Tonight I’m supposed to be editing one of the novels Not a Pipe Publishing will be releasing next year, but I can’t. I can’t. I can’t get my hands to stop shaking. I am too furious. Sure, there is mounting evidence that our President is beholden to a foreign dictator. And yes, his infantile antics have increased the likelihood of two avoidable wars in the last three days. I’ve been outraged since he announced his candidacy and wasn’t immediately excluded from consideration for calling all Mexican immigrants rapists. I thought I couldn’t get more angry, that my anger would wear off because I didn’t have the energy to maintain that level of constant frustration. Then I read about what happened in Charlottesville.
In Charlottesville, Virginia (tonight, in 2017!), a group of white supremacists wielding torches marched on the University of Virginia chanting Nazi slogans, calling passersby the N word, and surrounding and beating non-violent counter protesters. These violent white supremacists were met with far, far less resistance from the police than peaceful BLM protests. These white supremacists have been quite open about the fact that they are doing this because they know they have the support of Donald Trump. But sure enough, some (white) guy hopped on my FB page to say he still believes he was right to vote for Donald Trump, and it’s unfair to blame this Trump voter for the actions of “a few idiots,” specifically the people Trump actively courted, employed, and supported throughout his candidacy. This guy even trotted out the old myth of “reverse racism.” I explained that,
A) Racism is prejudice plus power. White people can face prejudice based on race, but it's not racism without the institutional power structure to support it, and calling it racism is an insult to people of color who face racial discrimination that is also supported by institutional racism. Accusing BLM of racism shows a lack of understanding of what racism really is.
And B) People are not responsible for what a small group of idiots do unless they knowingly support that small group of idiots. Everyone who voted for Trump knew or should have known. This isn't like blaming all gun owners for a madman's actions. It's blaming the person who handed the madman the gun and said, "I heard you announcing what you would do (loudly, into a microphone, over and over) and I don't care."
But I couldn’t be nice anymore, and I made it clear that I do hold all Trump voters responsible for this, and that unless they will own up to their part in it, I won’t interact with them anymore online. As I told another friend yesterday, “I've come to believe that there is a point where, when someone knowingly supports someone who will kick out my undocumented kids [by “kids” I mean my students], force my trans kids into the wrong bathrooms and keep them from joining the military, keep my Muslim kids from visiting their grandparents, accuse my Black kids of living in hell, call my Mexican-American kids rapists, populate his staff with neo-Nazis, and threaten to grab my wife by the pussy, that person is not really my friend, or at least doesn't care enough about me or the people I care about to let our friendship affect their voting. I can certainly forgive people who didn't know or who were deceived by all the false information about Clinton ...as long as they now realize they were wrong. But when they double down in the face of the evidence, they are telling me they not only didn't care enough about me or my loved ones to let it affect their voting, but that they care more about protecting their egos than they care about my loved ones now. That's just as disqualifying. I used to be far more generous when it came to having friends with different political views. I basically drew my line at Nazis/racists/sexists/homophobes, and I was even willing to overlook some small measure of homophobia when I knew people were really struggling with their religious baggage. But this is all of those rolled into one, and though I can still be polite and respectful to people who would vote for someone who would hurt me and my loved ones, I can't consider them a friend because they do not really care about me or anyone I love, and that's kind of a minimum expectation of a friend. And if someone is more afraid of admitting error than they are of needlessly ripping families apart or ruining someone's military career, they are not the kind of person I want to call a friend. My friends and I make mistakes all the time, but we own it.”
I don’t want to post some pithy, “If you voted for Trump, unfriend me,” message. I don’t want to lose friends. I like people and have an unhealthy need to be liked by others. So I’m writing this down to make this clear to people who are still Trump supporters: Wait. Don’t engage with me. If you value our friendship at all, when you are ready, come back and tell me that you don’t want my students deported, you don’t support Trump’s racist rhetoric, you don’t support sexual assault or people who brag about committing it, you don’t support discriminating against people based on their religions when it comes to their right to immigrate or travel to see loved ones, you don’t support Trump’s bigotry against trans people. Tell me you were wrong to vote for Donald Trump, that you regret your role in hurting so many people through that decision of yours, and you’re sorry. If you’re still feeling defensive and want to try to justify any of these to me, either by arguing Trump is right to support some or all of this bigotry, or by deflecting with some “yeah but what about ____” excuse, you’re not ready yet. Wait.
And when you’re ready to say you oppose all these things that Trump stood for (openly, publically, that you either knew about or should have known about), then acknowledge that you supported every single one of these things by voting for him. I understand holding your nose to vote for a candidate who disagrees with you on an issue. We’ve all done that. But when we do it, we’re responsible even for the thing we held our noses about. We make a calculation that one thing is tolerable if it gets us something else. Well, a vote for Trump means, even if you oppose his racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious bigotry, you own those and thought the wellbeing of the vast majority of your fellow Americans was secondary to whatever you wanted Trump to do for you. Own it. And when you’re ready to say you were wrong, that you’re sorry, and that you’re not going to threaten Black people or Women or LGBTQI people or Mexican Americans or Muslims OR SUPPORT THOSE WHO DO just to get what you want ever again, ...when you are ready to apologize for that publicly, then I will believe you care about me and my loved ones again. It will be hard for me, but I pledge to you that I will remember the mistakes I’ve made, and I will forgive you.
I’ll be open about one of those mistakes right now: I was painfully naive about the quantity and quality of racism in my country right up until election night. I was wrong. I knew we still had a lot of racism, that it not only hid in the hearts of many of my fellow countrymen, but that it still infects our institutions and the ways those institutions interact. But I did not realize how bad it was, nor how much it had come to the surface during the Obama years as Republicans launched every kind of invective at Obama and more and more racists saw that as permission to allow their cultural insecurity to metastasize. I admit that my naivete was a function of privilege; by virtue of my skin color (and the fact that I’m not easily identified as being of Jewish descent by anti-semites), I was afforded the luxury of not worrying enough about racism. Ditto for the degree of sexism I was blind to, and could afford to be blind to thanks to my gender. As an agnostic of Jewish descent, I was already pretty sensitive to the oppression people of non-Christian faiths (or no faith) experience in our Christian dominated culture, ranging from the relatively innocent presumptions that everyone is Christian to the overt bigotry aimed most disgustingly as Muslims in America and abroad. But my status as a cis straight guy allowed me to underestimate the amount of hatefulness directed at the LGBTQI people around me. I was wrong. I admit it. I’m working hard to learn more and taking active steps to promote equity. That’s how I will forgive myself for participating in and benefiting from my privilege. If I can forgive myself, I should extend that to others who acknowledge their part in it and work to make it right.
Now if you’re thinking, “Screw this guy. I don’t need his forgiveness. I didn’t do anything wrong,” that’s fine; you have every right to believe that. But beliefs have consequences. If you support Donald Trump, you don’t care about me or my loved ones. And why should I keep engaging with people on FB who are actively disdainful of me and the people I love? Just to get out of my bubble? Trust me, I read a lot of news from different sources, so I can read the opinions of people who are disdainful of me and who are far more articulate than you are. If it’s just about learning others’ points of view, I don’t need to learn them from people who pretend to be my friends on FB. I’ll get a far more illuminating understanding from people who are honest about their disdain for me and the people I love. And I am under no obligation to remain friends with people who only are hateful to SOME of my loved ones. I do not have to tolerate your intolerance to be a tolerant person. That infantile argument shows a shocking lack of understanding of what tolerance is. I welcome friends who disagree with me on a host of issues. You want to debate what our environmental policy should be, what our tax policy should be, how our education system should be set up, whether this god or that one exists, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Fine. I tolerate a lot of different views. But If you don’t believe I or my loved ones have basic human rights and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, why would you want to engage with me anyway? Tolerance is not the highest moral virtue, just a principle that allows a pluralistic society to function, and if you support Trump’s racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious bigotry, you have already taken a stand against a pluralistic society, so you can’t demand tolerance from others. Higher moral goods, like respecting human dignity, demand intolerance of intolerance.
Okay, I really have to get back to work now. These novels are not going to edit themselves. I’m just going to hold onto this and copy-and-paste it each time an avowed Trump supporter comes back to say they aren’t a sexist, they just support one, or they aren’t a racist, they just support one. I don’t have time to re-write this for each of them, and if they are never ready to apologize but are willing to wait silently until that never rolls around, at least they won’t get between me and my work.
Already I’m feeling compelled to apologise for this. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or expel them from my life. And then I remember that white supremacists were marching down the streets of an American city chanting Nazi slogans because Donald Trump and his supporters made them think that was okay! And I remind myself that my reluctance to hurt people’s feelings pales in comparison to what the targets of these white supremacists’ intimidation are feeling tonight. I can’t let my pathetic need for social approval keep me from speaking out against the horrific racism on display in Charlottesville, and I shouldn’t tolerate others’ pathetic need to avoid admitting error preventing them from condemning it. This is wrong. So, so wrong. And I won’t put up with people who support it, directly or indirectly, anymore.