For over a year, I suspected. For months, I knew. Donald Trump would be our next President. We Americans have no one to blame but ourselves, but since assigning blame is a way to shine light on problems, let this be a floodlight into our collective consciousness.
I’ve personally spent the past five years shouting into the ether about the erosion in the United States of both our First Amendment rights and our rights as women. The right to speak freely about one’s opinion of one’s government, without fear of retaliation, is the most crucial right we have. Many Americans take the First Amendment for granted, and instead fight over the Second Amendment. I’m convinced that the Founding Fathers put the right to bear arms in opposition to tyranny after the right to speak freely against one’s government for a very good reason. They knew that without the threat of violence to back up the words of a dissident, the dissident would be immediately dead. They’d seen how those who disagreed with the crowns of Europe were imprisoned or killed for speaking out against their rulers. Unfortunately, Americans, with their typical lack of nuance, glommed onto gun rights without understanding the true purpose behind them. In an act of rhetorical cunning, Americans were convinced that “patriotism” meant defending the guns, not the words.
While I was shouting about the loss of our rights, liberal Americans were fat and happy. They were “good people” who had voted in the first black man as POTUS. They supported marriage equality. They wanted a woman to be POTUS. They obtained degrees, bought houses, saw their wealth increase. In their world, anything that didn’t value what they valued was bad. They were good. Conservatives were bad. Conservatives were, in fact, deplorable. Since they didn’t need to worry or think about Conservatives, they could categorize them as uncaring or uneducated or unenlightened. They could mock them for being too religious or too rigid or too stupid.
Here’s the thing about people who are scared: they lash out. Fear is a killer, more so than hatred. It invokes irrational thought and actions. Trump spoke to the fear in many ways, but Hillary Clinton spoke to it in others.
You see, the ultimate hubris of the liberal Democrats was thinking the buoyancy of THE FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT was enough to lift the weight of twenty-five years of pain caused by her husband, Bill Clinton–a man who famously claimed to ‘feel our pain”–along with Hillary’s twenty-five years of being a cold political cipher. When I was advocating for Bernie Sanders in the primary, I said to my husband, who was leaning toward Hillary out of feminist solidarity, “It’s impossible to know where Hillary really stands versus where she thinks it’s politically expedient to stand. I want to know where Hillary Clinton is truly ‘ride-or-die’. What issues would she firmly espouse without capital, financial or political, attached?”
I’m still waiting for that answer.
That’s not to say that Hillary Clinton isn’t intelligent, diligent, prepared, or more than qualified to be POTUS. It is instead to say that you can forgive moral and ethical lapses if there are few ideological shifts, or you can forgive ideological shifts if they change with the overall culture and are free of moral or ethical lapses. Hillary Clinton was always late to the ideological party, swanning in at the last minute to take credit for legitimizing whatever issue was at hand. She was also the kid who takes a crap in the communal toilet and then makes excuses for not flushing. “I couldn’t find a plumber.” “The toilet was broken.” “It was like that when I got there.”
I’m willing to concede that I may have read Hillary Clinton wrong all these years, but there’s nothing in my reading of Donald Trump, our President-Elect that tells me I am wrong. The way I knew he was going to win was when the “pussy-grabbing” video came to light, and he went up in the polls. In a year with a woman as his opponent. In a country where women have the vote. Clearly, the women of this country (and 75% of the white women who voted chose Trump) didn’t feel that Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” was enough to disqualify him from being our Commander-in-Chief.
We are now faced with a man who has said horrendous things about Mexicans, Blacks, Asians, Muslims, Jews, women, the disabled. We are now faced with the cognitive dissonance of being told that he didn’t really mean any of those words he used to get elected while he fills his transition team with hard-core, right-wing, Christian conservative white men. We have a President-Elect who was endorsed by Vladimir Putin of Russia and Kim Jong-un of North Korea. We have a man who campaigned on hating immigrants, yet who has had immigrant wives in two of his three marriages. We have a man who campaigned on Christian values, yet who accepted endorsements from the KKK and white nationalists. We have a man who uses his wealth as a hammer to silence critics, yet stiffed his vendors and contractors.
Here we are, on November 13, 2016, firmly in the wrong timeline, this reality that shakes us to the core. We are looking at every civil right we have, every human right we have, being decimated. That may seem like a bold claim, but the evidence of the choices made by Mr. Trump back that claim up.
As I’ve said for many years, “One’s actions must line up to one’s words.” Donald Trump’s words during the campaign are bearing fruit by his actions after. Some of his critics are being silenced by small gestures he has made since Election Day: holding up a Pride Flag, promising to help Black Americans, having a plan to pay for college education for those who seek it. Yet, he has Mike Pence as his VP, Rudy Guiliani for Attorney General, and Ben Carson as his Education Secretary. Of course, we can’t know if these men will ultimately be in charge of anything, but we know what these men do believe and have done. Mr. Trump’s actions are in line with the words of his campaign.
I’m also a firm believer of “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” There will be no soft-focus pieces from me that we’re all Americans and everything will be okay. No, our “American exceptionalism” is baked into our racism, our fear, our hatred, our phony performative patriotism. We are all Americans. This is who we are; this is what we’re based on. Our actions for the past 240 years belie the pretty words in our Constitution. Making America great again really means making America white again.
Where to go from here? I have all the usual answers. Protest. Activism. Support.
But also: have a passport and an escape plan. Yes, staying and fighting is noble, but the ultimate goal is to survive, especially if you have small children. Let not the children suffer because the parents failed to heed the lessons of the past.