Sunday, August 13, 2017

A rhetorical question

​In November, just days after the election, I got in a Facebook-friendship-ending argument with my uncle about fear in the age of Trump. 

The argument spanned many topics, but for the bulk of it, I argued that the millions who voted against Trump (myself included) had legitimate fears. These fears were based on his campaign rhetoric that attacked, among others, women, minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, Muslims, and Jews, while dog whistling to the scum of our society, and based on history (as a history major who focused domestically on the Civil War and internationally on WWII, I know a thing or two about what happens when hate is given power).

The fears I confessed from my heart were reduced by my uncle to "liberal talking points," and he assured me that, "None of what you and millions of your like minded people think will happen will actually happen."

I unfriended him for many reasons (not all political), which just came to a head in this argument. I was tired of being belittled and devalued, because of my age and gender, as if my experiences as a millennial Jewish woman counted for nothing if they did not lead to the same life conclusions as a white Catholic baby boomer. I was tired of having my education treated as if I'd been brainwashed. And I was tired of talking to a brick wall who, for all his expressions of love for his family, somehow thought that a movement based on hate and resentment would make America great.

At the time, just days after the election, from my grief and despair, I offered this tiny shred of something-like-hope. I would not (and could not) expect better of Trump than he had proved he was capable of, but I suggested that he could (the onus being fully on him) attempt to rebuild the bridges he had burned with over half the country.

In that time, he has built bridges only with dictators and white supremacists. My fears and the fears of millions proved not to be "liberal talking points." They have come to pass.

Photo from Politico
There are Nazis in the streets of Charlottesville. Emboldened by a president who espouses so many of their views and refuses to condemn them, they descended on Virginia wearing Hitler quotes on their t-shirts, waving Confederate flags, and brandishing torches, proposing to take our country from us.

Their definition of American greatness is at odds with America. Their voice is not one of "many sides" to count in the debate about who we are; it is not even a choice. Our ideals, as expressed in our founding documents, in our songs, speeches, and poems, are not hatred, xenophobia, and violence, but life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the great American melting pot (or salad bowl), a place to breathe free, where we offer liberty and justice for all. Any "side" that rejects these fundamental ideals has no place in our national conversation and deserves no voice in shaping our national identity. The fact that the president offers them a seat at the table and a voice is embarrassing, disgraceful, and horrific.

And, so, I have a rhetorical question for my uncle, who is not a bad person at heart: "Is this the America you wanted?"