I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear. I mean really, no fear! Nina Simone
Last Wednesday I woke to a nightmare I wished I had dreamt. Donald Trump had won the election. The day before I was sure, many of us were, that Clinton had it. That we would elect our first woman president. I fantasized about posting the lyrics to Nina Simone’s Feeling Good on my Facebook page. Only I felt like posting the lyrics to It’s the End of the World as We know It. In my heart I thought better of my country. Such a vile and hateful man could never be elected. Yet he was, over 59 million Americans had voted for him. I was bewildered.
Anger and fear have overwhelmed me since. Anger because Trump has made us afraid. Afraid because Trump had made it OK to hate. He made racism, bigotry, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia cool among his followers. He preyed on his follower’s fears of the Black, Latino, Asian, female, disabled, and gay Other. Perhaps they’re not hateful people themselves, but but the fact that they voted for a man who based his entire platform on hate implicates them. How different, I wonder, are Trump supporters from the lynch mobs of the old Deep South? How different are they from the men who threw a bomb into a Birmingham church in 1963 killing four young women?
Fear means many things. For me fear meant hiding my sexuality for the first 21 years of my life. Fear means acting more butch around straight men. Fear means wondering whether the right to marry someone of the same sex will be take away from us.
But that’s me, a white gay man. It is different for the Mexican immigrant who now fears deportation. For the Muslim woman afraid to wear a hijab in public. Or the woman who gets cat calls walking down the street. It is different for a black man pulled over for speeding and then getting shot by the cop.
This year I traveled to Oklahoma, Arkansas, and West Virginia. I sought out these places in order to complete my tour of all 50 states. I opted to drive through them because I thought that, on the eve of one of the most divisive elections I can remember, it would help me understand what the other America was like. Rural America, the America beyond the Liberal bubble of the Pacific Northwest where I live. I saw a lo.t of Trump signs on my road trip through those states. But I wasn’t afraid, no. The people I met were friendly. Trump supporters or not, they treated me with respect as I did them.
I realize that the political pendulum swings left then right. We suffered through 16 years of the Bushes in order to get Obama. Now we are paying the price for having a liberal, black president who affected more positive change in 8 years than any other president I can remember. I have lived through conservative presidents. But this time it feels different. Fear is in the air. Hate is a currency that Trump has made OK to spend.
There were other reasons people voted for Trump, I’m sure. Rage against the establishment, loss of jobs, anxiety about the future. But it was fear of the Other that made them follow a man who used racism, sexism, and homophobia to get into office. Perhaps if we could get to a place where we no longer fear each other then maybe we will be truly free.
No fear, no hate, no pain (no broken hearts)