Opinion

Donald Trump’s threats affect my family

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Steve Mitchell

My partner is a Muslim. My sister is gay. My daughter is dating a Mexican-American. Donald Trump’s consistent and focused threats affect my family and have since he took the national stage. For me, they are not a thing to shrug off. They are personal. For the first time in my white, middle-aged life, a president is personally threatening members of my family: with arrest, with registration, with an assault on their human and legal rights. On January 20, 2017, parts of my government turn against me.

The White Nationalist strategy (let’s stop calling it Republican, let’s call it what it is) of the last twenty years has been to undermine our trust in government and democracy as a system and to tacitly support armed rebellions as long as they are comprised of white people. The capstone of this strategy is to elect a man with the intellectual and emotional maturity of a stunted eight year old to the Presidency, demeaning not only the office but the concept of rational government itself.

This is not to say that every Republican or Trump voter is a White Nationalist, far from it. Those who voted for Trump have real, valid complaints and concerns and they deserve to be heard. The primary issue for them is that their leaders and government have failed them. Trump will do nothing to address these concerns. Their issues won’t be taken seriously, or even heard, by a Trump presidency.

The people in and around the Trump ascendency are ideologues and rational thought has no place in the world of the ideologue. Mike Pence advocates creationism, for Christ sake. (“I also believe that someday scientists will come to see that only the theory of intelligent design provides even a remotely rational explanation for the known universe.” Pence, 2002.)

An ideology allows us to dispense with the messy tyranny of facts. Mike Pence believes the earth is only 5000 years old, give or take a thousand. He has no use for complicated things like science. Donald Trump doesn’t think he needs security briefings; he already knows what he believes.

Ideologues want war. Always. War is the only way to force reality toward their vision. They cultivate war wherever they can find it.

The first blow in this war has already been struck and it is fear. I know this from friends and family who are suddenly more frightened to be on the street alone, or in a coffee shop or to go into a retail store. These aren’t questionable Facebook anecdotes; they’re experiences of real people I know who’ve been accosted by strangers on a roadside or refused service at a chain store. Fear is the first step; it isolates us from those around us.

It’s not a matter of coming together to talk. There is no meaningful discussion to be had with a creationist because any conversation can be grounded only in belief. There is no basis of reality upon which to build a shared vision.

This should make us angry—not burn-the-house-down-to-spite-ourselves rage, but reasoned, sustained anger. Rage leads to violence; anger leads to thought and action. Rage consumes us; anger can embolden us. And anger is a legitimate response. It’s awkward, vulnerable, but it’s legitimate.

I will not legitimize Trump’s rhetoric by acting as if it articulates coherent points of view when Trump himself has no idea what he means most of the time, if indeed he means anything at all. When he speaks of registering ‘Muslims’, does he mean all people who attend mosque, or people who are culturally Muslim, or does he mean ‘refugees’, or does he mean ‘troublesome black people’? It’s impossible to know. And perhaps, that’s the point.

If we come to believe (or teach, or accept as a reasonable alternative) that the earth is only 5000 years old, we might come to believe mental illness is caused by demons and being gay can be cured by conversion therapy.

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I’m not advocating a simmering endless anger or a constant white-knuckled clenching of the fists. I’m not advocating verbal attacks on those with differing opinions or setting tires aflame in the streets. I’m not advocating signing another fucking MoveOn petition or reposting echo chamber quasi-news.

I’m advocating active resistance to that which offends, not our sensibilities or our politics, but our sense of human decency. I’m advocating calling a thing what it is: white nationalism, repression, ethnic targeting. Belief, not fact.

I’m advocating not allowing our language to be turned back upon us as a thing that contains only the most reactive emotions or, worse yet, has no meaning at all. I’m advocating naming what is going on and protecting the language with which we talk about it. It begins now.

Do I find ways to channel my anger now, at the beginning of this White Nationalist ordeal, or do I wait until they force my partner to register, until they strip my sister of her civil rights, until they deport a Mexican boyfriend?

Do I pretend that the ‘alt-right’ is a legitimate political stance and not the regressive human rights disaster that it is?

Soon, our country will be in the hands of a man who can’t even manage his own Twitter account in an adult manner.

I will stay angry. I will find ways to resist, means to argue. It’s not an abstract concept. It’s real every day. The people I love are at risk.

Steve Mitchell is co-owner of Scuppernong Books Find him at: www.thisisstevemitchell.com

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