I’m an asshole on Facebook. This is not news to folks who know me. In real life I like to think that I’m a pretty nice guy but on the vast wasteland of social media I don’t shy away from expressing my opinion and I’m not always nice about it. But it seems in the Donald J. Trump era more and more folks are feeling right at home taking their racism, bigotry and ignorance offline and out into the real world.
We’ve all heard Donald Trump fans make the claim “I like Trump because he speaks his mind,” and we all know that what they like about him speaking his mind is that it has begun to legitimize saying obnoxiously racist and bigoted things in public. You may have read the story of the mostly white Indiana high school who chanted “Build a wall!” at their mostly Latino opponents at a basketball game. Or the similar occurrence at another high school ball game in Iowa where white fans chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” at their racially diverse opponents. Or the mother of an African-American third grader who got a call from her son’s principal telling her that her son had been singled out by some of his classmates as being one of the “immigrants” who would be “sent home” when Trump was elected president.
But it is one thing to read about this nonsense happening in another state. It’s quite another when it happens right in front of you. I live in a redneck town in northern NJ. To those of you to whom that sounds like an oxymoron, I assure you that there are as many bears in West Milford Township as there are residents. One of the local watering holes I sometimes play music at has a shooting range out back. And apparently people who have never met me before are perfectly comfortable sharing their ignorant and bigoted views with me.
A few weeks ago I was waiting on line at a local business that shall remain nameless, but whose primary function is to mail UPS packages. The man on line ahead of me was making a great show of being unable to pronounce the Middle-Eastern sounding name of the recipient of his package. After mispronouncing it several times as obnoxiously as he could he looked straight at me and stated, “Sounds like someone who shouldn’t be here.” My first thought was that if he was mailing this gentleman something then apparently his bigotry wasn’t so principled that he would refuse to do business with someone he obviously thought so little of. But then my second thought was shame, disgust and disappointment that we live in a world today where bigotry is so acceptable that this racist jerk would simply assume I would agree with him.
Just this afternoon I was at the local hardware store, where upon approaching the checkout line I overheard an older man bending the ear of the young lady who was ringing him up about how college kids today “just want free stuff.” The young man who was handling my order must have seen the mixture of boredom and revulsion on the face of his colleague and thought it would be a fabulous idea to have a go at it with me. “You wouldn’t catch me anywhere near a college,” he said, to my complete lack of surprise. “All they do is whine that they want free stuff. It’s so annoying. If I heard them I would punch them right in the face,” he continued. Now I’m not saying I’m some kind of tough guy, but this little punk was about half my size and I couldn’t help but wonder if he would be as apt to pop off about punching college students if I was wearing my Montclair State t-shirt.
And you can’t argue with a Trump supporter. Dr. Ben Carson, a person with whom I rarely agree on anything, recently published an op-ed in which he describes Trump voters as completely uninfluenced in any meaningful way by facts or logic. Trump has the worst record by far of any presidential candidate on Politifact and that doesn’t seem to faze his supporters in the slightest. When confronted by Chuck Todd about falsely accusing a protester at one of his rallies of having ties to ISIS, he replied, “All I know is what’s on the Internet,” which is a statement that should absolutely terrify anyone who has any familiarity at all with the internet.
A Trump-supporting Facebook friend of mine posted a meme by Dinesh D’Souza that shows a picture of a young Hillary Clinton sitting in what appears to be an office of some kind with a confederate flag hanging behind her, with the caption: “This is lawyer Hillary Clinton. At 27 years old she worked on the Watergate investigation and was fired for lying. Is that a confederate flag on the background?” When I pointed out to her that the flag was Photoshopped into the picture and that Hillary was not fired from the Watergate investigation, her response was, and I quote, “Who cares she still lies.” The irony of propagating a lie about someone she claimed to be a liar was apparently lost on her.
In the words of Andy Borowitz, “Stopping Trump is a short-term solution. The long term solution, and it will be more difficult, is fixing the educational system that has created so many people ignorant enough to vote for Trump.” In a previous post I listed a multitude of reasons why Donald Trump should never, ever, ever be elected President of the United States, but I fear that simply defeating him at the ballot box will not be enough to stem the tide of emboldened racism and bigotry that seems to have affected our society at large.