Whenever I post about the growing body of research connecting America’s political polarization to bigotry, I can count on at least a few reproving comments from readers who are nicer than I am, insisting that attributing racist attitudes to a majority of Trump voters is unfair, or at the very least, painting with far too broad a brush.
The hyperlink will take you to an article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, written by a social worker involved in one of the many yearly efforts to provide a decent Christmas to children whose families lack the resources to provide a happy holiday. She has been doing this for several years during which, she reports, she has found the charitable impulse of donors and the gratitude of recipients heartwarming.
Now, however, she writes that she can no longer “deny the chilling reality that I’ve become accustomed to, the new nature of how we treat our neighbors in society.”
As COVID-19 has pushed our organization to a peak in numbers of first-time applicants as well as those who were in need of human services (more than 20,000 this year alone in Allen County), it also gave me the highest number of demands from donors insisting that before they assist a family or help a child, they be given the political affiliation of their parents.
You read that correctly.
Donors insist that before they help, they know who the people they’re helping are voting for.
The first few requests I shrugged off as singular instances, until gradually they became a new norm for me to ready an answer for. All seem to be like-minded, that if they’re assisting children whose parents are voting a certain way, they are not worthy of basic necessities.
I’ve listened to endless defenses of this line of thinking, mostly ranting about how these anonymous people are lazy and unjustly entitled, all the while ironically insisting that “if I’m kind enough to give out of my own pocket, I have the right to make sure it’s not one of those people!”
The author never comes out and says which side of the political aisle has nurtured these attitudes, but her recitation of their nature leaves little room for doubt.
This year marks also the highest demand for “non-ethnic” names of children on our Angel Tree. Granted, no one says “only give me Caucasian-sounding names.” It’s a request for “traditional names” or “names we can actually pronounce.”
When you receive stacks of certain tags back, or watch the names on the online tree disappear, you quickly realize which names are consistently overlooked.
I’ve watched an influx this year of hateful comments as we kick off our campaign for the red kettle, urging people to give during a time when cash is scarce but the need is great. The animosity, the anger, the venom as people eagerly post how they refuse to help an organization that assists “system suckers” with their “welfare babies” (direct quotes).
The author reaches into her experiences as a social worker to enumerate the various kinds of hurt she’s seen–domestic abuse cases, childhood illnesses and deaths, soldiers with PTSD…the gamut.
This hurt, however, is new. And heartbreaking.
But for the first time, my heart has opened up to an entirely different kind of hurt. One that sees these people and in response clenches its fists. One who mocks and shames, who judges and scorns, then empowered, turns to rally others behind them to spread the sickness of hate.
Another data point: The Atlantic ran a post-election story with the headline “A Large Portion of the Electorate Chose the Sociopath.”The Atlantic article, by Tom Nichols, focused on the same question that has occupied the readers of this blog: who, after four years of Donald Trump, would vote for another four?
Nichols’ answer is the one I have reluctantly come to–as he says, the 2016 Trump voters who chose Trump because they thought he was “just like them” turned out to be right. They weren’t repulsed by brown children in cages, or attacks on “shithole” countries, or winks to Neo-Nazis and other “fine people” because –given the chance– they would do the same.
There were seventy million of them. This isn’t the America I thought I inhabited.