For the first time in ages I broke down in tears. It was first thing in the morning and I was in the kitchen pouring a cup of coffee, when my 5-year-old announced the family had planned something fun that didn’t include me. “Except for Daddy, right?” she teased, exciting her brother. Though innocent, playful kidding without a hint of ill will, what she said sent me off crying, without my coffee. Then, alone, singing along to Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” – ‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me wanna cry – I started sobbing again. I couldn’t understand why I was having such visceral reactions over nothing and met with my therapist. It didn’t take long to determine that the impending election was making me anxious and emotional.
I hate racism, bigotry of any kind – I hate all of it. The racism dominating this year’s election frightens and saddens me, the people behind the bigotry anger me, make me suspicious. The blame goes beyond Trump. He’ll be irrelevant once the election is over. Who I blame are his supporters, his base, who’ve infested everything good and cozy like bedbugs. I know these people. Some are old friends, others, family by degrees. In any case, they’re all dead to me.
“[The far right cannot] discount the fact that sitting in their parlor are the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, every racist group in the United States and not a few of some Fascist orders that have scrambled their way up from the sewers to a position of new respectability,” wrote Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, fifty years ago. It’s no secret that those same hate organizations, along with white nationalist and alt-right groups, have endorsed Trump. For black people suffering PTSD after generations of abuse and discrimination, everything about Trump’s campaign is a trigger.
Listening to him rant about horrific ISIS killings I’m reminded of the images of limp black men and women, boys and girls, hanging from trees and bridges by the neck, their bodies battered and bloodied, their clothes, if they were lucky to still have them on, tattered to rags, their shoes, which black people take pride in – I know I do – lost who-knows-where; while white men, women and children made a night of the gruesome spectacle, attending a local lynching like a free outdoor show on a warm, summer night, mugging for the camera, proud of what they’d witnessed. I can only wonder how many of those killings weren’t photographed. Imagine if there were iPhones a hundred years ago. Then again, people are capturing those brutal images now, defenseless black bodies being shot dead in cold blood, out of fear and hate and biased assumptions, deluded nostalgia for when America was supposedly great.
Modern terrorism doesn’t compare to the atrocities committed against black people on American soil for centuries. Still, it was the War on Terror that moved me to vote for the first time in 2004. After I saw the images of those mutilated and burned Blackwater contractors hanging from the bridge over the Euphrates in Fallujah, I was horrified, reminded of what I’d seen done to so many black bodies, and for the first time I was able to tell the difference between two old white men running for President of the United States and chose the one who didn’t think war was sexy.
I haven’t stopped voting since, as the presidential elections have gotten viler and more distasteful with the presidency of Barack Obama. The fact gun sales went up among whites after he was elected President speaks volumes about the racial hatred for people of color, namely black people. Sadly, this same bigotry has manifested into the misogyny Hillary Clinton is wading through, which enrages me, touches off my most primal impulse to fight in her defense like I would for my mother or any woman who’s verbally and physically abused. It’s no wonder Trump alluded, to his basket of deplorable sycophants, that they exercise their Second Amendment right and kill her. During the second debate, there was no doubt in my mind that if he physically harmed Secretary Clinton, which he looked like he wanted to do, his supporters would have praised him.
In light of so much unwarranted hatred, who can blame her for holding her cards close? She’s a woman with men on one side who see her as nothing more than uppity and past her prime in the sack, and women on the other, who, the more I hear their emotional reasoning, come off projecting their worst personal nightmares and weakest vulnerabilities on her when they should see themselves in her and sympathize, defend her private life. I can’t imagine how much worse she’d be treated if she were a single mother – this country seems at war with single mothers. If hell hath no fury like a woman scorn, I’ll be disappointed if President Hillary Clinton doesn’t make examples of such sad excuses for Americans.
It’s only because Trump is such a transparent parasite I don’t equate him to Adolf Hitler. Trump is the King Midas of feces, an opportunistic weasel, a spineless antagonist, a degenerate cheat, a waste of space in life and in the skyline, with no allegiance to anyone but himself, and no moral code. If black people made up seventy-five percent of the country’s electorate, Trump would apply more bronzer, hold rallies in every black community in the country, wearing a Black Lives Matter pin, with Ice-T and the Body Count as his security, and N.W.A.’s “F— tha Police” as his fight song. Trump doesn’t care about his supporters and he doesn’t care about this country, which makes him no Hitler. However, I do without a doubt believe that Trump supporters would have supported Hitler’s accusatory rhetoric and his rise to power. Only to claim at the end, after all the goodness in the world had asserted its virtuous might, that they had no idea what the smell wafting through the air was.
Desperate to share my frustration and connect with people, I took to social media, posting more as the election went completely off the rails. Out of the blue, an old friend from adolescence popped up. He and I hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in decades and I would’ve forgotten we were Facebook friends had he not commented on a post of mine – a Hillary Clinton campaign ad, featuring young girls looking critically at themselves in the mirror over a soundtrack of Trump’s most misogynistic insults. “He bags on women he doesn’t like so what,” my old friend wrote, labeling Hillary Clinton a “pathological liar” and “criminal.”
Caught off guard, I replied. In our back and forth, he not only confirmed his own misogyny, but he also exposed his ignorant and fear-based distrust of Muslims and immigrants: “I don’t want what is happening in Europe and Brittan to happen here,” he argued. Then, as if he were quoting Trump quoting Breitbart.com quoting Infowars, he claimed multiculturalism didn’t work, that countries failed because of their failed cultures, and that Western cultures were successful because of their Christian roots. When the issue of systematic racism was brought up, he claimed not just one race was in control. “We have a black president,” he wrote. My old friend had grown into the archetypical Trump voter – white, uniformed, bigoted, middle-aged and nostalgic for a time that never was – and I took offense to everything he had to say.
“Relax,” he told me, but I couldn’t. I was over taking the high road when confronted with bigotry, from the time I was 10 and went from being a African boy in a black neighborhood to a variety of epithets in a white neighborhood. I was the first black person in a lot of white homes, told more than once that their dog was barking at me because it “never saw a black person before.” Every time I heard “nigger,” if I didn’t end up in a confrontation, I moralized, or I dissociated myself. Concerning my old Trump-loving friend, I unfriended him. Not because I believe in safe spaces – I welcome confrontation and discomfort in order to move forward. I unfriended him because arguing with Trump’s base supporter is like trying to talk someone away from a hate-worshipping cult, whose infallible leader preaches how much more he cares and that the world is against you.
The most talented film and TV minds couldn’t write what’s become known as Election 2016, the year American women happily suggested repealing their Nineteenth Amendment right to vote so their men could freely elect an unapologetic misogynist president. Earth could get hit by an asteroid and spin out of orbit into the abyss, and that would be more believable than President Donald J. Trump, Leader of the Free World. But that’s where we are: political Armageddon. And it won’t end there. Next up, Sean Hannity. Or Rush Limbaugh. Inforwars’ Alex Jones. David Duke. Rapist, murderers, and actual Wall Street Bankers welcome to run. The gutter is bottomless.
Which is why to cast a “protest vote” is sanctimonious and irresponsible, white privilege and youthful recklessness at its worse. If Black Lives Matter – if the welfare of women, children, seniors, immigrants, the lives of Muslims, the disabled, the poor, and our soldiers matter, if the future of our wonderful country and all its inhabitants matter – then there is no solidarity in being on the wrong side of history. Instead, be the reluctant hero this election in order to eradicate the mainstreaming of bigotry. Be Han Solo, Mr. Antihero himself, and do what conservative commentator, Andrew Sullivan, called on Real Time with Bill Maher “the only adult thing to do,” and vote for Hillary Clinton. Then rid Senate, Congress and local governments of those who continue to put their party before the people for personal gain, and power. Anything else done in solidarity with the marginalized and discriminated against is an empty gesture at this point.
I purged my Facebook account and unfriended more people, disassociated with others through different means. I didn’t want to be anyone’s black alibi, that one friend referred to as part of their “I’m not racist” defense. The same went for those who’d made disparaging comments about LGBT rights, immigrants and Muslims, and any man who’s used offensive names to describe Secretary Clinton. Though it hurt me to cut ties with so many people at once, I’m confident that if more did the same, the important conversations would grow out of social media, and into workplaces and homes. Like disease, bigotry is here to stay, there’s no getting around that. But before the hate infests the slow-cooked stew inside our country’s melting pot like a thermophilic bacteria, why not turn the heat up and destroy the infectious disease, or at least make it less harmful, easier to swallow, for the sake of a greater America.