Open letter to the good people who voted for Trump

Written by Daniel Waldman

Dear good people who voted for Trump,

I’m sure you’re sick of people putting you in a box, calling you a bigot or a racist, a redneck or a hick. I’m also sure you’re convinced that by voting for Trump, you were doing what you believed was right. Like this woman. There’s been a ton of punditry and dissection about why you voted the way you did, and I’m sure you’re tired of hearing all that. Please know this letter isn’t that.

I’ve seen some of you give a sort of backhanded apology or excuse and call for unity. Are you watching the news? Are you on social media? Are you seeing what’s happening? There’s a lot of anger on both sides, no doubt. Let’s focus on a few specific cases, and then I ask you to please tell me why you think your vote was justified.

First, there’s been a lot of protests across the country against Trump. And some of them are violent. That’s concerning, certainly. But shouldn’t all violence? Where was your voice prior to the elections when Trump supporters sucker-punched protestors? Or threatened and beat up journalists? Where was your voice when Trump said, “If you see a protester, knock the crap out of them.” That wasn’t some figure of speech. That was a real exhortation to violence.

Second, there have been numerous examples of students–in middle school, high school students and college ; the next generation of this country’s leaders–who are behaving in ways that in the past would be completely unimaginable. From students yelling in the lunchroom to “Build That Wall” at their Latino classmates, to the college students who thought it was funny to put on blackface and take a selfie in front of a confederate flag, to the students in Pennsylvania who have been saying things that they probably wouldn’t dare say in front of their mothers (hopefully). Oh, and they’re doing the seig heil as well. These kids have all been egged on by the candidate you voted for. It was his own hate speech that made them feel these acts were Ok. Are they ok with you? Do you condone this behavior?

threatThird, there’s the adults–can we even really call them that? These are people who are threatening their fellow citizens with extreme violence. What’s so American about that? Does this reflect your values? Do you truly believe this is how we make America great?

These are just examples that highlight what is happening, in part, as a result of your vote. Most if not all of these things are being done in Trump’s name. Is this what you voted for?

Please, take some time to think how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot? What if it was your child who was being threatened because of their religion or their skin color or their ethnicity? To some of you, I suspect you’ve felt this way a long time. Maybe you’re a Christian and you feel this should be a Christian country. If so, you probably feel attacked. I’m sorry, it’s not a Christian country. You don’t have a monopoly on what this country is or what it means to people who are not like you.

The American ideal is we are a freedom-loving nation, and that anyone can come here from anywhere in the world, work hard, make a life for themselves and contribute to the greater common good. That’s been the creed of America since before we declared independence. It’s written into our constitution. Nowhere is it written that your freedom is more important or more valuable than other citizens of this country. Church and state are intended to be separate. That’s by design.

So, maybe you’ve felt attacked over the years, I get that. I don’t agree that you have, but I get that you feel you have. But let’s be real: Hurting others in the name of religion or nationalism or race is not acceptable. It’s not part of our culture. We fight with ideas, not with intimidation and threats, vandalism and violence. We work systematically to form our nation into what we believe it should be.

Maybe you truly didn’t agree with Trump’s bigotry, or with his supporters’ bigotry, or the hateful rhetoric, or the misogynistic rhetoric that came at a dizzying pace over the past 18 months. Why do you think this person and the group of people he’s likely to choose to help him run the country will be any different? Do you really believe that someone who ran a campaign based on hate will suddenly change? If you truly believe in American values, why didn’t stand up when he was campaigning to say his rhetoric did not reflect the best of this country? Why won’t you stand up now? To be honest, your silence is shocking and is a tacit approval, whether you intend it to be or not.

I call you a good person, not facetiously, but honestly. Some of you I’ve known for a very long time. We’ve engaged in spirited debates, we’ve exchanged ideas, and sometimes we’ve yelled, but we’ve always come back to being respectful to each other. And because you’re a good person, someone who I know values human life and human dignity, and someone who is not bigoted, I ask you: Are things really that bad in your life that you felt you could excuse those characteristics in one person in order to pursue your own narrow self-interests? In some cases, I think the answer is yes.

But in many, many other cases, I am afraid that the answer is no. If you voted for Trump and his bigotry because you were afraid of having your taxes raised, then you need to take a cold, hard look at your priorities and your own humanity. If you voted for Trump because you’re afraid of minorities creeping into your relatively safe and quiet suburban enclave, then you need to get out more. Meet people outside your own race, your own background. Hell, volunteer at a soup kitchen once in a while, and not just around the holidays. If you voted for Trump because you were so afraid of Hillary–for whatever reason–you may have a point (I, too, had many reservations and concerns about her), but do they really outweigh the safety and dignity of your fellow citizens, your fellow human beings?

Because you’re a good person, I know you are not selfish. No good person is. I’ve seen that first hand. I’ve seen you give charity and be charitable. I’ve seen your compassion with others who are less fortunate than you, even while you may be struggling yourself. But let’s again get real: Voting for a president whose platform is based hatred, bigotry and misogyny was not a good thing to do. It was turning a blind eye to all those faults in the service of your own needs. This doesn’t mean you’re not a good person, but I ask you again to take a real hard look at the America you have now created. Not the one that will be shaped over the next four years, but the one that has been unleashed right now. Is this truly what you want?

Look, I get it. We all vote in our perceived self-interests. Maybe it’s time, though, that we recognize that the interests of our fellow citizens and human beings are intertwined with our own, and that by improving their well-being can improve our own lives. We all benefit from a more educated society, for example. Believe me, even if you’re struggling, there’s almost always someone out there whose struggle is far greater than yours. Your struggle and the perceived remedy isn’t necessarily to tear someone down. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. You’re a good person, and I know you know this in your heart of hearts. So I ask you one last time: Please do some soul searching. Please stand up for what you know is right, and speak out against what you know is wrong. By doing so, you will make America great, as it’s always been.

Lastly, to the people who aren’t good people, to the people who are filled with hatred and perpetrate intend harm, and who want to see this nation become a white nationalist country: You might as well go back and hide under the rock you crawled out from because no way in hell are the good and decent people of this country going to let that happen. I do not say this lightly. I have never been one for fighting, and I generally avoid violence. I’m generally for peaceful protest and resolving things through dialogue. But if the people who aren’t good people want a civil war, if they think they can mangle American values to fit their own distorted views of the world, then they will surely get one.

And hopefully the good people to whom this letter is primarily directed will know which side is the right side to be on if it comes to that.

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