The day after the election, I sat in the phlebotomist’s office waiting to have blood drawn. The election felt like that, having the life drawn from me by the constant barrage of negativity. Creating an atmosphere so toxic, it promoted partisan paranoia.
Every person I passed on the street precipitated a discerning look to assess his or her voting proclivity.
I searched for clues in the phlebotomist’s office. Did she vote for Trump?
“How are you today?” she asked.
She seemed pleasant enough but could be testing me.
“Uh, Hi Fran,” noting the name tag on her lab coat. “I should have come in sooner, but forgot… with the election and all,” I said, in a pre-caffeine haze, to a stranger with party affiliation unknown. Words that left me vulnerable to the question I hoped wouldn’t follow, but did.
“Are you happy or upset with the election results?” she asked.
I paused, formulating an answer in my head, knowing that she would be sticking a needle in my arm. But, I couldn’t undo the look on my face that echoed the disappointment in my words. “I’m upset with the results,” I said. “And you?” knowing that if our answers didn’t align; I would be in a position of weakness.
“I’m happy with the results.”
Perfect. I’ve just guaranteed a bloodletting, I thought, certain that the needle would impale my arm, or worse. Instead, we had a civil discussion, two gals on opposite sides of the phlebotomy table, talking, not yelling, about the issues.
“I voted for change,” Fran told me.
In 2008, I voted for change, too, when I cast my ballot for Obama, the hope and change candidate. The hope of which died in Congressmen’s cash-laden pockets, courtesy of lobbyists and special interest groups—their constituents left languishing in the basement of the forgotten in the Capitol building.
Although Fran and I both shared the same desire for change, we disagreed on how change should be effected.
In the end, emotion trumped logic.
Fran and other Trump supporters wanted to blow up the system, while Hillary supporters wanted to tweak it. In the end, emotion trumped logic. An angry marginalized electorate voted Trump president, with an assist from meddling inside and outside forces. As new information on Russia’s involvement in the election drips from the mainstream media pipeline every day, a portion of the country watches with skepticism, echoing Trump’s rhetoric that branded the media “fake news.”
Whether you believe in Russia’s interference in the election or not, there’s no doubt that Trump loyalists were disillusioned by the government and wanted to #draintheswamp in Washington. A promise Trump made on the campaign trail stagnated when he landed in the White House.
Swamp creatures still swim through government channels in Washington. Now part of Trump’s cabinet stocked with ex-billionaire corporatists and Wall Street titans. Instead of draining the swamp, the swamp is swampier, darker, and weedier.
Among the mix of corporatists on the Trump team, Steve Bannon, a Goldman Sachs alumni and Executive Director of the alt-right website Breitbart, now head honcho of Trump’s White House staff. A self-professed nationalist and Lenin admirer, Bannon hopes to “bring down the entire establishment, including the leaders of the Republican Party in Congress,” as reported in a recent WAPost article that exposes his dark worldview.
Bannon’s nationalistic outlook weighed heavily on Trump’s decision to quit the Paris climate agreement in order to save a declining coal industry — largely affected by an increase in natural gas consumption — a short-sighted decision, ignoring the rapid growth in renewable energy jobs (260,077) that left coal mining jobs in the dust (65,971).
Is this what Fran and other Trump supporters signed up for? — Moving the country backward, not forward? Denying that climate change exists to save a dying coal industry? Gambling away our children’s future based on a risky short-term bet?
Thanks to Bannon, our country is headed in a dark direction. His dystopian beliefs, condoning the “annihilation of government institutions” (and the Constitution by association), are counterintuitive to our democracy. His role in the White House legitimizes and revitalizes the white nationalist movement and the hatred it foments. His rise in power parallels the rise in hate crimes in America. Most recently, the attack on two young Muslim women that led to the deaths of two heroic men.
If you supported Trump and his populist message that appealed to the marginalized and forgotten voter, you should be appalled by Bannon’s White House appointment, which marginalizes “other” voters who fear for their safety, as well as the dark direction in which the country is headed.
This is not a condemnation of your vote or your anger toward a government system in need of fixing. This is an SOS to eliminate the bigotry and hatred that has swamped our country; it is a plea to restore decency and respect to the mainstreamed and marginalized, to regain a moral compass that has gone askew.
Assimilation is the heart and soul of a multicultural society, inherent in a functioning democracy. It is our firewall against the proliferation of radical ideology inside and outside our borders.
If we allow nationalist American extremists to fragment us through the chaos of fear and hate, allow them to undermine the institutions that immigrants shaped, our democracy will crumble, and our children will inherit the dust.
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