Unfortunate Common Ground

When people voted for Trump, they didn’t do it because it was the best thing for America. They did it because they’ve got problems, and now they’ve made their problems everyone’s problems. They’re racists. They’re homophobes. They’re misogynists. And some, I assume, are good people.

This is the general tenor of the comments I’ve seen on Facebook. Not surprisingly, this offends people who did vote for Trump. I know some of them, and they are good people.

But they should be offended.

Because if being slandered with broad generalizations offends them, then maybe they can begin to understand what many Americans have experienced by their candidate and many of his supporters.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with [sic] us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Donald Trump, June 16, 2015.

“I think Islam hates us.” He went on to talk about the “tremendous hatred” that partly defines the religion. March 10, 2016.

During the first presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, Trump stated that “African Americans and Hispanics are living in hell. You walk down the street and you get shot.” He went on to warn about “gangs roaming the streets.” While crime in the inner cities is certainly a problem, it’s a gross exaggeration to imply that inner city violence is the lived reality of all African Americans and Latinos. Yet that’s what Trump did with his sweeping generalization.

These are only a few examples. Donald Trump has consistently labeled and dismissed entire groups of people based on stereotypes. For the people who bear those labels, it’s insulting, demoralizing, and offensive.

Maybe now you know how it feels.

There is a disturbing lack of common ground in politics these days. It’s unfortunate that the shared experience of prejudice may be the only common ground we have to build upon, but if that’s the way it is, then let’s start there.

There are reasons why so many people voted for Trump, and some of them have nothing to do with racism, homophobia, or misogyny. Millions of people in this country have felt the way liberals feel now: that their representative government doesn’t represent them. They have spoken, and we need to listen. Assigning a hate-filled motive to everyone who voted for Trump is just another form of prejudice, and it’s not going to get us anywhere.

That said, some of Trump’s supporters were motivated–in part or in whole–by hate. That’s being borne out now, with numerous acts of violence and verbal abuse towards those groups Trump labeled, insulted, and dismissed during his campaign. This is the lived reality of millions of American’s now, and it’s just not right.

If you are one of those Trump supporters who is presumably “a good person,” then prove it by speaking out against these acts of violence, standing up to protect those who are being marginalized, and holding President-elect Trump accountable for his rhetoric. His words are not harmless. It’s not just “locker-room talk” when women are sexually harassed and assaulted by those who feel their new president gave them permission. It’s not just hyperbole when acts of violence are committed against minorities in the name of Trump’s declared policy positions. You can support his trade policies, his economic policies, and his plan to end corruption in Washington without endangering the lives of American citizens and residents who don’t happen to be Christians of northern European descent.

But if you remain silent in the face of these atrocities, you lose the right to call yourself a good person. And if you defend or excuse these atrocities, then you need to own the labels we’re giving you, because you define yourself with your action or inaction.

I don’t want to start with prejudice being our common ground. I’d like to think better of us. But I don’t see a whole lot right now that gives me hope. So let’s start with prejudice. Let’s start by acknowledging it in all its forms, and let’s work to stop it.

We have to begin somewhere.

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