Nov 15, 2016

Trump's America - the Rationale Behind the Fear

This post isn't for my blogger friends, or my immediate family.  This post is for anyone who might happen to read this who doesn't understand the strong negative reactions to Trump's victory.  Who thinks Democrats are being ridiculous and all this fear-talk is a bunch of bullshit or whining.  Who wants to talk about the hypocrisy of riots breaking out by the people who "supposedly want love, not hate."

Dear Trump-Supporter,

I'm doing my best to understand you.  You could have voted for Trump for any number of reasons on a sliding scale of distastefulness to me.  You may have voted out of fear of the Democratic candidate, over desperation that your own needs weren't being met, or out of the hope that change, any change is needed for our country.  You might have wanted to "shake things up" or you might be in favor of a businessman who will, in all likelihood, make laws that favor other wealthy businessmen.

It might take some time, but I'll keep trying to understand why you feel the way you do.  So I hope you'll take the time to understand why those of us who are upset by this turn of events feel the way we do.

I'm Afraid of the Things Trump Will Do

I know an illegal immigrant.  Actually, I know and have known quite a few, but for this post's purposes, I'm just going to discuss the one I know best.  You see, he's married to one of my best friends.

I'm afraid for both their sakes.  I'm afraid for their daughter who might shortly be losing her father.  I'm afraid for my friend who might soon be facing the difficult decision of losing her husband, or taking her daughter to Mexico, where her education will be set back years by her inability to speak Spanish and her opportunities will be minimal.

You might be saying to yourself, "Well, if he hadn't broken the law to come here, that wouldn't be a problem."  And yeah, that's true.  But he did and he's here and he's working 70 hours a week at a crap job for crap pay that no American would stand for in order to support his family.

"Why didn't he just stay in Mexico?"  There's an article on Cracked that talks about the desperation in poor, white, rural areas.  That's hardly a unique kind of desperation.  I would argue that the US is largely responsible for Mexico's decline in economy and rise in unemployment, thanks to NAFTA.  But even if you disagree, what would you do in that situation?  Just sit and accept your quiet despair?  Accept that your life will never get any better?  Or take action, any action, that offers hope to you and your family, even if that action happens to be illegal?

"He should have just gotten a work visa."  Yes, wouldn't that be nice?  But if you think that's a thing that's easy, or even possible, for an impoverished Mexican worker to acquire, you've forgotten how privileged American citizens are.  We can go pretty much anywhere with just a standard passport.  But people wanting to come in here?  The rules are just a tad bit different.

Similarly, the difficulties in acquiring a greencard (one of the first steps towards citizenship) are prohibitively difficult even after marrying a US citizen.  He would have to leave our country for an undetermined period of time while his spouse proved her ability to provide financial support and the simple fact is she can't.  They need both salaries just to get by.  And if it was ever discovered that he'd been in this country illegally, or some other factor negated his eligibility, there's a good chance he'd never get be able to return, by any means.  Coming over here illegally is not a piece of cake.  It's an expensive and dangerous process that people undertake out of the desperate hope for a new life.

And all the should haves and would haves in the world really don't matter when it comes down to the facts: he is here, he has a wife and child, and he is supporting them.  Remove him from the picture and you have a broken family without a father who will, in all likelihood, be reliant upon government assistance in order to survive.

Tell me how that's better.  Tell me who's going to fill in that less-than-minimum wage, maximum hour job.  And tell me how many restaurants won't simply go out of business because their profit margins aren't too low to pay minimum wage.

That's a personal example and I'm sure you don't feel their pain.  You don't know them.

You may not know any immigrants, legal or otherwise.

You may not know anyone who is afraid of having their marriage nullified and illegitimized, simply because they fell in love with the "wrong" gender.

You may not know anyone who is afraid that they may soon be put on a registry based on their faith.

But I hope you know someone who's different from you.  I hope there's some diversity in your life.  Both for your own sake and so that you can understand and empathize with the other side.  Because that will help you understand my next point.

I'm Afraid of the Things Trump's Presidency Encourages

I don't think anyone can deny that Trump has said many, many pointed things, vilifying various minority and ethnic groups.  He has degraded and minimized women and immigrants and minority groups and Muslims and, honestly, I'm not even sure who else because I've been doing my best to ignore his campaign for the last year.  Chalking it up to celebrity gossip about a man who could never possibly be elected.

But now he has, and with a platform like that, what kind of message does that send to our country?  Obviously Trump has no control over what his followers do, but when he responds to violent incidents by referring to the instigator as "passionate" or the victim as "deserving" what message does that send?  He can't help that the KKK has chosen to endorse him, but what does it mean when he ignores all opportunities to renounce the group?

To me, and to a good portion of Americans, it feels like Trump has been deliberately cultivating hate during his campaign.  Strong feelings are the best way to recruit people.  Passionate, angry, hate-filled people don't always make the most logical decisions.

So now that he's won, it's done 2 things: 1) Told minorities, immigrants, and women that the country cares more about... I'm still not sure what, than it does about their safety or welfare and 2) Showed the worst of Trump's supporters that that behavior really is ok and endorsed by America.

That was probably not your intent.  If you're reading this and haven't already left a nasty comment, you're probably not some hate-fueled monster who's hoping for a return to the 1800s and white, male America.  But can you at least see how that feels to other people?

Hate crimes are up.  Many of them directly reference Trump's victory.  Regardless of how you or I feel about, there are people who have fed into Trump's platform of literal and implied bigotry and who now feel that his presidency gives them free rein to exercise that hatred.

"But the protesters are doing violent things too!"  Yes, I know.  There are protests all over the place and some of them have turned violent (3 that I know of, but possibly more).  I'm not condoning that, in any way, shape or form.

Hate is a natural response to hate and it's very easy to get carried away with fear.  I don't condone the riots and I don't think they accomplish anything, but I can at least understand the emotions that led to them.

The hate crimes I don't understand and I never will.  And they scare me far more, because at the end of the day, the rioters will be arrested or go home and settle down and once again become normal people you can reason with.  The racists, the white supremacists, the bigots?  Not so much.

I hope, I sincerely and perhaps naively hope, that this, like the riots, is temporary.  That it's all a short-term response to a highly-charged, emotional election.  That the police and government will crack down and show everyone that the change of president has not changed the standards by which we live.

But so far it's not something Trump has cared to address.  And in this case, as in much of his campaign, silence is as good as endorsement.

So yeah, that scares me.

I am white, from a white, privileged family (although my father might argue that he had to fight to get to where he is now, but I certainly didn't) and there's a good likelihood that none of this will personally affect me.  But I am terrified for everyone who is at the whim of this man, and his followers, endorsed by him or not.  I am terrified to live in an America where this is the norm and I feel utterly helpless to do anything about it.

I am grasping at straws for one useful thing to do or say and I'm coming up short.

Like everyone else in our country, I just have to wait and see.

And that scares me.

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  1. Can I ask why your friend isn't a citizen now that he is married here with a child? I'm not disagreeing with anything, I'm just legitimately asking if there's a law I'm not aware of that makes it so he's not able to do anything about it. I truly have no idea on the immigration system today (it's been 50+ years since my dad moved here from India, things have changed drastically!)

    1. Unfortunately he left the country and reentered and got caught then reentered again doing so voids his chances of coming back really ever. There is only one option left and he is not able to do that option at the moment because it's not guaranteed.

    2. I can talk a little about immigration, being an immigrant myself, albeit to a different country, but I've researched both countries (just in case we ever wanted to move there). Being married to a country's citizen doesn't automatically guarantee citizenship. I had to apply and wait 19 months before I even got my temporary partner visa after getting married. Then, I have to wait longer to apply for "permanent residency". From there, I can choose to apply for dual citizenship. All of these applications can be denied. I know someone that we deal with in our business who was an Australian citizen, got married, her husband applied for the partner visa, in the mean time she got pregnant, they had the baby, then he was denied. Being denied, he was required to go back to his home country within 30 days. Immigration is messy business.

    3. Oh, and I say all of that because Australia and America have very similar requirements and applications.

  2. THIS. Obviously, I'm one of those people who didn't need to read this to understand because I feel the same way. But this is what people who don't understand the "complaining" need to realize.

  3. Great post, Jenn. It scares me so deeply to see hate be endorsed. Whether it was his true intention or gambit to get elected, he legitimatized hate. Which he further continues to do by putting Steve Bannon in his administration, a known white nationalist. I can't admit to really liking any of the republican candidates but I doubt people would go around shouting "White Power!" if another Republican had been elected.

    I did not realize how many people were so fearful that they were susceptible to hate. While I've had to deal with racism all my life, I have also been fairly insulated as of late, living in a very diverse city. This was a huge wake-up call to me. But I also remain hopeful even with all the fear. Hate has been exposed and can no longer remain hidden, simmering and building. We must address it and find solutions because I refuse to let hate take down our great nation.

    1. Right. And there are so many people saying things like, "He can't control who endorses him" but he's not refuting any of the hate groups or hate crimes! He's alternately ignoring it and, like you said, making it worse by adding a white nationalist to his team. How can anyone claim he's not a racist after all he's said and suggested and implied and supported? It's beyond me.

  4. love this post Jenn. You said everything I don't know how to say.
    as for your friend? i entered this country legally, married someone and it was HELL to get my green card. and they said all they care about is that you entered the country legally, even though my visa expired, it didn't matter so much as i had when when i came here. but it was still a mess, still hard and horrible and i almost had to go home.


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