Columns 2016

Spewing hate is not American

My cousins Joe and Mary have three children. The oldest boy is married to an ethnic Chinese woman from Vietnam. The middle son is married to a Pennsylvania farmer’s daughter. The youngest, a girl, is married to an African-American. This is coming to you from a family that, just two generations ago, thought when my Uncle Albert (Italian) married Aunt Jean (Polish), the world was spinning slightly off its axis.

When I read about the interracial couple who were stabbed because they kissed in public and some racist thought that was just too much to ask him to bear, my first thought was, “Welcome to Donald Trump’s America”. My second thought was that if anyone tried to hurt the interracial couples I know and love so much, they’d find out pretty quickly that Italian mamas are not to be trifled with.

Here’s the worse part. This hatred won’t go away after the general election, even if Trump doesn’t win. The forces of misogyny and prejudice that he has sanctioned across this country are both horrifying and frightening and, now roused, will hardly go quietly into that good night. David Duke had crawled back under his rock until Trump gave him permission to crawl out again to foul our world with his rancid spewing about race.

Trump’s recent appeal to African-American voters, couched in that so memorable phrase “What have you got to lose?” is pretty ludicrous given the list of things minorities stand to lose if Trump and his ilk get power. What do African-Americans have to lose with Trump? Well, their dignity, the civil rights gains of the last fifty years, their standing in our society, the possibility of ever reaching full equality in this country and the end of any programs geared towards helping minorities take their place at the table with white America. That’s just off the top of my head.

Republicans – the real ones, not the Trump ones – have a very different vision of how to handle poverty and hunger in America than I do. Even if I don’t agree with them, they at least seem to have a logical argument to make for their approach and a plan for implementing their vision. Democrats also have a vision for how to handle these problems. Back in the good old days when Trump was known for nothing more than his strange orange color and the smallness of his hands, Democrats and Republicans would argue and debate loudly in public for their particular vision. But they also understood that government does not function without a certain amount of pragmatism tossed in that allows for give and take and compromise.

Does great legislation come out of compromise? Sometimes. And sometimes the legislation is only half-baked but at least it’s a start. This is how America has functioned for over two hundred years. Now, not only is compromise viewed as something dirty, but Donald Trump has sanctioned the expression of hate and prejudice towards great swaths of our society that preclude any attempt at a reasonable discussion leading to a reasonable if not perfect solution. So when he asks African-Americans what they have to lose, the answer is just about any and all progress they have managed to make in their Sisyphean effort to push their equality to the top of the hill where white privilege has always lived.

I have never understood the mindset of people who condemn the expression of love between any two consenting adults. I understand some religions frown upon this kind of relationship. Those people have a right to that belief. They don’t have a right to shove that religious belief into the civic realm. I have equally never understood the mindset of people who jump to automatic conclusions about entire classes of people based on something as shallow as the color of their skin.

And for those whose immaturity, insecurity and general love of wallowing in hate has been given a new legitimacy in America because of Big Cheeto Man, be forewarned. The majority of Americans are not hateful misogynists. We will not allow you or your leader to befoul our land with the terrible things you think, say and do.

And if any of you ever looks even sideways at my cousins and their offspring, you’ll learn what the full wrath of an angry Italian with nothing to lose is like.