Some version of this has been rolling around in my head all day. I have never felt so despondent in my life. We’ve been through the Reagan years and all the resulting deaths because of his blatant disregard for the lives of gay men and his (non) policies around the HIV epidemic; we’ve been through both of the Bush presidencies and their resulting chaos and needless wars — and yet. Somehow, nothing is as terrifying to me as the results of yesterday’s election.
I am crushed. I woke feeling despair.
I teach American literature, and today, we were discussing Thoreau. How fitting to think about his words in “Civil Disobedience” when he wrote: “Practially speaking, the opponents to a reform in Massachusetts are not a hundred thousand politicians in the South, but a hundred thousand merchants and farmers here, who are more interested in commerce and agriculture than they are in humanity, and are not prepared to do justice to the slave and to Mexico , cost what it may.” How that resonates. How many Trump supporters are claiming on Facebook that they are not the voice of hatred and discrimination, that they elected him for other reasons? To them I say, you are guilty. You are as guilty as if you said the words yourself. You are certainly guilty of caring more about commerce than humanity.
Thoreau continues: “It is not a man’ duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous, wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practially his support.” (emphasis mine). Voting for Trump is giving him your support. Voting for Trump is saying that you don’t care about people of color, or LGBTQ folks, or immigrants, or the disabled, or non-Christians. It is as simple as that. Because if you did, you wouldn’t have voted for him. You couldn’t have.
I’m also teaching my students how to write arguments. I’m teaching them to consider all the evidence, that opinions are formed based on sound evidence. I’m teaching them critical thinking, that learning to think and write clearly is hard work but that it will all be worth it in the end. But this morning–this morning they see a different reality. They see that maybe hard work means nothing at all. They see that a reality TV star with no experience governing can be elected President of the United States (it IS a reality TV show, right?)– that the most experienced person we’ve ever had run for President didn’t win, that all her hard work wasn’t worth much, in the end. So many people during this election seemingly ignored everything Donald Trump said or did, and they voted for him anyway. (Reminds me of George Bush and his weapons of mass destruction. All the evidence said: “There aren’t any.” George Bush: Well, I believe that there are.”). And still–I think I’d rather have George Bush than Donald Trump. There. I’ve said it. (Even Paul Ryan looks good right now).
This is a scary, scary man. This is someone who is prepared to do very real harm to this country, and while the majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton and NOT Donald Trump, too many fellow Americans decided that their neighbors weren’t worth fighting for. They decided their pocketbooks meant more to them than people, and that’s a sad, sad day. I don’t know why I’m so surprised, and maybe that’s part of the despair. I didn’t believe it would happen. I didn’t think it was possible. I didn’t realize so much hate simmered beneath the surface. I didn’t know how many people could ignore the terrible things Donald Trump did, the things he said and his obvious disregard for others.
But like Thoreau, we will resist. We will continue to fight for what’s right. The despair will give way to anger, and the anger will motivate us. We are not going away. And I, at least, am not ready to unite with anyone who voted away my rights. Not yet. Not for a long, long while.