I originally posted this on Facebook, after some loved ones got upset that I posted links to this article and this one. I’m posting it here now for ease of access, both for my future self and for others who don’t have access to my Facebook feed. Your thoughts are welcome, but be warned I’ll be watching the comment section with extra vigilance.
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I’ve heard from friends and loved ones in the Midwest that the things I’ve posted on Facebook in the past few days have hurt their feelings. I don’t take that lightly – but I didn’t post the things I posted lightly, either. I’m posting this now to hopefully open a dialogue. It’s depressingly long, because I lacked the skill to write it shorter.
If you don’t want to hit me back here, that’s fine. I’d actually prefer to have the follow-up conversations one-on-one, in messenger, email, or by phone. This is just a starting point for me. I realize some of the language below may strike you as inflammatory. I went as high as I am capable of going right now, and if it wasn’t high enough, I can only ask you to reach down and try to pull me up.
Part 1 is about why I’m hurt that people I love voted for Trump. If you didn’t vote for Trump, great, skip down to Part 2, which is about why I’ve posted what I have lately.
*** PART 1: Why (and who) your vote for Trump hurts ***
Let’s start with some background.
For Vicki and me, Muslims, Hispanics, LGBTQ folks, and other minorities aren’t abstractions. They’re our friends, coworkers, students, and fellow parishioners (okay, not the Muslims, but our church does participate in an interfaith council and works with mosques to feed the poor, and we love it). People of other ethnicities, religions, and orientations are at our faculty meetings, our star parties, and our barbeques. And every year we have many, many minority students. Some of them are members of multiple minorities. Many of them came to America to escape repressive regimes and religious intolerance overseas (good thing they won’t see any more of that, right!).
The three things to note about this are, first, there’s nothing unusual about this level of diversity out here. It’s been the baseline for us since we moved to California 15 years ago. Second, we freaking love it. We love these people, and we wouldn’t trade the richness and love they bring to our lives for anything. And third, even with all of this diversity, things are far from equal even here. We see and hear about the struggles our minority friends, colleagues, and students have to go through just to be taken seriously or to avoid harassment, even here in lefty California, even in normal years. Just to be treated as full human beings instead of stereotypes. If you think the struggle isn’t real, I’m glad your life is so easy.
(Side question for red-staters: do you encounter these struggling people? Ever have a gay Hispanic kid crying in your office, or try to comfort a Muslim woman who’s worried her hijab will keep her from getting a job? Or is this just theoretical for you? I’m not trying to be snide – I thought I was worldly and tolerant when I lived in Oklahoma, but I had _no idea_ how much of a straight white Christian bubble I was in.)
So when Donald Trump kicked off his campaign by smearing Hispanic people, it didn’t land here as loose talk or something to be celebrated. It caused real pain and fear among people who have struggled their whole lives to be treated fairly. Same for the Muslims, LGBTQ, and other minorities as the campaign went on. Trump wasn’t talking about empty labels, “those people” who live conveniently off-screen. He was talking about the people all around us, in every part of our lives. (Okay, Trump has not said a ton about LBGTQ folks and even waved a Pride flag a couple of times, but Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, etc. are walking gay rights disasters, so he gets no points there.)
Now, Vicki and I are personally insulated from the worst of Trump’s bigotry because we’re still straight white Christians. But precisely because we’re Christians, we feel a responsibility to take seriously the pain of our neighbors, and to use our privilege to stand alongside all the unprivileged people who have been targeted as scapegoats for the past 16 months. (To the unprivileged: if we’ve let you down, we’re sorry – please tell us how to do better.)
So that’s point one: our values, our experiences, and our understanding of Christ require us to resist Trump’s bigotry, which has caused real pain to actual people that we know for almost a year and a half. Flag that for future reference.
Next item: Trump has lied to just about every person in his life, has lied obviously to the American public repeatedly during the campaign, cheated on his wives and bragged about it, stiffed the people he hired and bragged about it, and changed his mind on just about every possibly policy position. Until a decade or so ago, he was pro-choice. He’s a billionaire playboy who speaks and acts as if women and their bodies are just playthings for him, and at least a dozen people credibly claim that he sexually assaulted them. So the idea that he’s some kind of principled social conservative is ludicrous. (Although he’s surrounded himself with social conservatives, and in the case of Steve Bannon, white supremacists.)
So here’s my beef with “values voters” who went for Trump in the hope of getting more conservatives on the Supreme Court (if you voted for Trump for economic reasons, this ain’t about you – but let’s check back after bank deregulation and tariffs and see how things are going). Even if I thought a more conservative Supreme Court was a desirable outcome – and I don’t, because I love the people conservatives hurt – that leaves the following problems:
1. Trump has lied or shifted his position on just about everything. He clearly thinks that absolutely everything is open to negotiation, and that sincere people (including you) are suckers to be hustled. He’s already backed down on repealing the most significant parts of Obamacare and on building the wall, so even core planks of his campaign are fungible now that he’s won. He’s suddenly become very conciliatory toward Democrats, including Hillary and Obama, possibly because he knows that Pence is impeachment bait and he needs allies (we know people who voted for Trump for this very reason: they wanted Pence and think they’ll get him). Everything we know about Trump suggests that he would just love to play Republicans and Democrats against each other so neither group is strong enough to control him (see: his flip-flopping treatment of Fox News and CNN on the campaign trail). So what makes you think that he will actually carry through and nominate social conservatives to the Supreme Court? In short, why do “values voters” think that you’re the only group ever that Trump won’t stiff the minute it become advantageous for him – especially if by betraying you he keeps Democrats happy enough to not help impeach him?
2. At what point is _maybe_ getting the person you want on the Supreme Court a Pyrrhic victory? In addition to mocking the disabled and bragging about sexual assault, Trump definitely said that he was going to deport millions of people, take away health insurance for millions more, re-institute torture, and bomb civilians. You can say that was just loose talk on the campaign trail, but one, it had real-world effects on your fellow humans (cue future reference, above) and corroded America’s political and moral standing in the world, and two, if you think Trump wasn’t serious about that stuff, why would you think he’d be any more serious about appointing your preferred justice? Since the election, we’ve had a spasm of hate crimes against all kinds of minorities by people who were definitely emboldened by Trump’s campaign-trail rhetoric, and he’s made an alt-right anti-Semite misogynist (Steve Bannon) his chief White House strategist and senior counselor. Now, _maybe_ Trump will actually appoint a social conservative to the Supreme Court, if it suits him, and _maybe_ a case will come up that will let the court overturn Roe v Wade, and _maybe_ they’ll actually do it. (Although conservative justices can surprise you – John E. Jones [District-level Bush appointee Republican] struck down both a gay marriage ban and the teaching of intelligent design, and John Roberts has declined to participate in opinions condemning Roe v Wade.) But does that string of maybes outweigh the actual fear and pain that millions of people have been experiencing for months and continue to experience? If you’re a Trump voter, I don’t think you’re necessarily racist, but you joined almost all of the actual racists in voting for a bigot, and that legitimized his bigotry whether you meant for it to or not (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/11/10/the-cinemax-theory-of-racism/). When I hear from people who voted for Trump because of the Supreme Court, what I hear is, “the actual suffering of real people right now means less to me than the chance for a possible future political victory.” I don’t see how that math adds up for anyone, especially not for people who call themselves Christians. At least when Esau traded his inheritance for a bowl of soup, the soup wasn’t hurting anyone!
I’d love to hear how that added up for you. I’m really trying to actually understand that, despite my exasperation.
*** PART 2: Why I’ve been posting the stuff I have ***
I have more than 600 Facebook friends (at least for now!). About a tenth of them don’t even live in the US. Most of the rest are Left Coasters we met in grad school or work, because that’s who was around when Facebook was taking off. I post on stargazing, paleontology, Dungeons & Dragons, movies, travel, teaching, and, yes, politics. I expect people who subscribe to my feed to be able to figure out which parts are and aren’t aimed at them.
None of the things I’ve posted lately have argued that every person in rural America is an incurious fundamentalist, only that there are a lot of incurious fundamentalists in rural America. So if you don’t consider yourself an incurious fundamentalist, why would you assume the article is about you? Or are you denying the idea that there are incurious fundamentalists in rural America? Because that’s a tough sell – it’s my lived experience from having grown up and gone to school and college in Oklahoma.
My intent has not been to hurt anyone, but to call out things that I’ve actually seen and experienced that are a huge problem for the country – people who have been on a steady drip of Fox News for 15 years and Rush Limbaugh for 30, who don’t see the damage their Trump votes caused because they don’t live alongside any of the minorities who are living in fear right now. (Okay, statistically, you almost certainly do have LGBTQ acquaintances. If they haven’t come out to you, it’s probably because they’re _afraid_ of _Christians_. That makes me weep.)
If you don’t think the articles I’ve posted describe you, good – I never intended them to! I didn’t post those articles AT you any more than I posted them AT our fellow scientists who happen to live and work in red states. I know full well that there are a lot of enlightened, compassionate people in Oklahoma – even as I try to grasp how a whole state and a whole region that identify as evangelical just legitimized months (and potentially years) of bigotry and violence by pulling the lever for Trump.
And if you choose to self-identify as an incurious fundamentalist or a bigot, um, I hope you’ve had a good ride? You may be geographically and culturally insulated from the harm your attitudes cause, but that does not mean your attitudes aren’t harmful, and I’m not about to stop calling them out. If that means we can’t be Facebook friends – if my feed is no longer a “safe space” for your intolerance – okay, I’ll do my best not to choke on that irony. Just remember that you left, not me.
If you are offended because you feel like I’m ignoring your individuality and treating you as one of a huge group, well, one, you’re probably wrong, for reasons explained above, and two, if you think this hurts, try and imagine what it would feel like if the President-elect and VP-elect labeled you as an undesirable and then threatened your whole group with registration, deportation, the loss of marriage rights, or electroshock therapy to ‘cure’ your sexuality. Because that’s what Trump voters actually inflicted on my friends, colleagues, students, and neighbors. And right now the real pain and fear my neighbors _can’t escape_ matters to me a lot more than whether privileged people I wasn’t necessarily talking to _choose_ to be offended by what I posted.
I love you. Your move.