it out there plain.
Instead, they say, “Make America Great Again,” with the emphasis on “again.” They say, “certain people.” They say, “take our country back.”
We all know what they mean, and they know we know. But they’ll never say the words. In this way they get to indulge their hate, actively disenfranchise and oppress people… and then deny their bigotry and avoid having to answer for it.
People telling us to calm down don’t understand why we’re worked up.
We’ve lost before. I mean, damn, who doesn’t remember “hanging chads” and the debacle that brought us George W. Bush?
Yes, we’re afraid of Trump’s policies. They’re genuinely horrible.
But the reason we’re worked up is because we woke up in a country that openly endorsed bigotry. Lots of our fellow citizens are soon going to be less free. In the United States. In 2016.
This is not prognostication. This is what the President-Elect has promised.
Our words are important right now because they’re our most powerful weapon to fight this evil – and it is evil – that’s threatening our democracy.
If we are White and straight and cis and Christian and able-bodied (or can pass as such) our words matter even more because, for us, they’re an option. We get to choose whether to fight this battle. And even if we do choose to fight it, we get to pack up our words when we’re done and go home and carry on in peace.
Our neighbors who are not White or straight or cis or Christian or able-bodied don’t have the choice. There’s no packing it away for them. They live it every day.
Talk about tired.
For their sakes, and for the future of our communities, we have to take up this work. It is beyond important. It’s not enough for us to see a mother’s worry and say we’re sorry or that we’re praying for her. Our good intentions will not get on the bus in the morning with her Black son, or walk him home at night, or save him from being murdered for wearing a hoodie.
The way we deliver our words matters, too.
I messed my words up last night. They were wrong because they sent away the very people I need to reach. That was my error.
We need conversations, not simultaneous broadcasts.
But let’s be clear – it is not my job to make bigots feel comfortable.
I am done having the gentle conversations.
We all like to be liked. In the past I’ve had the gentle conversations because I wanted the other person to like me at the end, to respect me. Which meant allowing them to walk away feeling good about it.
But this is a copout.
The fallout of this election isn’t landing on the people who voted for Trump, or on me. It’s landing on marginalized communities. Pretty much no matter how bad this deal gets, Trumpland – and anyone who looks like they could live there – comes out okay, even if everything else burns to the ground.
There is no reason for Trump supporters to care. Unless we make their ignorance uncomfortable.
Unless we force the conversation.
Unless we push them outside their comfort zones, call on them to answer for a belief system they’ve so far been able to hold without being accountable.
Everyone likes to remember Rosa Parks as a sweet old lady who out of the blue one day refused to move to the back of the bus. In reality, Rosa Parks was a badass. She’d been an activist, making people uncomfortable, for years before the day her activism landed in the right way, triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott… and changed everything.
Controlling bigotry in our society isn’t a part-time gig. It’s hard core. It’s urgent. And it isn’t gentle.
I guarantee I will make mistakes in trying to do this.
When I do, I will own it. If I don’t, call me on it. Accountability works both ways.
I promise to give others the space, too, to back up, recalibrate, and adjust.
We’ll grow together.
Love still trumps hate.
If love hasn’t won – if equality isn’t in place – then it just means our work isn’t done.
When I used the wrong words, it wasn’t the people who snarked back at me who made me see my error.
It was the people who spoke to me in love.
They humbled me and helped me reconnect with what was important.
I am choosing to make this the most important lesson I’ve learned from this election. I commit to pay it forward.
Love trumps hate, always.
Update Nov. 11, 2016: Click here to see what steps I’m taking today to help support a massive resistance to the racist and damaging policies of Donald Trump.