Monday, November 28, 2016

I get why you did it. No, really, I do.

You were tired of the same-old up in Olympus, the same elites decade after decade passing around power among them, like the in clique at Homecoming passing around a bottle of Chivas and hiding it every time you come close. What Chivas, man? You were tired of your little voice never being heard above the rabble and rouse of all these newly-minted minorities clamoring for their rights. What about yours, eh? We gotta take America back! You were tired of being left out, of watching from the sidelines as decision after decision was made in direct contravention to your interests, and direct contradiction to your wholesome, farm-grown, old-school common sense. You were tired of feeling like the outsider—in your own damn country! You were tired of being treated like a second-class citizen, and of your country being treated like a second-tier nation around the world.

And so you did it. You elected a man that promised to clean out that in clique, shatter that insider elite to smithereens. Government for the people, right? The real people, the ones that really matter. Someone who will look out for the actual Americans, not a bunch of wetback Mohammed-loving darkie upstarts who have no business being here anyway. And a businessman, too, because who better to resolve the nation's economic problems than a man who's spent his entire life in business? I mean, business is all about getting stuff done, right? It's all about the bottom line, and if we can make the bottom line 'Making America Great Again', then—well, by god, that's exactly what our government needs to be sane again!

I get it. Change—drastic, radical change—is incredibly attractive. Hope is even more so. In the face of such change, such possibilities, all that jaded disillusionment with a system that has betrayed you over and over recedes like a tide pulling back to reveal a beach rife with sea-born jewels. You'd given up, you'd learned to live with the despair and ignominy of being unheard and ignored—and now, against all odds, here is someone who speaks your thoughts, who gets you and the problems—the injustices—you live with every day, and who means to set all these wrongs aright. Why would you not vote for him?

I get, too, that your choices weren't all that great to begin with. I'm no fan of Hillary Clinton; actually, the only way I would've voted for her (if I were a US citizen) is if her opponent was ridiculously, hugely unqualified for office. Any office.

Which—ahem—was exactly what happened.

I hate to break it to you, Trump supporters, but you made a gross miscalculation here. You bought into exactly what Trump wanted you to, and you've now elected a president who has no intention of creating anything except benefits and advantages for himself.

Well, you might be thinking, what's wrong with a little self-interest? Looking out for yourself is, after all, the core of the 'American'* dream, isn't it? And what president—what politician—hasn't put him/herself first in the course of their tenure? You may be right; politicians in general seem to be lacking in basic human empathy. But Trump's self-interest, whether he takes it to a whole new level or just falls in with that 'swamp' he promised to drain, will be just the tip of the iceberg.

Trump himself, or a large majority of his supporters, may not be hate-driven KKK building wooden crosses in their spare time; Trump, I believe, is as much a product of his time as Hitler or Stalin (or Nero or Pinochet) were of theirs. Trump, like so many before him, has had the smarts to harness the tides sweeping the country (and the world) and ride them to the cusp of power.

And that, right there, is the real tragedy of the 2016 US election. Trump (et al) may not be a racist, misogynist bigot, but his rhetoric has unleashed racism, and misogyny, and bigotry. He—his expressions, his posturing, his 'handling' of protest and criticism—has enabled, and, further, legitimized, the hatred distilled over decades of discontent and (perceived or real) injustice. Whether intentionally or not (and I do believe it was intentional, seeing the success he had with it), he let the genie out of the bottle... And there's no turning back from that now.

It took me two weeks to begin to verbalize the devastation Nov. 8th left me with. I watched the election coverage from 5pm to 3am (CUR time). I cried like a baby at Trump's victory speech. The world is not the place I thought it was, and it was that realization, more than anything else (and there was plenty else), which destroyed me so totally. I am fortunate to have mostly liberal, left-leaning friends and acquaintances, though that may be a curse disguised as a blessing: it created an echo chamber, a bubble of opinions and prognostications that took it for granted that the majority of US citizens were, no doubt, on the side of equality and civil liberties and basic human rights. And there was no way—no way—that this majority would allow this clown, this unbelievable idiot, to get to the White House. We absolutely believed that—even though we postulated, for the sake of intellectual discourse, the possibility and the whys and wherefores of why it could happen... But it really came down to discussions of alternate realities, theoretical questions that seemed impossible to translate to the world we knew, the country we loved—yes, even us foreigners, to whom the US has always stood as an example of how things should be, the country we held up to our own Latin American governments as the blueprint of what we had to aspire to, what we had to become.

Well. That's done, I suppose. I can no longer defend the US against its detractors. On the contrary, I now must accept, as much as it hurts, that they, these detractors, were right. The US has a long, long history of racism and bigotry, of segregation and abuse of minorities, of religious discrimination, of willful ignorance and deficient education—it's all been documented, it's all public knowledge. How, then, did we miss it? How did the US become the beacon for civil rights that we all believed it to be? How could we be so, so wrong?

No, it is not Trump's fault. It's yours. Because, regardless of what 'benefits' you heard for yourself in Trump's speeches, you also heard the bigotry—and either you agreed with it, or you chose to ignore it. Whichever it was, your bigotry or your ignorance, that is what allowed Trump to run, and to win. If it was bigotry, I have nothing to say to you. If it was ignorance, though, you may not be beyond redemption.

This is what you need to do: you need to hold your president accountable. You need to educate yourself on his policies and his actions, and you need to make sure that a) he stays on track to provide all those 'benefits' (jobs, whatever) he promised, b) that he does so in a way that doesn't destroy your country's economy (see the bit on educating yourself), and, most importantly, c) you need to stop turning a blind eye on the racism and bigotry. You, as a Trump supporter, have the power right now—and the obligation—to ensure all this talk of walls and deportations and registrations and camps (camps!!! just listen to yourselves!!!) remains only talk. You need to stand up for civil rights and for minorities—because you, white US citizen, are a minority. 'America' has never been white. Stop treating 'others' as minorities. You are the minority, and it's about time you develop some empathy for those whose lands and rights you have stolen and defiled.

*'America' is a continent, comprised of 35 sovereign states plus several dependencies and constituencies of European countries. The US isn't even the largest country in the continent (thank you, Canada).

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