3 Notes To Myself Now That Trump Is President
Like a lot of Americans, I'm upset about the election results. Not because Hillary Clinton lost, but because Donald Trump won. Unlike most Americans, I'm pretty sure this is at least partly my fault.
Not because I voted for him (I didn't), but because of my job. I have a platform, and a voice, and I could've reached out to more people and made it more clear who this man is and what he represents. But instead, I was snarky and condescending and judgmental. I can be better. And it starts by remembering...
Trump's Supporters Are Not My Enemy
I'm confident that most Republicans would not have voted for Trump if they had understood what he represented to so many people. There simply can't be that much malice in this country.
For the Trump voters reading this, I want to make clear what I mean when I talk about the fear Trump creates. This has nothing to do with politics as usual. Rolling back gun control, limiting abortion, and lower taxes are all things I disagree with but respect as part of the political discourse. But what I've seen on the rise during Trump's campaign is a rise in hate crimes. A rise in calls to sexual assault hotlines. Increased activity among white supremacy groups. All the while, Trump has openly courted them while everyone watched on television. It doesn't matter if Trump himself is racist or believes in these people, because these believe in him, and feel empowered by his victory. Oh, and his vice-president-to-be believes it's okay to torture gay people until they're "straight."
His victory has made a large part of America's populace feel unsafe and unwelcome in their own country. I don't believe that Trump voters want that for those people, because I would never want that for them (and I'm not even that nice of a guy). No American deserves to feel unsafe or unwelcome because of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. I know most Republicans agree with me. I will hold on to that until I'm fucking dead.
All over my Facebook, and from a lot of my family and friends, I've heard resistance to this idea. "Fuck these Trump supporters," they might say. "If they don't recognize this kind of hate when they see it, that's their fault." I don't think I have that luxury. I can't afford to indulge my arrogance and temper and alienate people I disagree with. I owe it to everyone who came before me to try and express myself like someone who isn't a total fucking dickhead.
This guy seems cool. I'll pretend to be him.
I Need To Break My Social Media Bubble
I'm not defending Clinton, and I understand if you've decided you never want to hear her talk again. But I think this is the best example of how media "bubbles" ruined this election.
Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" moment became the symbol of her inability to connect with the American right, because it's a stupid robot phrase no normal human would ever use. But if you look at the actual context of what Clinton said, you'll see that she was trying, awkwardly, to reach out to people:
"We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic -- you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people -- now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks -- they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.
"But the other basket -- and I know this because I see friends from all over America here -- I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas -- as well as, you know, New York and California -- but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change."
So the people saying that Clinton completely ignored rural whites were wrong -- the problem was that they were given a garbled version of her message. We can argue about how well this is worded (personally, I don't think anyone is irredeemable), but it's still an example of Clinton reaching out to Trump supporters. She's saying, "I see the racists backing Trump, but I see you too, and I know you're different. I don't put you in the same basket." She was saying to her supporters, "Don't label all Trump voters racist. They're not. They're good people." It's an utterly uncontroversial message. But the reason it backfired so magnificently is that there's an entire industry that exists to tell people that Democrats are arrogant, condescending, and out of touch. There's another industry that exists to tell people on the left that Republicans are racist, stupid, and violent. Both these industries need to be shut. The fuck. Down.
(Of course, this raises the question: Did Trump do something similar? I worked hard to escape my liberal bubble, but if I missed something Trump did or said that will ease my concerns, I would love to see it, because I am not getting any sleep right now, because I'm scared for my friends.)
And speaking of that ...
I Owe It To You To Be Better
Not to get too inside-baseball here, but every writer knows they're writing for a specific audience. When I ran the alternative student newspaper in college, I wrote specifically for my classmates. When I wrote a newsletter for a book club in a Washington, D.C. jail, I wrote for those kids. In my freelance days, I had different "voices" for each venue I wrote for. And for a long time, I tried to be conscious of different views. Most my political views are built on a couple decades of thinking and research and opinion. Most my views on racism in America, for example, are informed hugely by all my specific experiences in life, from living in countries where whites are a minority to the specific books I've read and people I've known.
Then, over the years, I got lazy. I could give you a thousand good reasons and 10,000 stupid ones. I moved to a new city and the distractions got to me. My dad died. I entered and left romantic relationships. I got, like, really into scotch (Ledaig 10-Year is the pinnacle of human accomplishment in affordable and delicious scotches) and then, like, sorta into wine (I know how to pronounce "Pinot Noir"). I had to change my car's air filter. Some of my friends got married and had sick-nasty weddings. Fallout 4 came out. At some point, I forgot to not assume my audience agreed with me. And because of that, I contributed to the media bubble problem that is dividing our country.
The truth is, our two political camps are speaking totally different languages. You know when a woman brings up "rape culture," and a nearby dude makes a face like she just started speaking in Klingon? That guy has never had anyone sit down and explain what the term means -- he's only heard it described by critics who want it to sound as stupid as possible. It's the same with Trump's "Grab her by the pussy" comment. That only seems horrifying if you already agree with the conceit of rape culture. If not, it may seem like everyone was being oversensitive. I didn't see anyone trying to bridge that ideological gap. I certainly never gave it a shot.
That stops today. This doesn't mean that I'm switching to the winning side or changing any of my views at all. It just means that I'm going to work harder to remember that other people coming from different places or coming to different conclusions as me are human beings with love for their families and beer in their fridges, and that I would probably enjoy spending an afternoon with a lot of them. It's my responsibility to remember them with every word I write. I hope they'll repay my effort by giving my point of view a chance, because I never want to see my home in this much pain again.
JF Sargent is a senior editor and columnist for Cracked, and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
For more post-election reactions check out A Letter To My Wife After The Election and Dear White Friends: Stop Saying Everything Is Going To Be OK.
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