I’ve been reading a long profile of the late Toni Morrison in The New Yorker (“Ghosts in the House,” Oct 27, 2003). In it she recalled her family’s instinctive and deep-seated mistrust of white people. Morrison’s memory struck a chord, because I’ve only recently come to appreciate the extent to which I share it.
I don’t mean all white people. I mean my moral and political opposites; not just Trump voters but Republicans in general, of whom it can be said the worst elements are by now so integrated into the party it is no longer possible to make distinctions between “good conservatives” and “deplorables”: some 40 percent of white Americans are openly racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and/or evangelical (but I repeat myself); these traits are mixed with science denial and the embrace of “alternate facts,” oppression of women, self-imposed epistemic closure, belief in conspiracy theories, QAnon cultism, and alt-right Nazism.
I don’t think I did this back in the Nixon and Reagan days, at least not to the extent I do now; since the Electoral College installations of George W. Bush and Donald Trump, I assess everyone I meet for the moral and political tells that signify what side they’re on, then put them in one of two mental boxes: those whom I can trust, work with, or befriend; those to avoid and wall off. And since the advent of Trump, I no longer think of those in the second box as “the opposition.” I now think of them as “the enemy.”
I know I’m not alone in this, so I’ll shift to “we.”
We can’t do anything about the white people we mistrust and have become alienated from; we live and work among them and that’s the way it is. What we can do — what millions of people who still know the difference between right and wrong are in fact doing these days — is self-segregate; wall off the deplorables as much as possible.
And vote, so we can wall them off from social and political life as well. If enough of us vote we can put them back where they belong, where they cannot hurt the rest of us.
Of course deplorables self-segregate too, and would relish putting us behind walls. Maybe even literal ones, and if that’s not reason enough to vote there’s nothing more I can say.
I don’t mean to end on a diminished chord, but in light of loud and continuing threats from the militant right to run down and shoot libtards, protesters, and radical leftists on the streets of American cities, it seems as if I ought to at least mention a scary possibility. Did you know that if you select a party affiliation when you register to vote, it’s not secret? That there’s really nothing to stop Republican operatives from publishing the names and addresses of known Democrats in communities and neighborhoods, and mailing lists out to supporters? Go ahead, call me paranoid. Then look at a photo of Roger Stone or Stephen Miller and tell me I’m not right.
© 2020, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.