When I woke up this morning I experienced profound disappointment. The sensation had nothing to do with Donald Trump’s unexpected and momentous victory — I stayed up late enough last night to know the projected winner. But when my alarm went off this morning and I lumbered to my desk and sat in the stillness of daybreak after a chaotic evening, I was still disappointed by what I saw as I scrolled through my Facebook feed.
The first post featured a NotMyPresident hashtag. The next poster lamented the downfall of her hero and liberal icon, Hillary Clinton. Then came another #NotMyPresident. And another. And another. And soon a trickle became a flood and I found myself waist deep in a sea of liberal ire.
Liberal ire is something I can deal with — same with the conservative ire I braced myself to endure when I thought that Trump’s defeat was inevitable. Anger and dismay are normal, healthy emotions which accompany defeat in all its forms. I would be concerned if I woke up and saw no angry Facebook posts this morning, whatever the outcome, because that would be a clear symptom of apathy and disinterest in our political process that a citizen republic cannot long endure.
What I cannot abide — what drove me to despondency this morning — is contempt. As I waded deeper into the ocean of ire, I watched as my fellow Penn students — who profess tolerance, open-mindedness, and respect as core tenets of their personal and political philosophy — roundly condemned without cause half of all Americans as irredeemable racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes, xenophobes and any other suitable politically-correct epithet. I don’t need to offer quotations or describe the posts; you all saw them and you know exactly which ones I mean.
Without pausing for a moment’s reflection, Penn’s supposedly-tolerant, open-minded liberals drowned millions of Americans in a wave of frothing scorn. Every vote for Donald Trump was in their minds an implicit endorsement of hatred, never mind the fact that Clinton herself is no paragon of virtue and there are dozens of legitimate reasons to favor Donald over Hillary. If you don’t agree with the ivory tower consensus, the towering intellects of my Facebook feed proclaim you to be worse than dirt: everything that’s wrong with America and the world, irredeemable and illegitimate.
Contempt on this scale and of this potency is, ironically, bigotry and arrogance of the highest order. I expect better of you.
I get that you’re angry. I get that you were blindsided last night on what was supposed to be the night of your crowning victory. I get that you’re scared for what the future will hold. I even agree with many if not most of your criticisms of our esteemed alumnus. But to answer supposed bigotry and hatred with your own brand of ignorance and intolerance is no cure. To mark every American — every mother and father, every worker and entrepreneur, every immigrant and veteran — who did not vote for your candidate as a black—hearted sinner beyond repute is a great sin in and of itself.
Are there racists and bigots and homophobes and sexists (etc. etc.) in America?
Of course there are.
Did they vote for Donald Trump?
I’m sure many (but certainly not all) did.
Is Donald Trump one himself?
I’m sure you’ve already made up your own mind on that point.
Denounce them, fight them, oppose them at every turn. I’ll join you in the fight against hatred wherever I see it. But don’t tar all Americans with the same brush of intolerance and odium. To do so is disingenuous and factually incorrect at best, outright dangerous at worst. Remember that Donald Trump got his start by playing to the sympathies of those who felt that they had been cast out of and were looked down upon by liberal, elite, politically-correct society. If you proclaim to fight against all the -isms I enumerated above, I daresay you don’t want to provoke a backlash by creating any more Americans who think that East Coast Elites (which, face it, we all are) hold them in contempt. That would be the height of folly.
Fight on, dear Quakers. Make me proud. Remember that there are good and honest people who voted for both candidates yesterday. The world we are in is a different place than it was Tuesday morning, but it will only be for the worse if we make it so. The arc of history is long, as they say, and the light of Providence has lit the path through darker times than these before.
May God bless you, all our countrymen, and the Republic.