I’m going to share with you guys two stories sent in to me since the election. Two events that occurred in a country that has elected Donald J. Trump.
The first is from a Nepalese American woman who lives in the Midwest. Let’s call her Kyrah. It’s necessary for her to keep her identity hidden. Her bosses have warned her, alongside all of the employees at her company, that “politically themed posts” on the internet “will not be allowed” following the election. They are ostensibly doing this so that the company “will not attract any negative attention.” I’ll let you be the judge as to whether or not this is responsible policy.
Although she lives in the Midwest, Kyrah grew up on the West Coast. She came to the United States as a child. She describes herself as “not very political.” She did not vote in the 2016 presidential election, having been put off by both of the major party candidates, a decision she now regrets. Here’s why she regrets the decision. I am republishing a portion of her e-mail to me, with permission, and with a couple of edits for clarity:
“A lady who was my neighbor in my hometown for 20 years sent me hate mail after Trump was elected. I am calling it hate mail because I have no other way of describing the message, although it’s hard for me to believe…that somebody could really write this to someone they know…
Here are the exact words. I am not making them up:
‘Your nice job and nice home could have been a real American’s nice job and home. Its [sic] simple math. By coming here, you are taking away from someone who has been here longer and has more of a right.’
She thinks I should leave. This is someone who knows me. She watched me grow up. Now she treats me worse than a stranger, she treats me like the enemy. My husband [and I] are upset and grieving.”
The focus now isn’t just on migrants, on people deemed “foreign.” The focus is on who is and isn’t a “real American.” As you can imagine, this issue is close to my heart. I have also frequently been compared to “real Americans” – and found wanting. The fact that Trump’s wife is an immigrant herself is completely irrelevant to the people who now demand what amounts to a witch hunt against those of us who “aren’t pure enough.”
I also had a conversation with an older friend from North Carolina. This conversation was even more shocking and upsetting.
This friend, let’s call her Betsy, is a middle-aged white woman, and a Bernie Sanders supporter like me. Like me, like millions of us, she still cast her vote for Hillary Clinton, believing her to be a better choice than Trump.
Most of Betsy’s relatives are card-carrying Republicans. Her in-laws, in spite of their love of family values rhetoric, overwhelmingly voted for Trump, a man they see as “having some problems” on account of his “hedonistic lifestyle” (these are their words, as relayed to me by Betsy). They still voted for him, because they are confident that he will a) Change his hedonist ways when he is actually in the White House and b) Work on outlawing abortion.
Betsy told me that she still considers them “fundamentally good people.” But then there is the issue of Betsy’s son-in-law, a man who, she says, “has white supremacist leanings.” Betsy’s daughter and her son-in-law are estranged.
Betsy never made a secret of her political beliefs. For that, she has been taunted and insulted by her son-in-law, the father to her grandchild. Two days after the election, this guy threw a rock through Betsy’s living room window, shattering it.
She heard the noise and opened up her bedroom window. She says her son-in-law was in the front yard, shouting abuse up at her, taunting her, laughing, screaming things like “by the way, you might as well leave the country now, since you voted for that bitch and all.”
By the time she made it downstairs to survey the damage, he was gone. She hesitated on filing a police report (probably not a very smart decision, considering the fact that guys like this tend to escalate, but it’s not up to me to decide).
Why am I telling you these things? To demonize all Trump voters? No. I don’t believe that all of the people who voted for Trump are racist and/or sexist.
But you don’t have to like something in order to enable it. You don’t even have to enable it actively. All you have to do is look away when something awful is going down.
So please don’t look away now. No matter who you voted for.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t believe that President-elect Trump is qualified to lead the most powerful nation in the world. I think he lacks the understanding that actions have consequences. I think he has a narcissistic streak that’s at least partially to blame for his coddling of hate groups and bigots. They act like they love him, so how could he turn that adoring crowd away? He can’t – because it’s all about him, not our society. I have similar fears as far as his foreign policy goes – his approval of dictators and shadowy characters for as long as they’re willing to suck up to him. I would love for him to prove me wrong, but I’m not optimistic. I’m not even pessimistic. I’m just being a realist.
If you want to hate me for these assertions, well, go ahead. It’s never been my business to tell people what they want to hear.
But I do hope that you can still recognize that there are people in this country now who are terrified now. They’re not terrified because a man whose political beliefs are different to theirs just got elected – they’re terrified for their actual safety.
I’m not going to lie, I think the Democratic Party failed us here just as much as the Republican Party did. I think Washington has gotten too complacent, has gone too far up its own ass, frankly, to really hear or understand what’s happening to this country’s electorate.
But I don’t think the solution to that is bigotry, Jesus.
And if you think that firing off hate mail to your immigrant neighbor or triumphantly throwing a rock through someone’s window is somehow going to fix our infrastructure and economy, you’re being an idiot. That temporary rush of power you feel by making someone else feel afraid – it’s not going to positively affect healthcare or student debt or the poverty rate. Don’t kid yourself.
I hope that none of you who are reading this genuinely believe that you can make things right by perpetuating this kind of wrong.
But I also want you to understand that your neighbors may need you now. If you know someone who is scared, do more than shrug and talk about what a pity it is. Ask them how you can help. And if you need help, don’t hesitate to speak up about it.
The other day, a commenter wrote the following under a freaking poetry post of mine:
As much as it saddened and sickened (and entertained) me, it also didn’t leave me surprised. Of course, hate comments are nothing new around here. But I do worry about them growing in scope. I hope I can lean on you guys should that happen. I also sometimes need support.
We’re in for a rough ride, either way. Might as well hang on to one another.