When Franklin Roosevelt said that the people of the United States had nothing to fear but fear itself, he was speaking of the fear of failure that had locked the United States into the Great Depression. Because people were afraid that all businesses would fail, they would invest no money, and without investors, no businesses could succeed.
Today, in the wake of last month’s election, we have many fearful people. Truth be told, we had many fearful people before the results of the election. The fear has not changed, for the most part. But the quality of the fear, and how it is being expressed, has changed immeasurably.
I was wrong about the way this election would turn out. The only consolation I have about that is that I was in very good company. But the reasons for my error are a topic for another time. It is apparent to me, and, I think, to many others, that one of the reasons the election played out as it did was the fear that permeates our society: the fear that caused us to be so very nearly evenly divided, and the fear that caused us to back two such hugely unpopular candidates.
It is my belief that this election turned out the way it did for two closely related reasons: that many people are afraid, and that we do not care that other people are afraid. I cannot tell you how many of my friends who chose to support Donald Trump did so because they believed that the government of the past eight years has actively scorned their fears. And they were told by supporters of that government that if they were afraid, it was because they were stupid or because they deserved it. And now those people voted for Donald Trump, and the result is that we have a whole other set of people who are afraid of what will happen to them. And already I am hearing Trump supporters, and others, disparage those fears, as if they are not worth having. I greatly sympathize with the people who do have those fears, because as I said before the election, Donald Trump has said things that, I believe, any person who cares for Constitutional government should be afraid of.
Now, I think it is plain that many of these people have already experienced cause to be afraid. My friend, Jim Hines, wrote an eloquent request to those of you who chose to support Donald Trump in this election. I think it is well worth reading. There are many people out there who have been emboldened by this man to do and say terrible things. I can add some. On election day, a friend of mine, who is black, had his tires slashed while he voted. I don’t know if that was politically or racially motivated (he himself did not say), but if I were him, I would think so. At church two weeks ago, a friend told me that his adopted cousin, from Colombia, who has been a citizen since childhood, was told by no less than four people this week that she could “go home now.”
This angers me beyond my capacity to express. The Republican Party was the party that freed slaves. It was the party of Abraham Lincoln. If conservatives stand for anything good in this nation, and we had damn well better, it means that we stand up for the rule of law. It means that we stand up for the rights of our citizens. It means that we protect them from anyone who would dare to harass them based on their religion, their skin color, their ethnicity, or their expressed political views. Conservatives follow and uphold the laws. We do not break them, and we do not support, by action or inaction, those who would break the law because they are on our “side.” Such an attitude is the betrayal and antithesis of ethical conservative principles.
I did not support Donald Trump in this election. If I have not made that plain over the past few months, I do not know how to make it plainer. I did not vote for him. I do hope, desperately, that I am wrong about the kind of President he will be. Nothing would make me happier, in four years, if I could say here, on this blog, “I was wrong. Donald Trump was a wise and just President, and I am happy to cast my vote for him in the 2020 election.” I didn’t think Hillary Clinton would make a good President. Had she been elected, I would be saying the same thing about her.
Nevertheless, I am a conservative. And because I am, I am less likely to feel the negative effects of this election personally than my fellow-citizens of other races, genders, religions and orientations. And it is vital that we stand up for them. It is vital that we stand up and say: “You are Americans. You have God-given rights, enumerated in our Constitution, and we will defend you from all of those who would seek to violate those rights.” We absolutely must do this, for two reasons: Firstly, it is the right and moral thing to do. If you supported Trump, do you remember how it felt, just weeks ago, when certain Clinton supporters called you evil and breezily expressed their hopes that a liberal Supreme Court would make you suffer simply for voicing your beliefs? Liberals are afraid that a conservative Supreme Court will do the same, and much more, to them. They are afraid that they will be rounded up and imprisoned based on their religious beliefs or their sexual preferences.
If you’re happy that what you feared won’t come to pass, that’s natural: no one sane should blame you. But if you’re glad that they are afraid? God help us all. Because we can’t have society, let alone government, when half the nation is scared to death of the other half. Secondly, if you fail to protect the opposition when you are in power, you are just asking to be shown no mercy when they are in power. And they will be in power again. Not in 2016, and maybe not in 2020. but someday. There is no permanent conservative majority, here. The liberals made the mistake of thinking history was on their side: that was one of the reasons they lost. Conservative Trump-supporters had better not make the same mistake!
We will never move away from this terrible election until our nation learns to reject fear. And we can never reject fear if we refuse to take each other’s fears seriously. And this is the moment for conservatives to do this, because we are in power (or at least people THINK we are, which is the only thing worse than actually BEING in power). Because the Trump voting was largely motivated by fear, this is the time for conservative Americans to stand up for something better. We must stand, at all costs, for protecting our fellow Americans. And that is why I will wear a safety pin. It says, specifically to those who fear, that I will stand for their safety against any who would harm them. No, it’s not much. No, it doesn’t make me a wonderful person; I don’t expect any damned applause for it; it’s the least I can do. It is only the beginning of all I am willing to do.
The limits of what I am willing to do, I can’t know. I don’t think anyone knows until they are tested. But for now, please understand that I am willing to do what I can to help you feel safe. If you need my expertise on history and politics, I will share it. If you need to tell someone you are afraid, I will listen. If you need help because someone is threatening you or violating your rights, please call on me and I will do whatever I can. Whatever you need me to, to the limits of my ability.
I do not think that now is the time to panic and leave the country. If I did, I would be making arrangements to move, right now. I do think that it is time to be watching our government very closely. I do not think that we are about to go down one of history’s darkest roads, but I think we are closer to that than we have yet been, and it concerns me deeply. So know this: no one takes my fellow Americans off to prison or throws them out of the country in violation of the Constitution without getting past me and my family. That’s what this country is about. If it should come to that, we will shelter you, we will hide you, and we will shield you. To this we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. We would consider it, as Corrie ten Boom’s father once said in WWII Holland, “the greatest honor that could come to our family” if we were to lay down our lives for you. And I believe the vast majority of my fellow conservatives are with me on that point.
Fortunately, such extremes as concentration camps are not yet happening. I hope they will not happen and will do whatever I can to prevent them from happening. But what concerns me more immediately is the disdain I see from some conservatives about even expressing concern for those who are frightened. Tell me: since when did not giving a shit about people become a conservative value? I mean, I get that a lot of conservatives are tired of being undeservedly called bigoted racist misogynists (I sure am), but surely the answer isn’t to BE all those things? Even if it were not morally wrong (which we know it is), it’s not in our interest. Andrew Carnegie said that keeping people loyal to capitalism required providing “ladders on which the aspiring can rise.” And if Donald Trump’s election shows us anything, it’s that WE NEED MORE DAMNED LADDERS! How on Earth can we conservatives surrender concern for people to the left, as “their” issue? Friends, that’s as stupid as when the left decided that “patriotism” was somehow a thing that right-wingers did. I’m unbelievably frustrated by this idea that caring about people makes us wimps. It’s what would make us worth voting for, dammit!
Bobby Jindal once said that the Republican Party had to “stop being the stupid party.” Whatever you think of him, he was right to say that. And conservatives have to stop being the party of not caring what people are afraid of. It stops here. It stops with me.
Call on me, Somewhere In Orbit.