Dear fellow Americans who voted for Trump for president,
The rest of us are terrified. Betrayed. Grieving. Will you now listen to why?
First I will promise not to insult your intelligence. You do not have to be stupid to make that choice. But the reason I can’t look you in the eyes, the reason I feel my trust has been violated, is that I can’t imagine how you could do this and still be KIND.
People I know who are Trump supporters often have a narrative about being called stupid. They don’t like being told that smarts matter when it comes to the Presidency. I disagree with that idea, but right now I don’t even care. Right now the world could use a little more George W, or hell, Barney Fife. He may not come across as an intellectual, and I may regret some of his decisions, but he seems, for all intents and purposes, to be a decent human being. He was not filled with hate. He was not a bully. He did not say things on a regular basis, or, you know, EVER, that were meant to incite or enccourage hatred and violence of people not just like him.
This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue. Give me any politician, on any side of any issue, and I will give you a politician who lies. A politician who is clearly not perfect. A politician who people will be angry with, who people will threaten to leave the country over. Every 4 years, someone loses, and it sucks for the loser.
But this is different. I’ve been voting since the year 2000 (unless you count that time in elementary school when I “voted” in the George HW Bush versus Michael Dukakis election). And never before have so many people feared for their lives because of who this country chose as its leader. Notice it’s not so much even about what that person will do–it’s about the things he has done, and said, and how those things lead to more open violence and hatred. This is why it feels like a huge step backwards. A slap in the face of common decency.
Women, and especially women who don’t comply with him or fit his perfect image. People with disabilities. LGBTQIA people, black people, Muslims, immigrants, fat or ugly people, veterans who had the audacity to be taken prisoner, people who have been sexually assaulted, people who do not identify as Christian, people who do not have enough money to defeat Trump’s lawyers no matter what the facts of the case are, people who are stupid enough to pay taxes. People who disagree with him, question him, run against him for a position of power, or somehow threaten his fragile masculinity and don’t let him have his way. Basically anyone who’s not just like him. These are some of the people he has openly disdained and in many cases incited violence against. These are the people that approximately half the country just said do not have the right to feel safe in their own bodies anymore. In fact, he’s really just given carte blanche to anyone white and male who wants to hate and hurt anyone who’s not just like them.
Trump supporters, I’ve heard your arguments against Hillary, and I think I have a pretty good handle on them. I understand that you feel ignored. That you don’t trust her. That you don’t like her. That you don’t like being made to feel stupid. That you don’t like being broke and want another chance at your American Dream. That you don’t like political correctness. That you want some good business sense in Washington for a change. That you have a laundry list of what feels to you like really good reasons to like Trump.
But here’s what I want so desperately to understand from you: how could any of the things you don’t like about Hillary, or any of the things you do like about Trump, or any of the ambivalence you feel about our political climate, be MORE important than every American’s right to basic safety and human dignity? I cannot understand how that could be.
I had a moment of insight this morning. I was feeling scared and betrayed, and I wanted to lash out. I wanted to cuss everyone out, to slap someone, to do something! And I recognized Trump supporters in myself at that moment. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you also want to lash out, because maybe you’re also feeling scared and betrayed by whatever life circumstances you face. Often anger comes on top of feelings like these. If this is truly so, I can empathize with how tough those feelings are. I know the saying, “Hurt people hurt people,” but I also know it doesn’t have to be so. I beg you now, please stop the cycle of violence. Choose to be a force for love and connection.
If you’re upset because you live in a rural area and are worried that your way of life is dying, I hear you. I see you. I want you to know that change is hard, but that there’s still room at the table for you. We can find a way together. A rural way of life that still respects all people’s right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is one that I can also respect.
If you are scared of all these new changes, if you don’t trust minorities because you’ve never gotten to know many of them or never been in a place where YOU are the minority, because things you don’t understand can feel threatening, know that it’s a human tendency to fear the unknown, to feel safer sticking with your tribe. But know that it’s also a human tendency to help each other, and to build new tribes. It’s your choice. And it’s worth it. I hope you choose love.
I also want you to consider how your circumstances are different from those of all the groups currently terrified of what the day holds for them, now that America has decided that all that hate and violence is “presidential.” The difference is that while you and I may both feel upset, no matter how righteous your anger, you do not feel scared for your life. I do.
I have only just begun to find my voice as a woman. It’s scary, learning to stand up and speak out in a world that wants you to sit down and shut up. Whenever women have opinions on the internet, more often than not, they are met with not only intense body shaming and put-downs, but threats of violence and graphic anger. That is one of the reasons why this election cycle, and its results, feels like we’ve fought so hard for equal footing, to be seen as an equal amount of human as men, only to be shoved back into the past, where a woman could get beaten and raped by her husband and told it was all for God’s glory, but if she didn’t want to have his baby and be tied to him for life and create suffering for her future child, she had to perform a coat-hanger abortion, be condemned to hell, and maybe actually die for it. This election is the same old domestic abuse women have been living with for centuries. It’s the trauma of having your own country say they don’t mind if their leader has been accused of sexual assault. It’s every victim-blaming scenario ever. (“Tell me again how rape and sexual assault accusations will ruin a man’s career.” Right?) And that doesn’t even begin to cover the experiences of all these other groups that Trump has allowed our entire nation free license to attack.
Trump voters, I can’t help but feeling like you not caring about my concerns is intensely more damaging, more dangerous, than me not caring about your concerns. First of all, because I have always tried to care about you, tried to engage you in conversation, tried to wish you well, to empathize with your life struggles, to see your point of view. I have always tried to care and to respond, even while disagreeing.
But second, and more important, because if and when I didn’t do enough to address your problems, I was not actively threatening you. I was not spitting on you and then laughing about it. I was not allowing others to do this either. Make no mistake, there are absolutely plenty of Trump supporters who do just that. So if you think you can still look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t hate me, you better be the very first to defend against each and every attack from a Trump or a Trumpette will now make against “the Other.”
If you don’t do that, if you don’t care enough about your fellow human beings to protect them from the results of this election, then you need to admit it. You need to admit that you’ve chosen anger and hate above everything else, and that you think that people who aren’t like you are not deserving of the same rights you get to have. You need to be held accountable for the country we now have. I cannot imagine a worse choice for President today, not because of who he is or what his policies will be or which side of the political table he’s on or any of that crap, but because he’s the biggest bully I’ve ever seen in public office and he’s running our entire country. He will divide and conquer if you let him.
But I don’t believe that most of you want this. I can’t believe you hate all the rest of us that badly. I have seen you do good things, and kind things. I think you’re trying to do the best you can. But, America, you can do so, so much better. You can choose love instead.
Yes, we can.
She’s right, you know. We’re stronger together.