As the election approaches, I have not unfriended anyone on Facebook or turned away from them over their intended vote.
But I have to admit, when I hear people who love me say that they are voting for Donald Trump, it wounds.
I don’t mean that I’m irked or politically offended; I mean that it hurts my heart to understand that someone who claims to care about my family can excuse or embrace a man who has denigrated just about every aspect of who we are.
When friends tell me Trump’s “agenda” or “values” aligns better with their own, it chips away at my trust in how truly they care not just about people like me and my daughter but about us in specific.
It can’t help but tarnish my affection, dimming the luster of a bond premised on the belief of mutual respect. Why? Because a vote for this man is a vote for what he says about us.
I know you’re already thinking that this is unfair. That someone can still love us and vote differently. And that’s true in most years. But this election has lowered the bar of discourse so far, has diminished the American embrace of human decency so thoroughly, that I don’t really think that “I love you, but…” means very much when it comes to being loving right now. Hear me out.
I am a Latino son of an immigrant and a gay dad to daughter of African-American descent. To unpack how much Trump has said about facets of our lives is to stroll through a daily litany of mockery and dismissal. And when I look at what he has promised to do once elected, I see that we are a target.
When I adopted my daughter, everything was easier because my husband and I were legally married, something only true in two states at the time. At airports, hospitals, and schools, our legal bond to our child has never been in doubt.
Marriage equality has been one of the hallmarks of this century so far, now embraced by the majority of Americans, but Trump has said he’s seriously considering what can be done to roll that right backward. He’s also pledged to support legislation that would grant any person of any claimed faith the right not to serve or do business with any gay person. The bill is hatefully broad in its wording: we’re not just talking the famed bakers of wedding cakes but landlords, health care providers, employers, and anyone with a business.
Like people who say they care for me, Trump say his gay friends are “fabulous” but that this is bigger than them. He doesn’t think people like me need marriage rights for our families or the ability to shop, sleep, eat and be cared for everywhere that our straight fellow citizens can.
That can only be because we are seen as lesser humans which is, in fact, how he seems to see every group to which he doesn’t belong. In my household, we represent a lot of those groups.
Take my daughter, a child of African-American descent. Trump calls all people like her “the Blacks” a simple phrase that tells you so much. He has no sense of the diversity of the experience, whether in geography or values or status or needs. He has made this lack of perspective clear, by telling “the Blacks” that “their” schools, jobs, and lives are all terrible.
To Trump, people of color are so foreign and so the antithesis of what he’s selling that he threw one of his own African-American supporters out of a rally last week, because he assumed the man to be an enemy on sight. (In fact, the man had previously praised Trump on the record.)
That’s not surprising: When you decide an entire group of people is “the other,” snap judgments are like breathing.
At least he considers “the Blacks” part of the nation. The last year and a half have been a time when Latinos all 55 million of us in this country have seen clearly what he really thinks of us.
It started with immigrants, all killers and rapists, to use his terms. (This applied only to Latino immigrants and not to people like his wife.) His venom expanded outward from there. When he said an Indiana-born judge couldn’t be trusted because he was of Latino descent, and when he threw an award-winning reporter out of a press conference because of his Latino bias, Trump revealed his innate bent toward racist generalization.
His level of ignorance reached its peak when he said he actually loves “Hispanics,” which he proved with a taco bowl. It was so base, so ridiculous, and so Trump. Reducing millions of diverse Americans to a food product for sale is just another reminder: To him, we aren’t people.
And yet, nothing compares to the depths of Trump’s grossness and crassness on the subject of women. This man wields women’s looks as a cudgel, diminishing their worth and credibility based on his scale of beauty; he boasts about how conquests bolster a man’s success; and he uses the topic of menstruation as a weapon.
He actively reveals a complete lack of boundaries when it comes to analyzing the bodies of women not just young enough to be his daughter, but his actual daughter, and girls far, far younger. It’s been upsetting enough to take that all in as a human being, period. But as a parent, it’s even worse.
It terrifies me. To vote for this man is to vote for the creepy uncle, the pervy boss, the guy who won’t take no for an answer. His gleeful boasts about sexual misconduct were labeled “locker room talk” but now that locker room could be the White House.
To excuse it—over and over—is to tell him he’s right in thinking that women and girls are less than men. To vote for someone so unapologetic in his sexism, to make him the face of your nation, is to tell girls that they must take whatever a man dishes out. No it tells everyone this. And my daughter’s future will be more dangerous as a result.
And these are just the messages of his words and deeds as they relate to my small household. I could expand outward to Muslim friends, my veteran relatives, or Jewish in-laws to reveal all the language and imagery Trump’s campaign has deployed to make clear that they are “less than” him and if they don’t like it, there’s more to come.
The imagery of this campaign is like none I can remember; when the KKK is doing “get out the vote” work for a candidate, it is no surprise that Trump signs show up effortlessly paired with lynched dummies or a bumper sticker depicting gay bashing.
Trump didn’t make these companion pieces himself, of course; but he has surely granted permission for people to not just indulge their worst thoughts, but to absolutely revel in them. He stoked a fire in people who have grown tired of making the effort to extend civility and human decency to those not like them.
What was once a goading whisper has become the roar of the crowd: It’s OK to embrace your secret feeling that all the “others” are not your people, are not equal to you, and, in being worth less, need not be treated with the same respect and privileges you enjoy.
Trump has made it fine not to only to embrace this deeply un-American sentiment but to say it with pride, to shout it out loud alongside thousands of your exuberant peers.
And then to vote it.
If you love me and you’re going to vote for Trump, I would like you to look me in the eye and say, “I’m OK with what Trump plans for you.” If you love my daughter, whose growth you have followed with joy, I want you to look her in the eye and say, “I’m OK with how Trump talks about you.”
Maybe dig out our holiday card from last year and, while looking at our smiling faces, practice saying to us: “You are less than me.”
Because that is what your vote for Trump says to my family.