Rabid (what really scares me about Trump)

Trump doesn’t frighten me. His followers do. He is only one person. There are many thousands of them. The fact that he is popular means that they agree with his message.

Remove him from the election and these people will still feel what they feel.

They will still be afraid of anyone who isn’t them, and they all appear to be straight, white, and Christian.

Somehow they feel that the civil rights advances of others are threatening to them. For some reason they feel that allowing other people to live their lives differently means that their own choices are under attack.

They don’t get that allowing gay people to get married does not mean that straight people have to become homosexual. It does not take away straight people’s rights.

They don’t get that allowing people of other faith traditions to practice their religion does not mean that Christians cannot practice their own. It is important to remember that Jesus never said to attack another person’s way of life – in fact, he said the opposite. Judging other people (and making laws against them or discrimination against them is not what Jesus would do)

They don’t get that allowing immigrants into America does not mean that those who are here will lose their jobs or homes. And, lest we forget American history, the vast majority of Americans are immigrants or descended from them. Trump’s own father was an immigrant from Germany.

Trump frightens me because he is a center point to the rage and frustration that so many of them are feeling.

Saddam Hussein didn’t kill anyone. He just talked, and his followers did the deeds.

Hitler didn’t kill anyone. His followers did.

The leaders in the Rwandan genocide didn’t kill anyone. Their followers did.

Nobody has been killed by the people who follow Trump. Not yet. They’ve rioted. They’ve assaulted. It is a start.

I’m surprised that his hate speech hasn’t been called out for what it is. Is it because he is a presidential candidate that he is allowed to incite violence against people? Other citizens are called out for that. There are watchdog agencies that check for such activity. Why aren’t they speaking up? Or are they stunned into silence by his pomposity?

I’m concerned that all of the advances that have been made in the effort of unity and inclusion will be swept away in a tidal wave of fear and ignorance.

The leaders of hate are simply the voice to long unspoken feelings that have been bottled up, suppressed, whispered. The leaders of hate don’t do anything to get their hands dirty. Their followers are the ones who do the evil.

Is this what we want America to become? A nation where it isn’t safe to be gay, or black or an immigrant? Where it isn’t safe to challenge the status quo? Where it isn’t safe to be an intellectual? Where it isn’t safe, period?

Trump is a figurehead to a slow boiling pot filled with people who feel threatened. In making room for people who are “other” they feel pushed out, excluded, ignored. In a way, I understand this. America is a land where it is considered laudable to have gay pride, black pride, Latino pride. But “white pride”? It is seen as racist. They have been told that they cannot be proud of their roots.

You can’t fix discrimination by discriminating. This is true for everyone.

A conversation at the YMCA

I was in the changing room at the Y when I heard the most amazing thing. This lady who I’ve known for a few years through my water aerobics class asked me what I thought about “The Trump thing”. She actually didn’t even give me time to give an answer. She started saying that “He has a point, that all the terrorist attacks were being done by Muslims and so it was a good idea to keep them out of this country.” She even said that she had some Muslim friends but she still thought that it was a good idea.

I paused and looked at her and shook my head a little. I said “I can’t believe that you’re actually saying this. I can’t agree with you at all.”

She said “What? All the terrorist acts have been done by Muslims.”

I said
“What about Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine murderers?
What about Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Murrah federal building?
What about James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter?
What about Sandy Hook massacre, by Adam Lanza?

These are all acts of terrorism
that have been perpetrated
by young white males.
They weren’t Muslim.”

Sadly, the list is much longer than these that I could recall off the top of my head, with all of them committed by young, white, males.

I then quoted this famous speech from Martin Niemöller, speaking about how the German people didn’t stand up against the Nazis during World War 2.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I said “I can’t stand behind this entire idea of keeping people out based on their ethnicity. That’s racist.”

I repeated the word “racist” several times through the last part of my discussion. I wanted her to hear it for what it is. I wanted her to think about her support of something that is as dangerous, as un-Christian, as inhuman as racism. I’m sure she didn’t even think of herself as being racist.

At the same time I was thinking of the Rwandan genocide, where nearly a million people were slaughtered by their own countrymen over three months, simply because they were seen as “other”, as “lesser”. They were called “cockroaches” by the leaders, who encouraged average citizens to take up machetes and kill their own neighbors. I’m sure they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong either.

When we marginalize a group, when we group them together and say that the actions of a few represent the whole and propose eliminating the entire group, then that has moved from racism into genocide. We have to stop this entire way of thinking before it is allowed to get to this point. These are like weeds that will take over the garden, choking out all beauty in the world.

At the end of my speech, she said she didn’t know all of that. She recognized the names but hadn’t put it together. She hadn’t realized that in America, more acts of terror have been committed by non-Muslims than Muslims.

I’m grateful for all the classes that I’ve taken that allowed me to maintain my cool and answer her in a calm way to educate her. Years ago I would have thought she was wrong, but not been able to speak up. Now, I was able to not only take a stand against a racist but also to educate her.

We must all be lights in this world. We must all combat racism and ignorance no matter where it erupts.