CW: some sexual assault talk in here.
also, it’s long. If you’re a tl;dr kinda person feel free to skip to the 2nd pgph from the end.
Hi there, America. Here we are, at the fork in the road. One way heads down Oppression Avenue and the other heads towards Opportunism Lane. I’d say “Poor America” but this is kinda what we get. We were built on hypocrisy, on the conflict between an idea in its full shining glory and its opposite ugliness in operation. And thus is our nation divided between what our American values really mean.
I have had an interesting couple of online arguments – completely reasonable ones – in the last two weeks or so with Trump supporters, and in each one it boiled down to a particular question:
What is the crucial nature of what you value about America?
In all my conversations I observed that the nature of my debate opponent’s values is, at its core, protection. Protecting their family, protecting their rights, protecting their way of life. “I vote for 2nd Amendment rights.” “I won’t stand for gov’t corruption.” “We need someone with a head for business in this awful economy.”
Which I’d get, but, uh, Trump isn’t That Guy. He doesn’t really care about guns, he is being investigated for fraud, and has declared his businesses bankrupt enough times that US banks won’t lend to him any more.
Sometimes I’ll hear “I can’t abide treason.” It’s almost always focused on the emails. But as far as I can find anywhere in every investigation, nothing about the emails is treasonous. Careless handling of confidential information is not the same as specifically delivering it to our enemies. Those who focus on the emails also usually think she’s hiding something and point to typical politician’s spin as evidence of evil. So that’s not so much about our values as it is about a specific interpretation of what treason means.
And sometimes people talk about aiding and abetting her husband’s awful behavior. Which to me is ludicrous, given how gross Trump has been. It’s like saying “Between the person who did the assault and their best friend who believed them when they said they didn’t do it, I’d rather have the person who did the assault.”
And it’s all silly, except that at a gut level, I believe these folks really, honestly believe that Hillary Clinton is going to hurt them somehow. Them individually.
So here I am. As far as what I value in America? What I value is free speech in the sense our forefathers meant it, which is “journalistic criticism cannot be silenced.” *pointed look at Trump* I value the rights of people to live freely without physical or emotional attack or harm. *pointed look at Trump rallies* I believe in affording all Americans with the same rights and opportunities (as difficult as that may be given the whole “what is a man/what is a person?” bullshit we screwed up early on). *pointed look at a bunch of Trump’s policies*
In essence, you are free to be authentically you, and I should be free to be authentically me, and if we have disagreements about how things should be done we can argue and yell and call each other non-historically-fraught names and then we go to our corners. You don’t come into my kingdom (sanctuary, castle, whatever) and I don’t come into yours.
And hey, you also don’t get to call the entire public world “your corner.” We all have to live together and we all have certain physical needs, and gods know I’ve been attacked by both men and women in public bathrooms meant for people assigned female at birth, so it’s not like allowing transgender folk to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable in is going to make things ANY more dangerous than it already is. If you would argue otherwise, you’re lying to yourself to feel safer.
I also have worked for multiple Fortune 100 companies and I have seen first-hand what most successful business leaders do and how they work. Spoiler: it certainly isn’t built to benefit anyone more than it benefits investors (which, of course, means Wall Street). Trump knows perfectly well that in his business he has to satisfy his investors, or his business will fail. I’m lucky enough that where I work now is a company that deeply values integrity, so the comparison is pretty stark.
So, how do my values compare when I’m asked about the concerns expressed by Trump supporters? It’s a matter of definition, really. To wit:
Do I want to protect my way of life? Well, sure, but not at the expense of others who don’t have the same way of life and want to improve or change theirs. I also witnessed 9/11 through my own eyes and I still don’t want surveillance-based protection of anything, thank you very much. It’s my main disappointment with the Obama administration.
Can I abide treason? Of course not, but per above, I also am not sure whether what Snowden did was really treason, because he was trying to protect American people like me, the little folks, from unreasonable search and seizure. I’ve been angry about our history of digital surveillance since 1999 (big respect to the movie Swordfish for mentioning it), so I get where Snowden was coming from. He gave our surveillance information to an ally government’s newspaper and a non-aligned transparency entity, not secretly to an enemy. If someone deliberately shared our weapons plans or info about our military movements with al-Qaeda? Yeah, THAT would be treason and that would be unforgivable. Snowden? Still not sure. So our definitions of “abiding treason” may vary.
Corruption? Despise it. It’s on all sides. But I don’t see Hillary Clinton’s history being any worse than McCain’s, Cruz’, McConnell’s… etc etc etc. Trump looks MUCH worse from my perspective as a former New Yorker.
What about guns? Well, two things. I believe the 2nd Amendment should be a respected thing, but no one has respected the “well-regulated militia” part of it for as long as I’ve been alive, as far as I can tell, so I’d like to go back to that, please. I also find that guns are a big part of removing certain particular unalienable rights from other citizens. These unalienable rights, as laid out in the Declaration of Independence, are being removed from citizens in schools, citizens in movie theaters, and from citizens – of all races – who don’t happen to behave in quite the way a police officer trusts. So I’d like that part to be addressed by the same well-regulated militia. But at the same time, I know that the NRA is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in America, so if you REALLY think “Hillary is going to take our guns” you are grossly overestimating the power of a President and underestimating the power of the NRA in Congress. The 2nd Amendment has more allies than all the other amendments put together. It doesn’t need my protection. That’s why I focus on the 1st Amendment – our Founders put it 1st for a very good reason.
So from my standpoint, the nature of my values centers around a particular kind of freedom: freedom to be without interference, to live both loudly and privately, to move without impediment, to find happiness, to express our values, to educate ourselves, to excel. Most of the policies I see on the Trump side are designed to take those freedoms away from certain groups of people. Most of the policies I see on the Hillary side are designed to give more freedoms of those kinds to people whose freedoms are being threatened. I don’t WANT to vote for HRC, given she has proposed censorship, but she actually fits my values as an American more closely than Trump does. And Hillary Clinton has shown that she will actually listen to others and try to find the best solution. I have an opportunity to influence her to be better about censorship. There’s no way I – or anyone, really, who doesn’t have a metric fuckton of cash – can influence Trump.
tl;dr: I get people who can’t vote HRC. I really do. What I don’t get is people actually voting Trump. He’s not going to protect us – his history as a business leader shows that clearly. And he certainly won’t work for freedom.
Please don’t vote for the bully, just because you think you might get sucker-punched.
Value-related Footnote: I once was on a dating site, years and years ago, that asked the question “What is more important: liberty or equality?” And I couldn’t answer because while liberty is crucial, *no one* has real liberty when we don’t have equality. I support equality so we can all have liberty.