My daughter is seven years old and struggling to understand why her parents are so devastated by recent events. I have always tried to respect her intelligence and explain things to her as they truly are. I don’t sugarcoat things. But, try as I might, I can’t make her understand this.
I can’t explain to her that, while not every Trump voter hates women, they’re okay with his misogyny.
I can’t explain to her that, while not every Trump voter is motivated by outright bigotry and xenophobia, they’re okay with it.
I can’t explain to her that, while not every Trump voter is motivated by homophobia, they’re okay with that too.
I can’t explain any of that to her, and I won’t try. But here’s something I think she will understand. What do you do when faced with a bully? Do you capitulate? Do you accept his bullying and cooperate? Do you extend an olive branch and promise to try harder to understand his motives?
No. You stand up to the bully. You protect those he’s bullying and you shut him down.
I’ve heard a lot of very well-meaning voices on the heartbroken Left calling for an increase in tolerance and unity. And, while I respect the idealism and love motivating these voices, I won’t join them. Are there segments of the population who have been left behind by technological and economic change? Yes. Who did they vote for? Someone who exports jobs and stiffs his vendors. So please stop telling me this election was a referendum on the unfairness of the global technological economy. Change happens to everyone everywhere. Talk to an artist if you want to understand economic insecurity. Talk to a journalist. Talk to anyone struggling to make a living in an ever-changing world. You don’t have it harder than the rest of us because the factory that once employed your parents for $30 an hour is no longer open. It’s been closed for a long time now. Donald Trump isn’t reopening it.
I know how much fun it is to hate urban “elites,” with our fondness for goat’s cheese and our skinny jeans. For the most part we can take it. We make fun of ourselves all the time. And here’s a dirty little secret: we’re not actually elite. We struggle with mortgage payments and worry about our childrens’ schools just like you do. Believe it or not, we don’t hang out in cafes finding new polysyllabic ways to make fun of you. Nor is the Democratic Party regularly IM-ing us with esteem-boosting compliments about our life choices. We’re on our own out here, just like you, doing our best to navigate a challenging world. If there is a major difference between us, it’s not money, or education, or even basic values. It’s simple geography. As city dwellers, we live in close proximity to a lot of people who are very different from us.
And we’re not afraid of them.
That’s it. That’s the difference between you and us. We celebrate diversity because we benefit from it every day. And that’s what you have chosen to rage against with your “anti-establishment” vote for Donald Trump. Oh, and incidentally, the guy you voted for is one of us urban elites.
You voted anger. You voted fear. You voted hate. You voted for a bully who bragged about sexual assault, and along the way you aided and abetted a campaign of venomous misogyny against a woman who has devoted her life to public service. I can’t explain this to my daughter.
How do you explain it to yours?