Friday, November 11, 2016

On Who the Bigots Are

It's important to be clear why we're upset. There are many reasons, but there are mainly two categories for our grievances.

First, we are upset at the prospects of a Donald Trump presidency and of the death, destruction, and misery he might bring. When we say that he won't be our worst president but our last president, we're not really joking.

Second, we are upset that we live in a country surrounded by people who voted for a vicious hate-monger, a buffoon, and a fascist. We don't want to be around such people and we are afraid of what those people might do to us. 

This post is about the second category, not the first. 

At last count, approximately 60 million people voted for Trump, as opposed to the 60.4 million who voted for Hillary Clinton. Would it be that much more comforting if somehow we went with the popular vote and not the electoral college? It would mean that Hillary Clinton would win, but we would still be surrounded by 60 million Trump voters.

Let's say that it wasn't 60 million. Let's say it was 55 million. No. How about 50 million, 40 million, 30 million? Well 30 million means that about 25 percent of the electorate was willing to vote fascist, which I had always assumed. I could still live with the prospect of living in the world in which one out of every four people was a fascist. It wouldn't make me feel good, but I figure the decent people could keep that 25 percent in line. And I've met these fascists, so I'm used to their existence. And I've met the children of these fascists. Hang out in gay bars in any city in the U.S. and you will meet refugees from communities dotted all through the South ruled by fundamentalist Christianity and violence.

But 50 percent is terrifying. Sixty million is terrifying. 

Is every one of these 60 million people, as Hillary Clinton calls them, "deplorable"? There are a lot of high-minded people out there who want to say that some of these 60 million people are deplorable, but that most are nursing legitimate economic grievances that the federal government has been ignoring for many years. Many of these people would not themselves utter the terrible things Trump says. They voted for him in spite of "grab them by the pussy" and "they're rapists." 

Then there's the claim put out by the equally high-minded Daily Show, that these 60 million people are just as bad as the KKK-level racists. Even if they really voted for Trump in spite of the racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism, they still bought the whole package. (Side note: I think this would be a good time to replace these terms with the phrases: Black hatred, Immigrant hatred, gay hatred, Muslim hatred, and Jew hatred. Those terms have a harder sound. Let's make these ideas sound like what they are.)  

And then the details of the demographics mess up the narrative. Do the 30 percent of latinos who voted for Trump hate themselves? Did the 53 percent of white women who voted for him do so because they are truly indifferent to sexism in their own lives? Maybe, like me, they understood that even vicious bigots can sometimes make the right policy decisions. I hate to tell you this, but Harry Truman said in private some damn terrible things about Jews and black people and Lyndon Johnson's passionate support for civil rights can be summed up in his infamous line, "Let the niggers vote." George W. Bush, famously, had no personal problems with gay people, but Hillary Clinton, according to an interview with her husband during the final year of his presidency, didn't much care for them. Policy-wise, Trump is firmly on the wrong side of the bread-and-butter issues that we think are unique to latinos, women, and Muslims. But, believe it or not, the xenophobia, misogyny, and racism latinos, women and Muslims suffer may not be the most important issue for them.

Homophobia, at one point in my life, was the most important political issue for me. When I came out in college, I was filled with righteous fury for the many homophobes who had made me hate myself through my adolescence. I felt I had been robbed of happiness. And I hated any politician who disagreed with me even an inch on issues like gay marriage. That changed after a few years. Believe it or not, a woman might not care that much about rape culture. Many white women hate abortion. A latino may care more about national security than about Trump's evil attack on the Mexican judge assigned to a case in which he stands as the defendent. Oh, and don't idealize any of these voters because they are members of an oppressed demographic. Don't assume they are endowed with some special wisdom on the nature of oppression. There are plenty of black people who hate gay people, and plenty of gay people who hate Muslims, and plenty of Muslims who hate Jews, and plenty of Jews who hate black people, and plenty of black people who hate Mexicans, and plenty of Mexicans who hate Muslims, and plenty of Muslims who hate gay people, and plenty of gay people who hate Jews, and plenty of all of them who have obtained some kind of financial security who hate the poor, including the poor who share their religion, sexuality, ethnicity, or national origin. 

Do you think Clinton voters are immune from feeling some of the evil Trump spits out of his mouth? I've been no angel in my life. Others haven't either. Of the homophobia from future Clinton voters whom I knew in high school, I can sum up as why do you have your hands on your hips like a girl oh my god do you think he's gay like the way he gossips you know are you thinking about a boy you perv. One of my fellow students on a language program in Arizona came up to me on the first day and told me I looked Asian when I smiled. Then he went off on the Jew jokes. Are you telling me you've never made fun of the Jews or the blacks or the gays or the Mexicans or the Muslims or the poor? Never told a rape joke? Hey, I can find some of those jokes funny, and I'll probably still find myself giggling at some garbage again. Family Guy is terrible for the soul, but I can dig some of the jokes. Those jokes can destroy a person's psyche. They destroyed part of mine. What am I saying? At least some of those 60.4 million Clinton voters have done terribly bigoted things that have hurt others.

And some of those 60.4 million Clinton voters also have a little sympathy for some of the Trumpies' ideas. Ask them if they're ok with putting an "M" for Muslim in every Muslim's passport. Ask them if they're comfortable with a transgender kindergarten teacher. I would like to see the results of such a survey. It probably wouldn't be pretty. 

This is a vicious country filled with savages. The world is vicious as well, and it is also filled with savages. The results of this election may have awakened a few of us to that tragic fact. But that tragic fact would be obvious to anyone who bothered to listen to other people, and more importantly, themselves.

But here's the crazy thing: Some of those savages would take you into their homes and feed you, clothe you, and give you shelter if they saw you on the street, starving, cold, and alone.

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