A man who has openly campaigned for persecution on the basis of religion, for building a wall between the United States and Mexico, and who both claimed that he didn’t know what the Klu Klux Klan was and refused to reject their endorsement, who has bragged in interviews about sexually assaulting women is going to be president of the United States. A man who signed into law the ability for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQI people, a man who advocated against same-sex marriage and advocated for electroshock therapy to “convert” gay people, is going to be our vice president.
Like most of the country, I didn’t expect this to happen. I read Nate Silver’s analysis of the polls, saw that there was a greater probability of Donald Trump losing then winning. But there was a possibility of him winning and he did.
There are a lot of analyses being published about how Donald Trump won the presidency and I expect there will be many more in the future and that we will probably learn a lot from them. But regardless, this is true: we are going to have a president and vice president who have campaigned on a platform of discrimination and suppression of human rights.
Those who voted for them knew that. They decided that the reason they had for voting for Trump, including the promise of economic stability and attention after decades of neglect, the attraction of a Washington outsider, distrust of Hillary Clinton, or any other reason was more important than rejecting a man who publicly condoned discrimination as a public policy. This is true even if the voter does not consider themselves discriminatory, rejects racism and other discrimination personally, believes that they would never discriminate against another person, or even believes that Donald Trump is lying and he won’t actually follow through on those campaign promises. They still decided that they were willing to risk having a president who promised to force all Muslims in America to register with the government and when asked how this policy would be different than when Germany required all Jews to register, responded, “You tell me.”
It is difficult for me to acknowledge and own when I have chosen my own (perceived) safety, my fear, or my well-being above the safety and well-being of others. If you voted for Trump, I imagine that what I have said will make you angry and defensive. If you are a fellow Hoosier, I imagine you might want to remind me of the economic shambles of our state, the way the Democratic party and the entire federal government has not created a real plan for Midwest, remind me of the meth epidemic, the long hours working three part time jobs to almost make ends meet, the high cost of mandated private insurance, and the shitty, condescending way Hollywood and the rest of the country talks about us–like our whole state and our lives are a punchline. And you’ll probably tell me of a lot of other things I don’t know because I haven’t walked in your shoes. These things are all true. I accept that truth.
And it is also true that Donald Trump has promised to force all Muslims to register with the government, his vice president co-sponsored a bill that would deny citizenship to the children born in the United States, if their parents were undocumented immigrants and if you voted for Trump and Pence, you decided to that it was okay for those things to happen, or least, you were willing to risk it.
And that is what terrifies me, and terrifies the people who are targeted by Trump’s proposed policies. Even if he doesn’t go through with his promises, the willingness of white people (because white people overwhelmingly voted for Trump, including the majority of white women) to risk the safety of people of color, LGBTQI people, and religious minorities means that we have normalized and condoned violence and discrimination. Again.
And I do not accept that.
This didn’t happen over night, and white people aren’t suddenly more biased, but Trump’s presidency makes it more likely for oppressive acts to be accepted. There has already been a spike in hate crimes against Black people, against Muslims, against LGBTQI people. In south Philly, people are painting swastikas on walls, and I’ve already had one friend be harassed for speaking out against white supremacist posters that are appearing on the Ohio State University campus.
I have heard close friends and family (all white and straight, and mostly middle-class) say, “We got through Reagan, we got through both Bushes, we’ll get through Trump.” But not everyone got through Reagan, and the Bushes. There are thousands of dead Nicaraguans, thousands of Black and Hispanic people sitting in prison, thousands of dead American soldiers, thousands of dead victims of the AIDS epidemic, who did not “get through” those administrations. There are people my age who grew up without a parent because their mother or father died in Iraq or Afghanistan, or at the hands of CIA-trained Central American death squads. I do not accept that we will all inevitably “get through” Trump’s administration.
Why am I writing so much about what I accept and do not accept? Because if Donald Trump, or Mike Pence, or any of his administration, or even regular private citizens, want to oppress others, they first have to make it normal and palatable to the public. We have seen this again, and again in our history. We don’t start off by sending people to internment camps, we start with a database. And before we start with a database, we start talking about registration. So the time to push back is not when they string up the barbed wire, the time is when you first hear about registration. Or denying citizenship. Or taking away voting rights. Or building a wall.
I know a lot people are already working to make the world and ourselves less cruel and dangerous. But as my dear friend Faith, theologian, pastor, teacher and supreme bad-ass said immediately after the election,
I pray every single one of us demands no less of the new president than the best we could imagine. Hold the President accountable, hold those in the Senate and the House and the Cabinet and the block next door and hold yourself accountable. In the aftermath of this election, we all have to be better, more loving, more imaginative, more committed to protecting the outcast, the stranger, we must be more generous of spirit, than we have yet imagined we can possibly be. Now more than ever, lives surely depend on it.
I’m going to be writing more on this blog about ways to push back, care for our community, and hold ourselves accountable, but my overwhelming plan is: Don’t accept discrimination or neglect as normal. Don’t let it become acceptable. There is nothing natural about letting people live in poverty, there is nothing natural about discriminating against someone because of their religion, or race, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or gender or any other glorious expression of humanity.
I’m holding myself accountable to my community and I’m entrusting myself to you too.