I did not think I would be writing about this subject in this way just 24 hours ago, but here goes. I cannot speak in the voices of women, Muslims, the disabled, the African Americans, the Latinos or the many others that have been diminished and demeaned by Trump in this campaign, but I can speak in the voice of a veteran and the voice of a white male and I will address those two voices here.
As a veteran it is beyond imagination that people could support Trump – a four time draft dodger whose last dodge was a deferment for an alleged physical ailment (knee or foot I do not recall and it does not matter). When Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted he was heaped with ridicule and outright hatred, and I attribute that response to overt racism, naked and unrepentant. Ali’s stand, and you can agree or disagree with him, was based in conscience. Trump’s stand was based in cowardice – and he is the man that some of you just voted to be the Commander in Chief. Veterans who supported Trump should be ashamed.
As a white male in this culture I have tried to live my life by extending dignity, empathy, and respect to all people who have been part of my life. As a teacher I tried to extend these same principles to my classroom practice and the students that were in my classes. Reaching these principles has not been easy – it has required much work on my self and challenging and changing beliefs that I held (more about this later in this entry).
As I watched the dreadful results last night on television and I heard the commentators talk about the rural areas of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, my thoughts went back to two events in the past. The first event was Mitch McConnell speaking after President Obama won the election of 2008. McConnell stated that it was the Republican goal to make Barack Obama a one term president and to essentially be as obstructionist as they could. I truly believe that this attack was racist at its heart and in its intention. The second event was reflecting on my growing up in one of the red areas of the map of Pennsylvania that was shown on television last night and lessons that I was taught there. I learned many important concepts growing up in the red area of Pennsylvania – lessons about the importance of family and the concepts of dignity, empathy and respect. There were also concepts that were not as valuable – growing up in red areas of Pennsylvania meant that the people around me looked like me. Difference was primarily based on religion – one was either Protestant or Catholic. I was discouraged from making friends with Catholics my age. In a negative way I was taught that some people were ‘other’, and those people were not to be trusted. It took me years to recognize the hurt caused by that lesson. I believe today that racism was part of that lesson even though sometimes people did not admit as much to themselves. I believe that ingrained racism, whether taught by direct or indirect messages, is what allows supremacist groups like the KKK to have a visible presence in red areas of the state such as Berks County.
Donald Trump (he of the 300 word vocabulary) and his alt right advisors knew how to play to that racism. By giving people arguments about the economy and to a lesser extent the email insinuations and the Clinton Foundation, allowed them to vote without having to recognize the racism in their vote.
Regarding that economic argument – one of the other lessons I learned growing up was about people of wealth. In my younger days wealth was represented by the coal barons. Donald Trump, the casino capitalist, is cut from the same cloth as those coal barons. Coal barons and Trump care only about the accumulation of personal wealth. Miners then and miners now, realize this and know in their hearts that they are engaged in a pact with the devil. Working wages bought their silence, albeit at the cost of their health. My grandfather died from black lung and my grandmother had to scramble in order to receive a pittance from the black lung that killed her husband.
I truly see racism (and in Trump’s case a strong dose of misogyny) as the root cause of this election result. I believe the eight years of the Obama administration was so abhorrent to Republicans (and Clinton was seen as an extension of that legacy) that they would even support Trump in order to end it.
A lot of work is still to be accomplished and the struggle goes on. I look forward to being a part of that struggle to gain equity and fairness in America.