[Content Note: Bigotry; rape culture.]
Dear Nicholas Kristof:
As you can imagine, I read your latest column, "My Most Unpopular Idea: Be Nice to Trump Voters," with great interest, as being told by men how to behave in the Trump Era is one of my favorite things.
If you'll indulge me, I do have some questions for you about how best to put your advice into practice.
Let's say I find a way to set aside that people who voted for Donald Trump voted affirmatively for his clearly articulated agenda of white supremacy, misogyny, queerphobia, disablism, nativism, and class warfare. (I will definitely never find a way to set that aside.) That still leaves me with the persnickety issue of being a survivor of sexual violence, and Trump voters being people who voted for a confessed serial sex abuser.
I recall that you have some interest in, and posit yourself an expert on, women's issues, including sexual violence. So you seem like the right guy to ask about this, especially given your admonishment that I should be nice to Trump voters.
Because, as I'm sure you'll agree, if there were one story about Trump that absolutely penetrated the national consciousness during the election, it's the one about how he bragged about grabbing women by the genitals. That wasn't some underreported, esoteric news item, but a major news story with video that ran on a loop 24/7 for days on end. And it was run again each time another of 14 women came forward, telling their stories about having been sexually assaulted by Trump. Trump even had to [CN: video may autoplay at link] acknowledge it, in a Facebook post that has over 24 million views.
And, if you are like me, Mr. Kristof, you are keenly aware that Trump voters knew about this story, because they all rehearsed and regurgitated perfectly their talking points to defend it. Locker room talk. Bill Clinton. Crooked Hillary Clinton's an enabler. One two three, like clockwork. Trump didn't do anything wrong, but, if he did, Bill Clinton is worse and LOCK HER UP!
Trump voters might not have been aware of pesky little details like his history of housing discrimination against people of color, or not paying subcontractors who worked for him, but they knew he had boasted about grabbing women by their genitals—and they knew how to push back on it, so they could justify voting for him anyway.
As I mentioned in something I wrote in response to a different one of your columns on the same subject: During the election, my next-door neighbors had a Trump sign in their front yard. When the news broke that Trump had openly admitted sexually assaulting women, that sign stayed up. Every time I walked out my front door, I was reminded that my neighbors were okay with a man doing to women something that was one of the worst things that has ever happened to me.
So, Mr. Kristof, here is my first question: How do you recommend I find a way to be nice to people who believe that?
The thing is, although you write that "Nothing I've written since the election has engendered more anger from people who usually agree with me than my periodic assertions that Trump voters are human, too," I don't fail to see Trump voters as humans, too. To the absolute contrary, I see them as humans who made a choice, which they proudly advertised on their front lawns and bumpers and hats, to vote for a sexual predator.
I have been writing about the rape culture for a very long time, and one of the things I know as well as I know my own name is that defending and supporting men who commit sexual violence is a decidedly human thing to do.
And the reality is that many Trump voters made that choice because they don't see me as "human, too." And lots and lots and lots of their other fellow Americans.
I'm just not sure where the space is, no less the obligation, for me to be "nice" to them.
My second question for you, Mr. Kristof, is: Why is it, exactly, that you are telling me, and millions of other people without your immense privilege, that we must be "nice" to Trump voters, and not telling them that they should try being "nice" to us?
You're a smart guy, so you probably realize that's not actually a question about how best to put your advice into practice. It's more a rhetorical question about how you should put your advice in a dumpster.
What you're doing is asking people who got hit with a rock from a slingshot to have sympathy for the person who slung it, because they got a boo-boo from the ricocheting sling. That is a very unreasonable request.
And, truly, "nice" or "not nice" isn't even the most basic issue. I can't trust Trump voters. And fixing that ain't on me. It's on them to make themselves trustworthy.
Which, at this point, most of them have no inclination to do.
That ain't on me, either.