§ This essay was originally printed in July, 2019. I’m now (in September, 2020), pre-posting it once more so that it will appear on the day following the Federal elections. As I do this, I feel almost sick with fright; terror of what we may see happening in our country on that morning–our country that has not been so divided since the Civil War… §
In May of 2019 I was dealing with the potentially fatal illness of my favorite pet, holding my head up as I prepared for the possibility of releasing her to her final journey, when a series of hate-filled e-mails sent me into an emotional tailspin. The e-mails had nothing whatever to do with pets or illness or any other life-altering, sad situations. They were political.
And while facing the possible loss of my favorite cat hadn’t forced tears from my eyes, the e-mails made me weep.
The first contained a graphic that proclaimed:
“We hated Obama like you hate Trump. Except we hated Obama because he hated America. You hate Trump because YOU hate America”.
Dismayed and affronted, I nevertheless replied to the e-mail mildly, saying just that I found this very offensive, and asking not be sent anything like it again.
Yet only a short 24 hours later, I received another e-mail, this time referencing those whose political views were similar to mine, alluding to us by name-calling and bullying. We were, it seems, “Libtards”. We were “Wingnuts”.
Previous to this, I’d already dealt with and dismissed being derided as a “Snowflake”. Despite knowing that it was not meant as a compliment, I accepted the appellation proudly. Snowflakes are incredible: intricate, astoundingly beautiful and infinitely individual—created of water, without which life itself cannot exist. Joined together, snowflakes are capable of creating massive, unstoppable forces for change, such as blizzards and avalanches.
But, hitting me at an already-low point in my life, the abusive invective of these latest e-mails was not something I could shrug off. Instead, they wounded me at the very wellspring of my heart.
I do not, under any circumstances, ridicule or deride a person by bullying and invective for their political choices. I firmly insist on being respectful toward the person, even when I just as firmly disagree with their beliefs. Politically, I consider myself to be an Independent middle-of-the-roader, slightly left-leaning, but always open to civil discourse and the possibility of changing my mind.
I voted for President Barack Obama, and, while I certainly did not approve of everything he did, I thought him to be far from the worst President we had ever seen to that time (after all, I lived through Nixon).
And I did not vote for President Trump. Like our late, greatly lamented former First Lady, Barbara Bush, I’d been reading about Trump the greedy and unethical businessman, Trump the immoral adulterer, since the early 1980s. I’d made up my mind about him at that time, and nothing I heard him say, nothing I saw him do, during his campaign, gave me cause to alter my opinion. Had I been persuaded in that direction, reading the 2016 article, “I Sold Trump $100,000 Worth of Pianos. Then He Stiffed Me”1 would have sealed my opinion of the man forever.
But nothing, NOTHING, in my judgements about either Trump or Obama signal that I do not love my country. In fact, my opinions represent exactly what is best about the United States of America: the right to personal convictions. Liberty. Freedom of expression. The right to choose one’s leaders, and to criticize those leaders without fear of retribution or reprisal. The right to see matters from differing perspectives. The right—the requirement—to stand up for one’s beliefs. The requirement to be respectful toward those who believe differently.
But now derision and ridicule, vicious mockery, name-calling, bullying, harassment of and persecuting others for their beliefs have become the standard; have taken the place of civil debate.
And I find that horrifically, painfully sad. That is not what I have always understood America, or Americans—the concept, nor the reality—to be.
And so, receiving such harassment by e-mail, and already in a saddened state of mind, I wept.
I will never claim that those who have stood with President Trump are in some way un-American. I will call not call them wingtards or nutjobs or deplorables, or even, as their own President called them (exulting that Covid-19 put an end to handshakes), “disgusting people”. They are merely individuals who hold a different viewpoint, one which I barely understand and with which I very firmly disagree. But that I do not agree with their choice of leader makes me in no way unAmerican or vile or deplorable, either. On the contrary, it makes me a true American: one who is unafraid to speak up for her convictions; who accesses her right to freedom of expression, to liberty.
I, an American woman, do not deserve to be made to weep, to be derided and insulted, for my political opinions, least of all through the faceless, cowardly medium of an internet communication.
My right to view and work for and love this wonderful country of ours in the way that I see best is my personal pursuit of happiness. And I would not have it shadowed by those who demean America by deriding the liberties bestowed by the Constitution upon its citizens.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like “29 Things”,
which can be found in the Archives from November 6, 2019.