Yes, you are as responsible as he is….
I’ve been trying, and mostly failing, to come up with a calm and reasonable way to explain why it is that YES, Trump supporters are as racist and bigoted as he is.
But, people say, I voted for change, I am not sexist, racist, homophobic etc….. I hear you. I even believe you. And I’m not really all that mad at you. But you need to understand what you’ve done with that vote, and why you are responsible for everything that happens as a result.
You voted for it. You chose it. You wanted it.
You elected it.
So I keep returning to 2 different ideas, neither of which perfectly nail the analogy, but both of which come close. I return to them in imaginary conversations with the very few (2, I think) people I know who voted for him. People who I know to be good, kind people who would offer pretty much anyone the shirt off their back. (If either of you are reading this, I believe it to be true, very much so.)
First is simply law. You can, in fact, be held accountable for the actions of someone who you helped commit a crime. Murder for hire is too obvious an example, but there it is. (Not saying the Grand Wizard of Orange is committing a crime.) Your responsibility can vary. He stole your gun without your knowing and shot someone in cold blood, you’re still in trouble. But if you knew he was angry, threatening to kill someone and you gave him a gun, you’re a full-on accessory to murder. You don’t get to say “I didn’t really think he’d do it.” Your ass would be in jail.
Likewise, you don’t get to scream “FIRE” in a crowded room and then not be held responsible when the crowds trample a couple people to death in the ensuing mayhem. And yes, I would compare the hate speech that Darth Cheeto and his folks are spewing as akin to yelling “fire” on a social scale. If you voted for him, you yelled fire. I mean, it may have been a whisper to the folks standing next to you, “guys, I think we’re on fire,” and they may have panicked and yelled at the top of their lungs, causing things to foment, but you still said it. You still kicked it off. You are still part of making it happen. Whether your boot was the one extinguishing someone else’s life or not. So there’s that. You are responsible in both cases.
The other one is a little more “benefit of the doubt,” which I struggle with. But say you have a friend that you’ve known kinda well for a while. You like the guy, you hang out with him, he’s your people. He has jumped your car when you battery was dead, and there was that one time that he hooked you up with a job with his cousin when you were out of work. You genuinely like him.
One night, y’all are drinking or whatever, you’re cracking up about stuff, then he tells you that he beats his wife. He doesn’t say it all directly, but, you know, she was questioning why he was out so late or some such, so he walloped her one and she shut up.
You have a hard time reconciling this with the fact that you like him, he’s helped you out. So you have some dissonance there, but ignore it, because you’re human and that’s messy.
Time passes, you’re out again, and he mentions that at this point, the wallops are daily. “Reminders,” he calls them, so she doesn’t forget who’s in charge. But he also mentions that he bought her a new car and always brings her flowers on pay day. So he’s still a good guy, you tell yourself.
I mean, you’ve wanted to hit people before. You get it. We all have, it’s human, right?
Time passes, and you hear that his wife was in the hospital with some pretty serious injuries that were from falling down the stairs. And CPS is threatening to take their kids away because a teacher reported strange bruising on their oldest.
Part of you wants to call CPS and speak up. I mean, you know he’s abusive. But you don’t want to intervene. I mean, who are you to judge? Right? And he’s a nice guy, he just has a temper, he’s not a wife-beater, per se. He’s not an abuser, right?
And then you hear that he shot his wife.
(You had loaned him your gun, oh my god, you thought he was going hunting. You were mislead! You now, it retrospect, realize that he’s told you for ages that he was violent, and you ignored it. You feel like shit. What are you going to do????? You thought he was okay, but now someone is dead and you’ve been brought into this! FUCK!)
You absolutely know in your gut that you could have and should have done something. You could have called him out ages ago. You could have called the cops. She died because you couldn’t make the leap that someone you liked, who kind of reminded you of you, was a violent abuser. You couldn’t link the behavior to the label.
People who abuse other people are abusers. People who say and support racist systems are racist.
When you do not intervene, you support those systems. You are racist, whether you mean to be or not. When you hire someone who tells you directly that they are racist, sexist and homophobic, and you can see from their past performance that it’s true, and you hire them anyway, you are inherently and directly hiring that behavior. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT.
And you, also, can be fairly described by that behavior. In both a court of law and a court of public opinion. That is totally fair.
You don’t get to watch other people be harmed and have their rights stripped from them by the person you hired to run the country on your behalf and not claim responsibility for it.
It’s okay to say that you didn’t understand that when you were casting your vote. It really is. It’s okay to say “I see it differently now, I learned.” In fact, there are no better words to be spoken ever. The glory of the human brain – and perhaps the human heart – is that it can take in new information and change.
But what we can’t change is the past. And we can’t even really change ourselves until we admit it. I desperately want to create a safe place for people to say “shit, I didn’t see it. I didn’t want to see it. I see it now.”
That’s probably a dream.
But no, I won’t let you off the hook if you voted for him. You are racist and sexist and homophobic and voted for policies that will result in serious harm to others. You did it.
You are responsible for it. You voted for it. You are it.
The question is, what will you do now that you get it?
* I originally jotted this out quickly as a Facebook note. If that format makes you happier, you can find it here.