The following guest post was authored by Heina Dadabhoy of Heinous Dealings and is published here with permission.
Content Notice: Current Election Cycle, sexual assault, racism
You know what’s worse than having to wake up early to go to the last two days of a job you wanted out of as soon as you started it after a late night out? Snubbing a suddenly-snuggly cat in order to get up.
Worse than that is when the Medium app on your phone decides that you need to read a post called Why I’m Voting for Trump, and you tap on it only to find out that it’s even worse than expected.
My whole life, I’ve been told that I need to understand “the other side”. When I was a scarf-wearing Muslima, I was told to understand why people were willing to inflict harm on and instill fear in me based on the religion I followed. I needed to have more empathy, I was told. I should let the ignorant American masses exorcise their xenophobia and other assorted irrational fears upon my person. It would make me a stronger person, I was assured, and ensure they didn’t do worse to me or others if thwarted. In other words, I should let people scream “Go home, fucking Ayrab!” and spit at me without a word from me other than a sheepish apology if I had the chance, because that was better than them escalating to “actual” violence out of frustration.
Now that I’m a godless heathen progressive (i.e. far too liberal for the Democratic Party), I’m told to stop dehumanizing people voting for Donald Trump by calling them supporters of a racist, sexist, abusive candidate. I’m told that the only reason I could say such things about “the other side” is that I don’t understand them, that I don’t care about them, that I’ve got more in common with them than I think I do. They are my fellow Americans, after all.
Little do these pushers of understanding know that I want nothing more than to understand ardent Trump supporters better. Even as my legs instinctively clamp and my arms cross over my chest as I contemplate the sorts of grabbing DJT thinks is fun banter but I know is an assault upon my bodily autonomy, I unclench my body until it is usable enough to function, because when I’m pretzeled up with fear, I cannot process information. Even though my hands shake as I think about what The Orange One assures he will do to me and my Muslim family if he were to become Commander-in-Chief, I use them to carefully scroll through explanations as to why they support what is, to me, the promise of a pogrom.
And there are helpful pieces out there. There are real issues to sort out and deal with as Americans, and false perceptions to take down. There are valid if chilling explanations. Utterly unhelpful and downright hypocritical was what I found in John Biggs’s Why I’m Voting for Trump.
To save you the scroll down all the way to the bottom, the piece does not, despite its deceptive formatting, aggregate interviews and/or statements from actual Trump supporters. It is a fantasy piece written by a self-described liberal in which he, in the name of understanding, stuffs words into Republican Trump voters’ mouths. The heart of this piece is “This is what I think they think, and I will speak for them so that you may understand them, since you, liberal reader, think they are inhuman monsters.”
I wish I were kidding about how the very premise of the piece is irredemably flawed.
The only genuinely-written part of the piece is the end, where the author insists that Trump supporters aren’t monsters. No one knows that better than people like me that monsters aren’t necessary to do irrevocable harm. I’m related to people who voted Yes on Proposition 8 in 2008. I’ve worked with people who are excellent teammeates but who thought airing transmisogynistic statements constituted work-appropriate banter. My once-atheist Canadian Internet boyfriend (I actually had a real one) is now a Muslim who thinks that my reasons for leaving Islam were foolish and emotional compared to his allegedly logical ones.
I still hang out with and love the relatives who voted as a way to protest an essential part of who I am (i.e. my queerness). I have good professional working relationships with people whose “jokes” directly invoke the murders of my trans and gender-nonconforming siblings. I didn’t cut off my Canuck former flame despite the infuriating white supremacy and misogyny embedded in his statements. I, of all people, know that monstrosities do not require monsters. All you need is people selfish, self-obsessed, and self-serving enough to not even try to understand others’ realties. All you need is people who care about nothing but their own feelings of “safety, security, health, and wealth”.
And even if you take John Biggs’s caricatured statements at face value, that’s exactly what we have, and exactly the problem.