I’m crying as I write this, and I want you to understand why.
Politics is the mind-killer. I
hate talking about it; I hate driving a wedge between myself and someone I
might be able to participate in a coalition with, however narrow. But, when
you ignore politics for long enough, it doesn't just kill the mind; it goes on
to kill the rest of the body, as well as anyone standing nearby. So, sometimes
one is really obligated to talk about it.
Today, I am in despair. Donald Trump is an unprecedented catastrophe for
American politics, in many ways. I find it likely that I will get into some
nasty political arguments with his supporters in the years to come. But
hopefully, this post is not one of those arguments. This post is for you,
hypothetical Trump supporter. I want you to understand why we are not just
sad, that we are not just defeated, but that we are in more emotional distress
than any election has ever provoked for us. I want you to understand that we
are afraid for our safety, and for good reason.
I do not believe I can change your views; don’t @ me to argue, because you
certainly can’t change mine. My hope is simply that you can read this and at
least understand why a higher level level of care and compassion in political
discourse than you are used to may now be required. At least soften your tone,
and blunt your rhetoric. You already won, and if you rub it in too much, you
may be driving people
literally kill themselves.
First let me list the arguments that I’m not making, so you can’t write off
my concerns as a repeat of some rhetoric you’ve heard before.
I won’t tell you about how Trump has the support of
American Nazi Party and
Ku Klux Klan;
I know that you’ll tell me that he “can’t control who supports him”, and that
he denounced their support. I won’t tell you about
very real campaign of violence that
has been carried
by his supporters in
the mere days since his victory; a campaign that
even affected the behavior of children.
I know you don’t believe there’s a connection there.
I think these are very real points to be made. But even if I agreed with you
completely, that none of this was his fault, that none of this could have been
prevented by his campaign, and that in his heart he’s not a hateful racist, I
would still be just as scared.
Bear Sterns estimates that there are
20 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
Donald Trump’s official position on how to handle this population
He has promised that this will be done
“warmly and humanely”,
which betrays his total ignorance of how mass resettlements have happened in
By contrast, the total combined number of active and reserve personnel in the
United States Armed Forces is a little over 2 million people.
What do you imagine happens when a person is deported? A person who, as an
illegal immigrant, very likely gave up everything they have in their home
country, and wants to be where they are so badly that they risk arrest every
day, just by living where they live? How do you think that millions of them
returning to countries where they have no home, no food, and quite likely no
money or access to the resources or support that they had while in the United
They die. They die of exposure because they are in poverty and all their
possessions were just stripped away and they can no longer feed themselves, or
because they were already refugees from political violence in their home
country, or because their home country kills them at the border because it is a
hostile action to suddenly burden an economy with the shock of millions of
displaced (and therefore suddenly poor and unemployed, whether they were before
or not) people.
A conflict between 20 million people on one side and 2 million (heavily armed)
people on the other is not a “police action”. It cannot be done “warmly and
humanely”. At best, such an action could be called a massacre. At worst
(and more likely) it would be called a civil war. Individual deportees can be
sent home without incident, and many have been, but the victims of a mass
deportation will know what is waiting for them on the other side of that train
ride. At least some of them won’t go quietly.
It doesn’t matter if this is
enforcing “existing laws”.
It doesn’t matter whether you think these people deserve to be in the country
or not. This is just a reality of very, very large numbers.
Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that of the population of immigrants
has assimilated so poorly that each one knows only one citizen who will stand
up to defend them, once it’s obvious that they will be sent to their deaths.
That’s a hypothetical resistance army of 40 million people. Let’s say they are
so thoroughly overpowered by the military and police that there are zero
casualties on the other side of this. Generously, let’s say that the police
and military are incredibly restrained, and do not use unnecessary overwhelming
force, and the casualty rate is just 20%; 4 out of 5 people are captured
without lethal force, and miraculously nobody else dies in the remaining 16
million who are sent back to their home countries.
That’s 8 million casualties.
6 million Jews died in the Holocaust.
This is why we are afraid. Forget all the troubling things about Trump’s
character. Forget the coded racist language, the support of hate groups, and
every detail and gaffe that we could quibble over as the usual chum of
left/right political struggle in the USA. Forget his deeply concerning
relationship with African-Americans, even.
We are afraid because of things that others have said about him, yes. But
mainly, we are afraid because, in his own campaign, Trump promised to be 33%
worse than Hitler.
I know that there are mechanisms in our democracy to prevent such an atrocity
from occurring. But there are also mechanisms to prevent the kind of madman
who would propose such a policy from becoming the President, and thus far
they’ve all failed.
I’m not all that afraid for myself. I’m not a Muslim. I am a Jew, but despite
all the swastikas painted on walls next to Trump’s name and slogans, I don’t
think he’s particularly anti-Semitic. Perhaps he will even make a show of
punishing anti-Semites, since he has some Jews in his family.
I don’t even think he’s trying to engineer a massacre; I just know that what
he wants to do will cause one. Perhaps, when he sees what is happening as a
result of his orders, he will stop. But his character has been so erratic, I
honestly have no idea.
I’m not an immigrant, but many in my family are. One of those immigrants is
intimately familiar with the use of the word “deportation” as an euphemism for
there’s even a museum about it where
she comes from.
Her mother’s name is written in a book there.
In closing, I’d like to share a quote.
The last thing that my great-grandmother said to my grandmother, before she was
dragged off to be killed by the Nazis, was this:
Pleure pas, les gens sont bons.
or, in English:
Don’t cry, people are good.
As it turns out, she was right, in a sense; thanks in large part to the help of
anonymous strangers, my grandmother managed to escape, and, here I am.
My greatest hope for this upcoming regime change is that I am dramatically
catastrophizing; that none of these plans will come to fruition, that the
strange story I have been told by Trump supporters is in fact true.
But if my fears, if our fears, should come to pass – and the violence already
in the streets already is showing that at least some of those fears will – you,
my dear conservative, may find yourself at a crossroads. You may see something
happening in your state, or your city, or even in your own home. Your children
might use a racial slur, or even just tell
a joke that you
find troubling. You may see someone, even a policeman, beating a Muslim to
death. In that moment, you will have a choice: to say something, or not. To be
one of the good people, or not.
be one of the good ones.
In the meanwhile, I’m going to try to take great-grandma’s advice.