It’s the Friday after the End of the World – or so it feels. I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions and experiences these last several days. At times I almost forget – I see now the appeal of not participating. In those moments when I’ve been able to opt out mentally and emotionally for a precious hour or so I can see the beauty in focusing in on what matters in my own little universe: my partner, my cat, my new couch, my comfortable little home.
Inevitably it comes crushing back down at some point – the reality of the situation we find ourselves in rushes back in and disrupts my oblivious little dream universe where I was so happily ensconced watching cat videos.
On the night of the election, just as Donald Trump was beginning his victory speech I posted on my Instagram. I said:
I never thought this would happen. I’m heartbroken, lost, afraid. And I don’t have any kindness or forgiveness in my heart for all those who supported him or simply stood aside and allowed him to rise. Not tonight. Maybe not ever. I didn’t like when Bush Jr won either election – I cried when he won his second term. But I am beyond tears tonight. I am full of white hot rage. And I am so sick of the decisions of dumb white men being the ones we all have to live with. Fuck you all.
Two days later, my brother posted his response:
“Ugh… this racist, sexist, elitist rant is beneath you… and so very misdirected. Delete it and try again. Exit polls show Clinton did worse than Obama with women voters, Hispanic voters, black voters and young voters. Maybe try spitting some of that venom at the Democratic leadership for fixing the primary and playing right into Trump’s narrative that the system IS rigged. #thanksdnc#trumpbringsouttheworstinpeople”
Noah and I have a great relationship – I love him dearly and he is the best big brother I could ask for. But our conversations around politics this last year or two have been fraught. At one point, I backed away from the conversation because I was getting offended and I didn’t want to engage in something that might make me very angry at him – I didn’t want to taint my opinion of him or strain our relationship. I’ve now come to regret that.
As I wrote the other day, I should’ve pushed harder and engaged more with the people in my life (liberal and conservative) who I have disagreed with. I should have tried to understand them better and to present more cogent arguments to them supporting my own theses. Instead I shied away from confrontation, from conflict, from difficult conversations and discomfort. But I realized yesterday, with my brother in particular, that I also shied away from being angry at him. I didn’t want to be angry at him or I didn’t think I should be. Meanwhile he had no problem being angry at me and expressing himself forcefully. In the end, all I did was silence myself.
Since I wrote my original Instagram post I’ve had time to reflect and recalibrate a bit. I am still angry at dumb white men. But now that we have more exit poll info and analysis, I am also angry at dumb white women. I’m also angry at third-party, protest, and abstaining voters. Noah’s underlying points are all valid: I am and have been angry at the DNC/Democratic party apparatus and leadership – I never said I wasn’t. The fact remains that the brunt of my anger is not reserved for them – and that showed in my initial reaction to the election results. My response to him on the post says everything about how I feel about his trying to police my reaction: “I won’t erase my anger, for you or anyone”.
I own my first reaction and I own the reactions I continue to have since then – they are all genuine and they are all valid. Away from the heat of anger I may have used less inflammatory language – I don’t really think not having a college degree makes you dumb, for example, but my beliefs are largely unchanged. Let’s break it down:
I’m angry at “dumb” white men and women because “Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree is the largest among any candidate in exit polls since 1980”.
It also should be noted that he won whites with a college degree, but just barely. So it’s fair to say whites as a whole are pretty disappointing this election. My take on this has been echoed elsewhere, but it basically comes down to this: if you held your nose and voted for Trump because he ran as a Republican, or because you thought with him in office you had a better chance at having policies you prefer put in place or continued; if you really didn’t like the things he said about Mexicans, or women, or the way he mocked a disabled reporter, criticized a Gold Star family, or has said Muslims should be put on a registry; but if you maybe equated those types of transgressions to the types Hillary Clinton has committed; and then you went ahead and voted for him – you are complicit in fomenting hate into our highest national office. Likewise, if you voted third party or didn’t vote at all because voting for his only real opponent was abhorrent to you – you are complicit. The message you sent to me and to many others was not “I am a racist” or “I am hateful” or “I want to repeal women’s rights and gay rights and send us back to the 60s” – the message you sent was “I don’t care that Donald Trump is all these things and wants all these things”, the message you sent was “my own conscience, or my own policy preferences are more important than your equality, your autonomy, your very survival”. And we heard you, loud and clear.
That is why so many are in mourning now, why so many are so angry, sad, and defeated-feeling. More than half the country decided on Tuesday that they would rather see Donald Trump in office (or would rather fail to stop him from being in office) than to help protect the most vulnerable segments of our population: minorities, the poor, the uneducated and disadvantaged, the LGBTQ communities, immigrants, and women. More than half the country decided, largely by dent of their own relative privilege, that the effects of a Trump presidency on themselves would be negligible or maybe even positive and didn’t give a shit about the effects it may have on others. So yea, to say I am most disappointed in all the people who showed up for Donald Trump is putting it mildly. I am second-most disappointed in all the people who didn’t show up for Hillary Clinton. Somewhere a couple bullet points down that list, I am also disappointed in the DNC/Establishment and the ways in which the Democrats have continuously failed not just the progressive left but the country as a whole.
To understand why that’s further down my list than, say, Noah’s, I offer this testimony:
All of my life, I have faced misogyny and sexism – it is lived experience for me and literally every woman. From cat-calls to condescension, I walk this gauntlet daily. All of my life, I have watched and listened as men in power – overwhelmingly old, white men – have tried to tell us what to do and how to live our lives. And it wasn’t just us they were trying to exert control over – it was black people and immigrants and gays and people practicing other religions (or no religion). Then I have also watched as these same old, white men successfully convinced poor and otherwise disenfranchised and disempowered white people that the problems they faced had nothing to do with capitalism or big business interests taking over government or the exploitation of overseas labor or changing technologies or inequality – but rather had everything to do with black people, immigrants, gays, Muslims, and women. I have watched as many of these white people have swallowed and internalized that messaging and made enemies of myself and my friends. Many more white people haven’t done that, but they have sat in their ivory towers, indifferent to the suffering of those below.
Hillary played the game a little too well – she had to in order to get ahead as a woman in a man’s world, but it compromised her integrity – she became part and parcel with this troubling, undemocratic system. She has made choices and alliances I would not have chosen for myself or for my ideal candidate. But – and this is important – by the time November 8th came around she was the only person placed to prevent Trump’s rising to the presidency. A male candidate with her bona fides – and her mistakes, missteps, quotes, and history – would have beaten Trump – I have not a doubt in my mind about that. It is incredibly painful to live with that knowledge but it is just another in a long line of indignities heaped upon women and all the other disenfranchised groups deeply affected by this election result, who are constantly reminded that we are less-than in our daily lives, and have now been shouted down by more than half the country once more.
So, yea, there’s a reason white men are numero uno on my list of where-to-direct-the-most-ire – I have suffered already at their hands for too long and now face a litany of further abuses and indignities. They overwhelmingly went for Trump in some demographics, less overwhelmingly (or not at all) in others, and many of them simply sat it out. You can argue that blacks and women and Latinos didn’t come out for Hillary as much as they did for Barack – but I won’t place the blame for her defeat there when the demographics look like this:
We tried. There were just more of you and you used your power to deny us ours.
So, again, I won’t erase my anger. I don’t regret what I said or take it back. If you’re one of the white men – or white people – who voted for Hillary, I’m sorry you’re taking flack right now for actions that aren’t yours to take ownership of – but that is the price that comes with privilege. That is the price I pay as a white-presenting woman who makes good money and lives in Portland, OR – I have to listen to the flack for white feminism and for this just like you have to. I’m sorry, it kind of sucks, I know. But it’s important and the best way for you to be an ally is for you to just shut up and listen – to shut up and take it, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s yours to take, and then to tell your friends. Not all white people are like you, they don’t all understand. Help them to understand.