Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Open Letter To Angry Trump Supporters

Dear Angry Trump Supporter: I get it. For the better part of forty years I've felt an anxiety similar to what you're experiencing now. Our anger isn't that different; it's connected to our shared inability to alter our day-to-day realities in any significant way. We share an uncomfortable truth: we're stuck reacting to the ebbs and flows of society because we're powerless to control them. You've seen sections of this country abandoned by the powers that be. Some of you have been suffering economic hardships in silence for decades. Pressing 1 for English is just a symptom of the cultural shift you've been forced to endure. Every other group in society champions their heroes: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Caesar Chavez, Grace Boggs, Betty Friedan, Harvey Milk, and Louis Farrakhan, yet it's not "politically correct" for you to show pride in your race or heritage. America has changed, and it's not benefiting you. You're called a racist for articulating your fears, you get blamed for historical atrocities you didn't commit, and you're accused of having "white privilege" even though you don't know how it works or seem to be benefiting from it. Up is down, left is right, and things are changing faster than you can adjust to them. I hate that you're in pain. I disagree with the way your anger is being manipulated for political gain, and I wish I could convince you that we (Blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, LGBQT) aren't your enemy, but it's probably too late for that. 

I've read dozens of articles chronicling the Trump "phenomenon". Some were garden variety in-group out-group armchair psychology that settled for calling you racists and idiots (some of you are), but those articles didn't interest me as much as the articles that sought to connect your populism to the deeper societal issues and economic realities you've been facing. The underlying cause[s] of Donald Trump's political ascension will be studied and debated for a long time across multiple disciplines. If your guy wins the Republican nomination his campaign will have changed the way future Republican candidates run their campaigns. In essences, your movement will have strong armed the Republican nomination process. This is good and bad. Giving your guy the nomination won't help you in the general election if you continue alienating the rest of us. 2016 could be the year we find out if you need any of us to win in a general election. Your party has only won the popular vote one time (2004) since 1988. My hunch is that a strategy of offending every minority group in the country could backfire, but I've been wrong before. 

The America Country music stars sing about is over. This country will never exist as it did in those television shows from the 50's and 60's. We aren't going away. Alexis de Tocqueville  understood all of this. He noticed how militant his fellow Frenchmen became as their standards of living improved during the French Revolution. One of the worst things you can do to a person who denies the effects of historical injustices is open the space for historically oppressed people to get access to freedom and economic opportunity. People don't freely go back to a status quo that puts the needs of their particular communities on the back burner for the sake of the majorities feelings. You're not responsible for the world you inherited: neither are we. The coalitions you see forming harbor some of the same mistrust between them as you might harbor towards all of us, but none of us are willing to go back to this place you seem willing to take us. When I hear "take America back" or "make America great again" I hear desperation. Those words are empty signifiers. If taking America back means it will once again be socially acceptable for a bigot to spit on my mother then: I'll fight you, not a metaphorical fight with words and ideas, but a real life out in the streets fight. If taking America back means my gay friends have to go back to their closets: then I know they'll fight you, and I'll help them. If making America great again means my brother's wife and his in-laws could be rounded up because being 4th and 5th generation Mexican-Americans isn't good enough for you: then I'll fight you. If I see a group of people harming my Muslim brothers and sisters: I think you get the point.

Here's a secret: all of us are feeling the pinch of global capitalism. You woke up in a nightmare that transcends race and class. Instead of blaming us for the greed that sent the manufacturing base of our economy to the developing world, and created the unsustainable boom or bust cycles we see in the market, why not ask us how we've endured the trauma you're feeling. I love you and hope you let your anger go. Don't let hate radio, Fox News, and right-wing demagogues strip you of your humanity. The sooner you understand the underlying cause[s] of your anger the sooner you can move on. The market economy is a lot like the in-group out-group distinctions some of the Americans you see as enemies face daily: they exist in invisible spheres that are hard to explain to people who aren't on the underside of them, yet you feel their effects. You could learn a lot from us; we understand what's happening to you better than you do. 

Have a Blessed Day!

Danny Cardwell