On Nov. 9, 2012, these are the words I wrote for this newspaper:
“When I woke up Wednesday morning, it was dark. There was something ominous about that midweek morning, something that I hadn’t felt in many years, something that I hadn’t even felt when my father died decades ago. It was sense of intangible, yet visceral, loss.”
I went on to say I was devastated that Barack Obama would have four more years to refashion the country in an image I neither recognized nor appreciated. And I closed the column with a trademark melodramatic flourish, a gift from my Irish ancestors:
“On Wednesday, I felt that country slipping further away. And it was dark. But then I remembered the words of Dylan Thomas, Do not go gentle into that good night … rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”
That column garnered a lot of negative responses from people who couldn’t believe that I’d unfavorably compare the re-election of the first black president to the death of my father. Looking back, it does seem a bit over the top, but when you consider I panicked about a paper cut last week because someone convinced me I could die from an infection, there is a comforting consistency in my reactions. When people are generally passionate about things, they sometimes exceed the bounds of reason.
Which brings me to this week. Donald Trump won the electoral vote in the dark hours of Wednesday morning, and the clocks stopped. This was followed by the Amazon River evaporating into the mists of the Brazilian jungle, Mount Aetna erupting and swallowing half of Sicily, the polar ice caps melting, and every resident of South Philadelphia finding a parking space in less than five minutes.
A miracle, I tell you. Of course, it wasn’t a miracle to those who had been listening to the voices of working-class Americans, mostly white, mostly unnoticed by the establishment that addresses the loudest and most obvious voices of anger and grievance.
Before the election, I posted this on Facebook, anticipating a presidential loss for this flamboyant populist-cum-showman: “If you voted for Trump, and he lost, understand that the message was a good one, that there is indeed too much entrenched corruption and inbreeding in Washington, but the messenger mangled the words before they could be understood and digested by everyone not wearing a ‘Make America Great Again' hat. Keep fighting the good fight, alongside of the Americans of all colors and creeds who agree with you that, as Sam Cooke sang, a change is gonna come.”
I was wrong. Or rather, I was partly right. The message was mangled by hurtful words and aggressive delivery, and there were even some things that could legitimately be called racist, sexist or bigoted, as when the president-elect failed to differentiate between Mexicans who rape and murder and the rest of them. Trump supporters who inartfully argue that he never insinuated all illegal aliens were vile creatures could better spend their time reading up on how the future FLOTUS worked illegally in the United States as a newly arrived immigrant, and then have a slice of humble pie.
But the truth is that much of what has been labeled vicious and un-American, the attempts to link our future president to the KKK, the allegations that sick racists who scribble graffiti on walls and burn down Southern churches are his responsibility, the absolutely ridiculous accusations that he lusted after 10-year-old girls and had a vaguely incestuous relationship with his daughter, the conflation of his campaign commercials with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and all of the other hysterical attempts to turn the man into evil incarnate didn’t stop the forgotten classes from listening to his message. And that message was not “Let’s keep them out,” but rather “Let’s bring you in.”
The sophisticated folk on CNN and MSNBC, at The New York Times and on NPR heard dog whistles of racism in his dialogue. But, as Salena Zito, a Pennsylvania journalist noted, “the press takes (Trump) literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”
The media think he wants to deport all 11 million undocumented. His supporters don’t think he'll be using a calculator.
While not a #nevertrumper, I wasn’t a fan of the man, and my inbox overflowed with insults from those who linked me to the hoity-toity mainstream media. But I fully understand why he won in such a convincing fashion on Wednesday morning, and I do not blame the Americans who embraced his message.
I also do not blame the people who hoped for shards of that glass ceiling to come raining down on us this week for their absolute devastation. They were tricked into believing it was there, only a few electoral votes away. I remember what it felt like to believe so profoundly in a person and to have invested blood, sweat and tears in an idea and then have it ripped away. I wrote about it four years ago this week.
But I do blame these people for their violent, cruel, absolutely inexcusable reactions. I blame them for filling up my social media newsfeeds with accusations of racism, with hysterical finger-pointing and threats, with bitter salty tears, a la Miley Cyrus, with doomsday prophecies, with ridiculous exclamations about a “lost America,” with slanderous descriptions of the uneducated Neanderthals who dared deprive their icon of her rightful place in history, with images of bloody coat hangers and Kristallnacht for immigrants, with all of the basest and most histrionic things that people who have had a rude awakening can summon from the depths of their embittered souls.
This is despicable. I’m sickened by the adults who have used their children as proxies in a war against the man who will soon take the oath of office, teachers who tell their little charges that the educated people weren’t numerous enough to balance out the bigotry of the stupid white yokels. I’m angry that Catholics who voted their conscience and for the unborn are being blamed for hoisting a serial sexual abuser on the women of America. I’m tired of hearing minorities and women and gays and lesbians accuse those who voted for Trump of hating them and wanting them to disappear.
Yes, I said I was depressed after Obama won a second term. I got grief for it, and I understand why. But I never looked across the aisle at a person who voted for him and said, “You despise me, and you despise America.”
How dare anyone say that now to others who simply stood in line and said, “I matter, too.”