Hi Don: We graduated from Montclair High School, in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1959, and I loved dancing with you at our 50th reunion a few years ago. We’re friends on Facebook, and you commented on the post of another friend of mine. Our mutual friend analyzed the reasons for the electoral college and commenters had their say about the election. You commented about the election too, “Get over it…….the People have spoken” and “You liberals lost the election so act like adults.”
We are being urged to talk to each other, so instead of being offended, I’m writing to you. Ten years ago, after our 40th reunion, a poisonous letter from another Montclair High School graduate accused me, among other things, of being a “liberal” who supported teachers who were systematically converting their students to homosexuality. Since I had not communicated with him in 40 years, I wondered how he knew what I supported. I admit to being a liberal, but am not sure what that means to you. Are George and Barbara Bush also “liberals who lost the election” because they voted for Hillary? What are you saying here?
One of my first commitments to liberalism came in high school, when I supported racial integration. As you know, in those days Montclair schools were segregated up to high school, in high school most of the black students were not on the college track, and the few who were in our college track classes were not integrated socially. There were exceptions, especially in sports. I was fascinated that the few black members of our class who came to the reunion remained largely separate. After all the changes over the past decades, why would the racial divide persist? I was interested in hearing their stories, but they were pointedly not interested in talking to me, and I could understand that. They owed me nothing, and I barely knew them.
This election made me understand their distrust better. John Legend said on Bill Maher’s show that he and his friends and family would never forget that so many white voters had voted for Donald Trump, putting his community and many other communities in danger. Perhaps our black classmates would join Legend in noticing that white supremacy has been lying not so far under the surface, despite the words of tolerance spoken over all these years, changes in the law and daily practice. I don’t know whether Donald Trump is personally all that bigoted, because in his business dealings he has dealt with one of every race and nationality, but his agenda is bigoted, and his speeches are, and he accepted without comment the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan? The Klan has been distributing fliers in this part of New Jersey lately. I’ve never seen that before. Black people were attacked at Trump rallies (of a protester, one man said on video, “He’d better stay away. If he comes back, we might have to kill him”). Are you saying to yourself, “Good!” or “That’s just the way it’s going to be and you had better get used to it?” Are you thinking we should ignore or dismiss all of this hurt, disappointment, and fear?
Am I not an “adult” when I worry about this?
Do I have to “get over” my concern for my gay married friends and their children? For my muslim friends? Shouldn’t I be wary of increased surveillance of my activities (Trump said, “I wish I had that kind of power,” now he has it)? Some of my liberal friends say “I’m not doing anything wrong and neither are you, so why are you concerned about surveillance?” I have read history and 1984, remember J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy, and Kent State, and I am concerned. Must I get over my concern at Trump’s words “Why have nuclear weapons if you don’t use them?”
Some radicals are of the opinion that the system was irrevocably broken, that worse is better, and a period of bloodletting might be necessary to establish a new system. While I am more optimistic than they are, I understand how they can think that way. It appears to be how many Trump voters were thinking. What is your vision for the next few years? Can you give me a little raft that we can coexist on as we navigate these dangerous waters?I don’t know you well enough to know how you feel or what you think. Maybe we can never agree. I don’t know, but I’m willing to give it a go. I’m being as vulnerable and open as I can.
I join you in a period of respectful attentiveness as Trump changes from saying to doing.
E pluribus unum. We’re all in this together. Speak to me.