For the past few weeks I’ve been engaged in sports activism foreign to me – I’ve been rooting against the New England Patriots. When coach Bill Belichick wrote a letter supporting Donald Trump “… Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to make America great again” it shattered my love affair with the Pats.
That an NFL coach – in a league that for so long believed that black athletes weren’t smart enough to be quarterbacks, where some question whether black quarterbacks get the protection that white quarterbacks do – could embrace a candidate whose underlying message was “Make American White again” was, and remains, incomprehensible.
I’ve been silent these past weeks, not because I felt I had little to say but because I wanted to say so many things I didn’t want to say simply out of anger or disappointment or out of frustration for not being able to cheer for the Patriots. I needed time to think, to go dark on the page, read, talk to friends and think about all the election meant to me.
Today, it’s hard to know where to start. I feel a sense of personal and intellectual dislocation, that I’m living in a “Hunger Games” world disconnected from so many for whom compassion, empathy and love of neighbor are just empty words.
A Tribe Called Quest, an American hip-hop group, in their latest album, “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” said it, as I hear it, this way:
“All you Black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways
So all you bad folks, you must go.”
Well, Donald Trump and Bill Belichick, you may hate my ways but I’m not going anywhere.
From that day in 2011 when Donald Trump became Birther-in-Chief – a claim many of his followers still believe – through the campaign of 2016 America has been rent by the corrosive and corrupt forces of bigotry and exclusion. On Nov. 8, a new commander-in-chief was elected, empowered by the people to form a government inimical to the interests of most Americans, including those of his most fervent followers.
While the nativist forces of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment are not today purely American forces – witness Brexit, for example – the rhetoric unleashed during this recent American campaign needs to take a back seat to no one for ugliness and hatred. Trump exploited the fears of many Americans of the Other, blaming them for most of America’s ills.
On Nov. 8, America’s darkest angels – emboldened as never before since Jim Crow – got their wings. Now, white supremacists, racists and anti-intellectual bigots, fresh from victory and giddy over having triumphed by exploiting the fears and ignorance of so many, are preparing to strip many Americans, including many of the vulnerable susceptible and sympathetic to Trump’s exclusionary rhetoric, of essential rights, privileges and services.
So, today, whom do I hold accountable for enabling this assault on American values, for empowering followers of a third-rate fiction writer, Ayn Rand, who are trying to impose their dystopian Atlas Shrugged vision upon this nation? I can’t just hold accountable those Randians; if they can’t discern bad fiction from economic reality why should we expect better from them: their vision has nothing to do with us. I can’t just blame the racists and bigots who live in intellectual squalor. They not only don’t know better – they don’t want to know better.
I don’t hold accountable those who voted for Hillary Clinton, many of whom held their noses to cast their vote. It was the only choice. I hold accountable those who hated Clinton more than they loved America, those who pimped for a bigot because power meant more to them than our nation, and those pundits and journalists who gave Trump unchallenging oxygen in the early days, even after they discerned that evil was in his heart and the absence of any kind of intellectual rigor. He was good for everyone’s ratings.
Also on the hook are those, some of whom I know, who voted for Trump not out of ideological commitment but because they were lazy. They failed to educate themselves, to discern, care, think about and reject bigotry and hatred. They’re accountable because they took too casually the privileges and responsibilities of democracy – to be attentive to America’s pluralistic foundational principles. They failed to be attentive to America’s communities of color, to immigrants, to women, Muslims, Mexicans, LGBTQIA peoples, to so many targeted others.
Today, more Americans know more about The Bachelorette than Brexit, more about Celebrity Apprentice than the exploitation of labor and resources, more about Jennifer Hudson than Standing Rock, more about the Patriots than patriotism. Today, those Americans are equally complicit even though many of them will, in the end, be victimized by Trump’s oligarchs and plutocrats; by an education secretary who doesn’t believe in public education, a housing secretary who doesn’t believe in public housing, an EPA secretary who doesn’t believe in environmental protection and a labor secretary who doesn’t believe in living wages.
While many of Trump’s voters may not consider themselves racist they were susceptible to aligning themselves with racists, bigots and anti-government zealots in believing a false mantra that claimed their world would be happier and more complete if the Other was not present. If I was not present.
Today, I’m present and I’ll drive an extra half-mile to avoid buying gas from a dealer I know voted for Trump. As I shop I avoid places, some run by friends, who supported a candidate who targeted me as the enemy. Today, therefore, I’ll boycott, confront, resist, oppose, however I can.
Today, I’ll cheer for Denver – it’s the least I can do