By Emily L. Witt, Staff Writer
Graphic by John Heartfield
On January 21st, a reality TV star who repeatedly appeared on Howard Stern and once joked that he himself was a sexual predator, was inaugurated as our 45th president of the United States.
When I think about the morning of November 9th, I begin to picture something unfathomable:
A family sits around the table for breakfast with smiles on their faces, and a Trump sign hanging in the window. A father tells his children that America will be great again. Their little boy asks if he can hang a Trump sign in his room next to his personal Christmas tree. Later when they go to a Christmas train, their little girl excitedly looks at it and says, “Mommy, is that the Trump train?”
They tell their children that he is a godly man, who will fix our economy, drain the swamp, build the wall, lock up Hillary, and outlaw abortion.
46.1% of Americans that voted for Mr. Trump tell this to their children proudly, as they click on the heart next to his most recent twitter post.
On the morning of November 9th, I was grateful that I did not have children.
But I did wonder what I would tell my future children about November 8th, 2016—what I would tell them about a historically vitriol-filled election that irreparably divided and exposed America.
Donald Trump’s election has caused a global upset that will stain the pages of our history books until the nation disintegrates in a Romanesque fashion. Hopefully, the crumbling will be chronicled for the world through clever memes made by our descendants who cannot go outside without facemasks, because the air is no longer breathable.
Trump’s rise will be immortalized. So will his fall.
What will we choose to normalize for the next four years?
The Rust-Belt Reality
Finding something productive to say about this election has been difficult, and over two months later, I still feel waves of hopelessness. I dance between rejecting this idea that liberal elitism is to blame, and feeling as if we need to completely obliterate our liberal bubble in which the issues Trump supporters voted for are considered completely invalid.
Like many college students, I felt a deep sense of dread at the thought of returning home for the holidays.
I felt I had an obligation to open myself up to an invasion of Trumpian ideas as if I were an anthropologist in a strange world of post-fact.
I visited my home of Oklahoman Trump Land, and the things I heard appalled me, puzzled me, angered me—and caused a minute amount of understanding.
I thought that surely most of his supporters didn’t actually believe that Hillary won the popular vote solely due to voter fraud, that the “liberal news media” constantly publishes blatant lies about their leader, and that Hillary wanted to confiscate guns, let in 650 million refugees, paid “the guy” investigating her emails $675,000, and laughed about a little girl being raped.
There must be a more logical reason for their vote that I just hadn’t found a way to empathize with.
But instead, I heard regurgitated Fox News sound-bites for two straight weeks.
Before traveling to Trumpland, I thought that most of these people probably voted for Trump out of a belief that he could save rural economies and misguided Islamophobia.
This promise would certainly be a historical feat since rural economies have been shriveling for decades due to the dependence on oil.
Economic starvation causes a need for a scapegoat, not a need for logical solutions. His constituency (or rather fan base) will construct whatever narrative needed to excuse his actions.
The governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, has obliterated Oklahoma’s education system with her misallocation of education funds and proposed voucher program that would kill rural schools.
Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has the same plan for our nation that Fallin did for Oklahoma.
But when I brought up this point, I got nothing but a “well, I wasn’t aware of that. But Trump is about to make America great again, so I’m sure education will be better.”
Because to them, his actions are heroic and revolutionary.
To them, this is a reshaping of government that will erase the scourge of political correctness, environmentalism, liberal elitists, and the liberal news media.
Their leader is a ‘real man,’ who won’t put up with the unfairness of being under national scrutiny just like literally every other president before him.
He’s too smart for intelligence briefings and is pragmatic enough to say that we should just move on from that whole Russia hacking thing, and the dossier suggesting that he’s been blackmailed for enjoying golden showers from Russian prostitutes—computers are over-complicating our lives.
But they weren’t all that complicated when Clinton used a private email server.
They love it. This is what they elected. This is what they want for now.
Excuses for 897 hate crimes committed since Trump’s election were rampant. There will undoubtedly be more by the time this article is published.
“Well, you do know that the story from Ann Arbor was proven false.”
Yes, the fall from 898 recorded hate crimes to 897 is significant.
Granted, you can’t trust CNN. Aka: “The Clinton News Network.”
“Not All of Us”
A white man who identifies as an Independent told me that nothing would really change in our daily lives. He said that he “doesn’t believe that healthcare should be free. We [he and his wife] never had a problem going to Planned Parenthood and getting free birth control.”
I told him that Planned Parenthood had just been federally defunded in Texas, where he lives, due to a video that was found to be fake in a court of law.
There was no reply.
Choosing to see his win as something philosophical that will not have real consequences is a sign of immense privilege. And I do not accept that calm conversation should be confused with productive conversation.
While being immersed in the world of rural Oklahoma gives way to the most extreme examples of Trumpism, it did prove me wrong about one thing: there is no way to be passively pro-Trump.
Because if the people that I spoke with had given intelligible reasons for supporting Trump, the act of voting for the man is to support the unintelligible.
Not all Trump supporters hate women;
They just don’t care about all of the little girls and women that fear they’ll be sexually assaulted because the president could do it and still get elected.
They just don’t care that “grab her by the pussy” was chanted at his rallies.
They just don’t care that for survivors of sexual assault: those are not “just words, folks.”
They just don’t care that he denigrated his many accusers so harshly that many of the accusations just faded away, showing exactly why those women waited so long to come forward in the first place.
They just don’t care that he’s called women fat, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.
They just don’t care that he shrugged off the sexual assault of women in the military and made excuses for the men by saying; “26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”
(He actually spelled “assaults” wrong).
They just don’t care that he makes sexualized comments about his own daughter.
They just don’t care that he would walk in on the contestants for Miss Universe while they were changing, and say that it was his right because he owns the pageant.
Dear men in my life that voted for Trump, do you think that I’m something to be owned?
Not all Trump supporters are racist;
They just don’t care that he wants to register Muslims, much like the first steps that led us to Japanese Internment camps.
They just don’t care that my Muslim-AMERICAN friends feel unsafe, and as if they can no longer live in their HOME COUNTRY.
They just don’t care that all over college campuses, (DePaul being one of them) nooses are being left in the quad and on students’ doorsteps.
They don’t care that “build the wall” was spray painted on the sidewalks, chanted at rallies, and in high schools, written on students’ lockers.
They just don’t care that they support a man who wouldn’t disavow the KKK, or that they marched in celebration of him after the election.
They just don’t care that he said a Mexican-American judge shouldn’t be allowed to give rulings in a case against him.
They just don’t care that he called Mexicans (oh, excuse me, some Mexicans), rapists.
They just don’t care that buildings are being tagged with swastikas with his name right beside them, all over the US.
The New Normal Doesn’t Exist
We are being strangled by the loop of history, and there’s nothing okay with normalizing that.
The Japanese Internment Camps have gone from being regarded as an egregious gutting of human rights, to something that is being continually rationalized as Conservatives rave about a Muslim registry.
Women’s reproductive rights face the largest scrutiny since Roe v. Wade.
The only way Trump will unite our nation is if his presidency fosters a shared hatred of him and his administration.
I’ll leave you with an anecdote from the frontlines of Trump’s America:
His election has not only empowered his followers to spout his rhetoric—it’s empowered them to give it their own spin. This was something I regretfully witnessed when I heard a man state that being trans or gay was no different than being a child molester in God’s eyes; because they are all urges that we’re expected not to give in to. This was followed by the assertion that “it’s just logical that women should be on guard for everything,” in reference to a woman’s blame in her own rape or sexual assault.
But the most crushing thing about this moment—and countless like it in homes across America–is that this person has probably always had this opinion. The rise of Trump just made him feel emboldened enough to say it in front his bisexual daughter that’s been sexually assaulted.
If this is an America you can quietly live in—if Trump is a man whose followers you can normalize so that we can all have some empathy and understanding—you are the problem. You are living in the new iteration of a liberal bubble.
Your silence is more than passive submission.
Your silence is a decision to support hatred.