The election, am I right? I’m not writing this to advocate for one position or the other. It’s approaching that wonderful time of year, so this is a general airing of grievances. Whether or not you joined the Trump Train, listen up!
To conservatives: No, campuses are not turning into oversized daycares. No, liberals are not crying because their candidate lost. I know what “upset because your team lost” looks like. I’m a San Diego Chargers fan. They’re not upset because your candidate won. They’re scared because your candidate won. That emotion you see — that you mock — is fear. I could talk about all the things that Trump said or did to inspire such fear, but you know very well what I’m talking about. You hedged against the negative, and voted for him anyway.
Instead, I’ll tell you a quick story. The morning after the election, I came into class and saw one of my friends in tears. She calmed down long enough to tell me what was happening. You see, her mother grew up in Paraguay, under the rule of the fascist dictator Alfredo Stroessner. His three greatest hits: ordering the wholesale genocide of the native Aché people, torturing dissidents and then mailing tapes of their recorded screams to those dissidents’ family members and listening on the telephone while the other end was held to the execution of a major communist political opponent. Oh, yes, and this man was executed with a chainsaw! My friend’s mom saw enough similarity between Alfredo Stroessner and Donald Trump that she called her daughter the morning after the election, and told her everything she did to survive the Stroessner regime. This woman lived through a fascist dictatorship. She knows what they look like more than most people. And she felt echoes of that man in the very same person we elected president.
Liberals. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you. You call Trump supporters racist. They fire back by insisting that they voted for the man in spite of all the exhibited bigotry. Did you ever stop and think what could compel people to vote for a man in spite of that? This was an outcry from an oft-overlooked, systematically disenfranchised group of Americans: rural, white Americans. These are people that live with crushing poverty, a heroin epidemic and a suicide rate nearly double that of city-dwellers. They felt the economic floor drop out from under them, then felt a slow to non-existent recovery. They represent one of pop culture’s last acceptable stereotypes. Go ahead and think of a movie or TV show that doesn’t portray country folks as the punchline in a fish-out-of-water or a bunch of inbred, murder-crazed yokels. Find one piece of popular culture where the protagonist doesn’t wish to escape a rural lifestyle.
So, your punchline felt so marginalized by the system that they overwhelmingly voted for a man that violently bucked systematic convention. That’s right, my blue-and-green friends. You elected Donald Trump. You ignored the concerns of white rural Americans for so long and with such gusto that they felt they had had no choice but to, as author Jason Pargin puts it, “throw a brick through the window.” Whenever a white person raised concerns, no time was spent assessing the validity of the concern. Instead, the common response was to immediately shut them down with accusations that they could never know real hardship because they still possessed the favored skin color. Yes, systemic, institutionalized discrimination against people of color, LGBTQ people and other equally-important marginalized groups still very much exists. I’m not attempting to compare magnitude of hardship between identity groups. I’m saying both happen, and you could have addressed both. You didn’t have to dismiss the plight of rural America. Now fix it and do both. Sympathy is not a zero-sum game. You tried to play it that way, and you lost.
Conor Young is a senior biology major with a minor in religion.