It has been more than three and a half years since I have posted on my blog. Short version: my concerns haven’t been ones I felt were relevant to others. On Tuesday night, that changed.
It may seem as though a chasm of political differences lies between us, and you may feel that anti-Trump voters have unfairly painted you as a racist misogynist who wants to remove everyone but white Christians from the country; or who doesn’t care if we alienate our allies, set off nuclear war, or invite Russia to meddle in elections; who is willing to excuse all Trump’s crimes, lies, and idolatry of repressive authoritarians just because he’s not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama; or who is just not all that bright.
No doubt some Trump voters are all these things and worse, but I am not writing to those people. I am writing to you, one of the basically good and intelligent people, who, like me, has concerns about the direction of the country. Maybe your solutions are different from mine, but as far as I can tell, you voted for Trump because you felt that Clinton would continue policies from the Obama administration that you opposed, that haven’t done enough to help you, or that you felt put Americans at risk. I’m sure we could debate about whether Obama or Congressional obstructionism should be assigned responsibility for the shortcomings of the past eight years, or whether anyone could have been more successful given the circumstances Obama inherited from the Bush administration, but I certainly don’t blame you a bit for wanting a change.
In my basic writing classes, I have been talking to my students about ways to use writing to make themselves heard and to be voices for positive change between elections. On Election Day, we happened to be working on an assignment in which students write a letter to praise or criticize a business, policy, or employee (I only gave them “praise” as an option for individuals). Privately, I have also given considerable thought over the past few days to how I, too, can make a difference through writing. I have asked my students to identify a recipient for their letters. For mine, I have chosen you, the good conservatives among my friends.
I am not writing to justify my feelings about this election, nor am I asking you to justify yours. Honestly, I’m feeling a little raw and would just as soon not go there. Whether or not you voted for Trump (and I know a lot of conservatives who didn’t), I know in my heart that you are not bigots, misogynists, neo-Nazis, and homophobes, even when you show you don’t understand the depth of the grief that some of us are feeling.
I write as a teacher of students at a diverse community college, some of whom are terrified and devastated by some of the language Trump and his supporters have used to discuss race and gender. They are even more alarmed by some of the actions that have been reported since the election. A Hispanic student said one of his friends recently started joking, “You’re going to help Trump build that wall.” Another student broke down in tears when she expressed her struggle with what it meant that her fellow citizens could elect a president who so openly objectified and professed violence toward women. A conservative student who couldn’t bring himself to vote for Trump after the bus tape was released worried that everyone in the class would think he was a racist or a homophobe. Yes, I’m aware that as of this writing there has also been violence against Trump supporters and at least one faked incident of hate speech, but I’m assuming that, as decent people, we can agree that hate speech and hate crimes are bad without arguing over who is the bigger hater.
Unfortunately, some of Trump’s supporters have interpreted his victory as an endorsement of white supremacy, race warfare, sexual assault, misogyny, mass deportations, declarations that suggest disregard for the Constitution and infringement on free speech, a cavalier attitude toward human rights, and use of the power of the office to persecute individuals who dare question him. Based on how many Congressional actions have split along party lines, I am concerned about the possibility that the legislature will drift toward Trump’s worst excesses and away from what even you and I—probably on opposite or nearly-opposite ends of the political spectrum—can agree are American values.
I am asking you to speak for these values, forcefully, clearly, and loudly. If you voted for what you saw as the positive aspects of Trump’s platform or against what you saw as the negative aspects of Hillary’s, we need you. We need you to speak out about what you voted for, and if you didn’t vote for religious, gender, or racial persecution, we need you to say so. Trump has already dismissed dissent as “unfair,” and I’ve seen more than one post bemoaning “liberal crybabies.” To the best of my knowledge, Trump won the election fair and square under the election process we have (#notmypresident notwithstanding).
For me and others who voted against him, the worst aspects of Trump and his campaign were disqualifying. If you were one of the many people who voted for him because other aspects of his candidacy overrode your concerns about the man, prove it. Make it clear to me, your party, and the president-elect that you didn’t vote for hate crimes or hate speech. Most likely we still have plenty of political disagreements ahead. But where we do agree, please, for the love of country, please speak out.
One easy way to speak out is to sign this petition: https://www.splcenter.org/tell-donald-trump-reject-hate-and-bigotry-0.