December 2016

A view of the election: unvarnished

By Katharhynn Heidelberg

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, I will say one thing emphatically. I hope with every fiber of my being that I am completely wrong about him. Wrong, wrongedty wrong-wrong-wrong.

Unlike Rush Limbaugh’s snarling when President Obama was elected, I do not hope that Trump fails to help our country. I hope he does great things for America, despite the overwhelming odds facing someone with no applicable experience.

But hope is different from belief. Hope is what you have when logic and reason have failed – or, in this case, when others’ logic and reason have failed you.

Belief can be based on hope and optimism, but it can also derive from experience.

When it comes to Donald Trump, I hope for the best, but I do not believe. He’s given me no reason to. To borrow from Maya Angelou, when someone shows you who he is, believe him the first time.

Trump is the one who traded on disunity and disrespect, as well as flatly unconstitutional and potentially Republic-ending propositions. He is the one who fanned the flames of discord and partisan rancor into a raging inferno, while making insane promises he has neither ability nor intent to keep.

This self-centered, thin-skinned, unqualified man exploited fear and rode a tidal wave of it to the most powerful position on earth.

He encouraged and enabled those who view as something less than human gays, lesbians, transgendered, bisexuals, Muslims, Mexicans, and women. He mocked countless people and diminished them.

He has made statements about dismantling the First Amendment so that he can go after journalists over critical coverage, even over perceived slights. This is not what presidents of free people espouse. This is a page from an autocrat’s handbook.

While on the campaign trail, he suggested the unlawful practice of “stop and frisk” was a good idea, thereby showing that his regard for the Fourth Amendment is as about as great as his regard for the First.

He wants to eject the stranger and elevate the wealthy at the expense of the poor — the opposite of what Jesus taught. If you voted for Trump because you thought he was a godly candidate, you have been conned. It is that simple, that stark. Whatever possessed Christians to vote for this man, I am sad that it was greater than their love for the Lord.

Trump has proved that a man can get away with anything, even veiled hints that he finds his own daughter sexually attractive, and that it’s his right to grab women’s sexual organs when the mood strikes him, because, well, he is rich.

This is the man the KKK endorsed. Repeat that a few times until it sinks in. (And don’t forget his appointment of Steve Bannon, a propagandist adored by white supremacists.) This is the man whose election ISIS is celebrating, because those extremist murderers hope it will bring about instability, even civil war. I would hope (there’s that word again) that this is something that would immediately sink in.

Trump said he admires Vladimir Putin, and, when asked about Putin’s deadly retaliation against Russian journalists, said that at least the walking soul-void was a strong leader. Putin, in case you’ve forgotten, is former KGB and came up as an actual communist. He is dictator in all but name. And he is going to enjoy having a weak and easily goaded U.S. president very, very much.

Trump’s flaws are far, far beyond “saying mean things,” or being rough around the edges. If you think that is the problem people have with him, you have been cocooned from facts that are glaringly clear to the rest of us.

So, as the people who are responsible for Trump sit down and pat themselves on the back after their morning-after graciousness, I would like one favor.

Understand that while graciousness is certainly more helpful than gloating, you don’t get to preach about others “being hateful” when you elected the embodiment of pure hatred. You just don’t.

Despite all of the above, I’ve had someone ask me how Trump is a hatemonger. Answer: Trump’s own words.

If you claim to reject hate, maybe you should have paid attention to those words. Where was the talk of love and unity when Donald Trump was attacking reporters and openly applauding a foreign strongman who has jailed, possibly even killed, journalists?

Where was this preaching when he blew dog whistles about Mexicans and Muslims? When he spoke of punishing women for exercising a legal right? When he rode high on chants of “lock her up,” in reference to an opponent who hasn’t been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime?

Where was this talk when he attacked the heritage of the judge who was presiding over one of his many lawsuits?

Where was it? Where is it now, since he’s begun hiring people who are accused racists?

And yet, people ask how Donald Trump has enabled hatred. Really?

I am not gay, Muslim or Mexican- American. In no way would I suggest that things are as dangerous for me as they have become for them.

A friend of mine, who is here legally, pursuing citizenship, working and paying taxes, was accosted at a store within a week of the election. She was called a drug dealer because of her car; it was assumed she didn’t speak English, and, it was said, “our new president will kick all this trash out.”

Her response was to smile at them. She is a better person than me.

No, I am not gay, Muslim or Mexican. I am a woman and a journalist, though. While I accept the election results, I struggle mightily with what they mean for me. And here it is:

Every person I know who voted for Trump, in the instant they did so, effectively said they were OK with the dismantling of my profession and my possible jailing or worse. I am never going to accept that. Sorry, not sorry.

Imagine you are sitting at the table with family and friends whom you’ve known and loved your whole life. Suddenly, they begin openly plotting you harm, or praising the hit man they think will get the job done. Then they become indignant and accuse you of overreacting when you refuse to stay for dessert. That’s one way of explaining how I feel right now.

Attacks on press freedom are more important than what might happen to me, however. The issue is what happens to your right to know what your government is doing; the apparatus that protects that right (the First Amendment), as well as the means by which it is (supposed to be) done — a free press.

I’d like to think Trump supporters care about that. Again, I’m not sure whether I can believe that all of them do. Within two days of the election, someone had delightedly posted a link about Trump declaring flag-burning as treason.

Of course, the story is false. But that it exists and is being shared as a good idea is quite telling: some people cherish the fantasy of limiting a right through presidential fiat, so I can only conclude they wouldn’t miss the First Amendment if it did fall. Trump cannot undo any amendment single- handedly; that doesn’t make what I’m seeing any less disturbing.

Disturbed though I am, I have to find a productive means of channeling it. My family, friends and neighbors are not my enemies, even if my emotions do gallop between despair and incandescent fury.

I’m grappling with how agreeable I must be. There is being reasonable and carrying on, but there’s sitting back and doing nothing in the face of danger. Where do I strike the balance? For now, I can only wait and see.

I am left with banking on the hope that I am wrong about Trump, even though a number of his post-election decisions show a man who is dangerously fragile and woefully unprepared. My hope and my fervent prayer is, even if the worst comes to pass for me, that at least Trump supporters will be spared dire consequences from this election.

Remember, though, Trump has given us no reason to believe that.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist in Montrose, Colo.