This White, Gun-Owning, Southern Debutante’s Heart Hurts Because of Trump
A letter to the world:
I’ve been uncharacteristically dipping my toe into social-media-political waters lately, letting photos of rainbows and Biden signs do my talking for me. But now, one week away from the most important presidential election of my lifetime, I feel I must have the courage of my convictions and dive right into the deep end.
I’ve lived an extraordinarily privileged and comfortable Southern Conservative white-woman life. My relationship with my childhood Black housekeeper reads like something out of The Help, without the poop pie. I’ve been married to a brilliant and conservative man who is the “founder of my family’s feast.”
I’ve been in leadership positions with the Junior League, was the president of the Women of the Church of my Episcopal parish, have been the first woman board chair at my children’s private girls’ school, and once held membership in two different garden clubs.
I can safely add to the list of descriptors above: writer, privileged, sexual-assault survivor, Republican voter, activist.
On the progressive side, as an associate editor of Memphis magazine, I was part of a team that won a national award for a special issue on race relations in the city. I briefly served on the board of the local Head Start organization, and I was a long-time volunteer with Planned Parenthood, serving as board chair of the local affiliate while pregnant with my third child (living into their mission of “every child wanted and loved”).
A number of friends roll their eyes at me and tease me for being a “radical liberal.” Though my views and opinions always have been decidedly more progressive than those of most of my friends, and though they have certainly led to a number of, shall we say, “interesting” conversations, I’ve never actually had to step out of my comfort zone to affirm them.
Remember, part of being a “Nice Southern Lady,” means not rocking the social boat. And I have obliged.
Until the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. After that event, I felt compelled to speak out, which I did by occasionally staging little one-woman sit-in protests outside the local gun show, which took place with alarming regularity at a quasi-public facility in town. I’d sit in my soccer-mom chair, hold a sign stating my opposition to private ownership of military-style weapons, and take notes. I’ve done this at least a half-dozen times, and though I was always yelled at and threatened, I emerged unscathed, with a heightened appreciation for the power of the First Amendment. And while I have no reason to believe my protests had anything to do with it, the venue that used to host those gun shows has ceased doing so, saying that gun shows “no longer fit within the facility’s mission.”
Since 2016, after Donald Trump’s election, I’ve done many more things I’ve never done before. I’ve marched in women’s marches and gun-sense marches, both in Memphis and New York.
I’ve regularly called and written my legislators (I should have Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office on speed-dial); I’ve hosted an organizing party for fellow “nasty women;” and I’ve become a clinic escort at Planned Parenthood.
A letter to my friends:
If you think the meme referencing Nazi Germany I’ve used to illustrate the top of this letter is extreme, please let me tell you why I do not. Two years ago, I attended a Trump rally in Southaven, MS. Why? Because, the journalist in me wanted to see the phenomenon first-hand before I weighed in on it. I sat firmly-rooted in an upper-level seat and took notes. I watched as the president of my country spewed a veritable firehose of venom at a legion of his perceived enemies, including Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the members of the media who were protected from his supporters by a fence at the rear of the arena. The 99% white attendees responded rapturously, shrieking and cheering and chanting their approval. I left the arena before Trump had finished his speech, shaken. I said, “That was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen,” and, “Now I understand what it was like to live in 1930s Germany.”
I’ve always wondered how I would respond during momentous periods in history. Would I stand with those fighting for equal rights and justice during the civil rights movement, would I capitulate to or fight against the fear and fascism of Nazi Germany?
Keeping this in mind, and remembering Elie Wiesel’s quote, “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all,” I send out this message.
To those of you who still plan to vote for Donald Trump, I want you to know that it hurts my heart and troubles my soul.
Let me dispense with your two most probable arguments for voting for him: “He’s going to appoint judges to end abortion.” (Actually, this ship may already have sailed, with Amy Coney Barrett as the boat’s captain.) To be clear, overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America. Instead, it would mean a return to pre-Roe times, when abortion laws would vary in a state-by-state patchwork. Therefore, rich women will be able to travel to states where abortion remains legal, and poor women will go to whomever is providing the procedure in their neighborhoods. Women will die. And the cycle of poverty and single-parent households and unwanted pregnancy will continue. By the way, a September poll by NBC News shows that 66% of American adults say they do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, with only 29% saying that it should.
Your second argument might be that the economy — and, more specifically, the stock market — is good for you under Trump. Consider that (according to Forbes) while 55% of Americans do own stocks (generally through retirement plans), the wealthiest 10% of Americans own 80% of all stocks. Given that the pandemic has decimated small businesses and put millions of Americans out of work, it’s hard to see this economy as being good. Even if Trump loses, the news probably won’t be all bad — The New Yorker published an article on October 8th titled “Wall Street May Be Warming to the Possibility of a Biden Presidency.” If you have worked hard over the years and are lucky enough to be earning more than $400,000 per year (the threshold above which Biden indicates he would raise taxes), then I hope you and your family are contributing charitably in direct proportion. But if you would vote for Trump purely for your own financial self-interest, well, again, that hurts my heart.
Here are the things that Donald Trump is:
A liar. He has made over 22,000+ false or misleading statements in the 1,316 days from his inauguration through August 27th of this year, according the the Washington Post, which keeps a database. Fact-checkers are working overtime, but cannot update the list fast enough, as he is adding 50–100 lies per day to his tally. They expect him to surpass 25,000 by election day. (As a point of reference, Politifact documented 44 false or misleading statements by President Obama in the 8 years of his presidency.)
A cheater. As a friend who works at the Wall Street Journal said, “A lot of people, especially politicians, cheat on a few things. Trump cheats on everything: his wives; his military-service exemption (bone spurs); his taxes; how much wealth he has; his payments to contractors; how much he charges the Secret Service to stay at his resorts when protecting him; and more.”
A racist. Just a few examples: discriminatory housing practices in his real estate business; calling for the death penalty for the “Central Park Five” (who were later exonerated); promoting the Obama “birther” conspiracy; declaring Mexicans “rapists” who were “bringing crime” to the U.S.; calling neo-Nazis “very fine people”; enacting the “Muslim ban”; welcoming support from white supremacists like the Proud Boys; refusing to denounce anti-semitic conspiracy theory QAnon. He has thrown fuel on the fires of racial division wherever he can, especially during this summer’s unrests. And on and on, sometimes overtly, other times by dog-whistling. (Pro tip: anyone who says they’re “the least racist person in this room” is definitely NOT the least racist person in the room.)
A misogynist and most probably a serial sexual assaulter. I absolutely believe the 26 women who have accused him of varying degrees of “unwanted sexual contact,” including rape, and the other people who accused him of 43 instances of “inappropriate behavior.” Not to mention, the “Access Hollywood” tape and many, many documented disgusting comments about women. (Remember “blood coming out of her wherever” and “nasty woman”?) If your daughter came to you saying she was engaged to marry this wonderful rich businessman, but, oh, by the way, he’s been accused of assault by over 20 women, and also he cheated on her a couple of times with a porn star, would you approve? Of course not. So why should we approve of such behavior from the leader of the free world?
A fake Christian. It appears that his love affair with evangelical Christians is merely a transactional relationship brokered before the 2016 election by Michael Cohen with Jerry Falwell, Jr. in return for making one of Falwell’s indiscretions go away. And while evangelicals delivered votes for him, and he may have come through for them with conservative judges (see: abortion paragraph above), he himself exhibits no qualities I would expect to see in a true follower of Christ.
A lover of dictators and authoritarian strongmen. His embrace of our enemies — Putin, Kim Jong Un— is baffling and reprehensible, as is his tacit approval of the Saudi Arabian crown prince’s ordering of the murder of Jamal Kashoggi. He has never called out Putin — either publicly or privately — for putting a “bounty” on our soldiers in Afghanistan. I’ll say that again: Russia paid the Taliban to target and kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Our intelligence services told Trump. And there has been no action to punish his “friend” Putin. In fact, he said he believed Putin’s “strong denial” of election interference in our 2016 election, over the contrary opinion of all U.S. intelligence agencies. Indeed, it is Trump’s own autocratic tendencies, along with leaving our soldiers and intelligence community out to dry, that frighten me the most.
An utter incompetent. His mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, and the fact that tens of thousands more Americans are dead than should be is truly criminal. Like a little boy trying to hide the vase he broke, did he think by sweeping the scientific facts under the rug the disease would just go away and quit messing with his reelection chances? As I write this, the United States has lost over 225,000 citizens to this disease (per the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard, and representing more than the populations of any of these cities — Lexington, KY; Richmond, VA; Baton Rouge, LA; Des Moines, IA; or Birmingham, AL, to mention a few). Trump tries to scapegoat the brilliant, accomplished, and universally-respected Dr. Fauci, whose greatest sins are advocating mask-wearing and refusing to sugar-coat the seriousness of the pandemic. As of September 9th, the U.S., with 4.25% of the world’s population, had 22% of the world’s deaths. The blood of many thousands of Americans is on Trump’s tiny hands.
To this list, you can add the way he: disrespects our military; childishly denigrates and mocks those who disagree with him; plays on people’s fears and prejudices; shows no empathy, including for the 500+ children who have been effectively orphaned by his administration’s child separation policy for asylum seekers; tries to divide people rather than unite them; gloms onto and promotes false information and conspiracy theories; puts unqualified cronies, sycophants, and family members in positions of power, which weakens our government; works at cross-purposes against our intelligence-gathering agencies and ignores their advice; bullies quisling legislators into submission; throws tantrums, both on Twitter and in person; reduces America to a laughing-stock on the international stage; works with all his might to weaken American democracy and its voting systems.
Or, you can dispense with ALL that evidence and simply boil it down to:
Joe Biden has morals.
Donald Trump has none.
Joe Biden has empathy, and cares for Americans.
Donald Trump is a bully, and cares for no one except himself. (I taught my daughters to stand up to bullies and to defend weaker children, didn’t you?)
Joe Biden is a good man.
Donald Trump is a bad man.
I want a good man to be my president.
And if you, my friend, are still planning to vote for Trump, then you have indeed hurt my heart and troubled my soul.