It must be the International Month of False Equivalency because by golly the articles attempting to humanize Trump supporters came out in spades. Whether it was The Advocate trying to delicately explain how and why the white rural voter was disenfranchised in ways that were real or perceived such that it justified a Trump vote or whether it’s Aiden, that trans guy who was turned into a meme by clueless cis folk, trying to say we should “check ourselves” when we see a Trump supporter and think “idiot,” the theme prevalent in these numerous works is that we can’t judge Trump supporters because they’re probably just ignorant.
Okay, so here’s the thing: Hitler had a dog and painted beautiful portraits, Mussolini tucked in his kids at night, Pinochet played a mean game of football (soccer for you yanks), Stalin was an astute scholar, and Pol Pot found a niche in radio electronics. Every mass-scale human rights abuse committed in recorded history has at its helm someone who, if you look closely enough, has entirely ordinary–sometimes supposedly redeeming–qualities.
This does not mean that we should model the eras of Hitler, Mussolini, Pinochet, Stalin, or Pol Pot, all of whom are responsible for stomach-churning atrocities in both depth and breadth. Again, saying we ought to humanize a Trump supporter seems to be operating from the assumption that his critics have been dehumanizing him to begin with.
Because here’s the thing: Good and Evil ought to be understood as things you do, not things you are. If someone tells us we have spinach stuck in our teeth, we do not bristle and say “How can that be? I’m a hygienic person!”
I’m not dehumanizing a Trump supporter when I point out that they are, AT BEST, indifferent to the Republican platform, which features some of the most rabidly anti-woman, anti-black, anti-queer, anti-immigrant, pro-big business, fuck-the-little-guy policies in recorded history. And I’m definitely not at all interested in excusing ignorance in an election like this. The unfortunate truth is that an ignorant vote is equivalent to an informed one, but that doesn’t mean we’re all compelled to stick our head in the sand when it comes to policy.
I don’t support this. I don’t support patting Trump supporters on the head and giving them the permission they so desperately seek to be not be called racist. Motherfucker, you vote for someone whose policy reiterates racial injustice, then you is fucking racist. I’m not giving you that wiggle room. And it won’t make a difference to Trump whether you voted for his racial injustice policy planks or whether you voted in spite of his racial injustice policy planks, the effect is the same: You threw your weight behind him, he potentially gets in office to enact his policy. The ballot doesn’t know the difference. It only knows who you voted for.
The least you can do is pull up your big girl socks and fucking own up to it.
Yes, that applies to Clinton’s supporters. Yes, progressive Americans will need to work overtime to have their interests represented in all levels of government. Yes, Clinton will need to be held accountable to her actions and you ought to strive for that, even if you vote for her. That’s what owning your vote means.
But I charge that Trump supporters haven’t been dehumanized, at least not to a comparable scale to say, black people or QUILTBAG people or disabled people. Me refusing to give them that pat on the head they’re so desperate for is not the same thing as gutting what little social welfare the disabled need to live, or fostering unchecked police brutality to ensure the disproportionate imprisonment of black bodies, or reifying second-class citizenship for QUILTBAG people. It’s me saying “I don’t care whether you consider yourself racist, homophobic, or ableist or not. I care whether you support a political party that intends to dismantle what little progress the country has made in service to vulnerable communities.”
I’m well aware that Trump supporters have dogs and paint paintings and tuck their children to bed and volunteer for homeless shelters and play mean games of chess and pen thoughtful articles in academia. I fucking know, man. The point is, that favour isn’t being returned. It’s the minorities who are being dehumanized to justify or excuse one of the most monstrous Republican platforms in recent memory. It’s trans women being depicted as rapists, it’s black people being depicted as thugs, brown people depicted as terrorists, and cis women being depicted as murderers for exercising bodily autonomy. A single observation from Clinton–that Trump has the support of some seriously questionable characters–is not equivalent to a nationwide sustained smear campaign the way these various groups have been enduring.
And through all this, we have to pat his supporters on the head and assure them they’re not doing harm?
Fuck that shit.
Nobody says we don’t study the terrible atrocities of the 20th century because all of those figures did ordinary human things in their day to day. In fact, we explicitly study those atrocities to learn just how much an ordinary person can do. How much violence we’re willing to tolerate, as long as we’re not the immediate victim. How easily we’re persuaded when we’re in a crowd. How easily we can be persuaded to support the erosion of our own rights.
This is the part the Trump crowd denies. You want to think you’re good people, then start by dismantling this idea that good is something you are, that this simplistic black-and-white thinking is nothing but snake oil salesmanship.
Good is something you do.
Good is something you can start today.