I live in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which is commonly referred to as “The Crossroads of the Delta Blues.” In the height of its popularity, Clarksdale was a common stop for famous Blues musicians such as B.B. King and Muddy Waters, as it was the intersection of two key highways, 61 and 49. This resulted in lots of traffic and created a meeting place for Blues artists from around the Delta and Memphis.
However, then “The Crossroads” had an added story with the release of Robert Johnson’s song by the same name. In this song, Johnson discusses sitting at “The Crossroads” and contemplating selling his soul to the devil in order to become the greatest blues musician of all time. Eventually Johnson decides to go through with the deed, and it has become a popular story in American musical history (even having an episode of the show Supernatural use it as inspiration).
What’s cool about this is that this place I currently call home personifies both the literal and metaphorical definitions of the word crossroads. On the one hand, it is a very literal location where two roads cross one another. However it also calls into play the metaphorical idea of a crossroads as a place where one makes a decision, such as Robert Johnson did in the song.
I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to post about this, as the emotions are still very raw and real for me, but I knew when I woke up this morning that it was time to talk about this. I don’t claim to be a civic genius or a political science academic, so I can only speak from my personal thoughts and emotions, but the need to speak on them is still there.
Donald Trump is the 2016 President Elect of the United States of America.
That is truly a sentence I never thought that I would say until Tuesday night around 10 P.M. Central Time, which coincidentally is around the time that I poured my first glass of wine.
Now I’m going to say this once, I am fully aware that the reading audience of my blog is very politically split as I come from two very politically distinct locations. My hometown and my support base there are very conservative and Republican and are some of the best people I know. On the other hand, my college community and support base there are quite liberal and Democratic and are also some of the best people I know.
This post it not meant to shame anyone for their political ideals. I was raised in a politically-split household with parents who taught me how to disagree politically and still treat one another with respect and love. Which is something I think a large majority of us could stand to learn.
All of that being said, I am writing this post because in the same way that I live at a crossroads, I feel that many of us were and still are at a crossroads in American history.
I don’t think anyone who knows me will be surprised that I voted for Hilary Clinton in the election. I mean I spent the majority of the 2012 campaign knocking on doors and making phone calls for President Obama. I’ve been confident in my liberal leanings and place as a Democrat since around my junior year of high school.
However, thinking back on past elections, I believe they were different. In 2012, I was very invested in making Barack Obama a two-term president, but I thought that although Mitt Romney had different ideals and plans for this country than I identified with, I thought he was a good candidate. He represented thoughts and convictions different from my own, but thoughts and convictions that I understood were held by a large group of Americans that I did not feel were deeply-rooted in blatantly un-American ideals.
That is not true for the 2016 Republican President Elect.
Donald Trump ran a campaign based on fear and hatred. His biggest speaking points were turning Americans against one another on the basis of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion in order to “Make America Great Again.” Which can only mean that the America he wanted and wants to return to is the America where the people who do not fit into the bucket of white, middle-class, straight, Christian males (myself being one of them for several reasons) are not welcomed, accepted, or supported.
This is a man with a pending rape case against a minor; a man who openly mocked a disabled reporter at a rally; repeatedly told his supporters to use violence if necessary to silence the voices of those who opposed him; called American citizens rapists and drug dealers based on their ethnicity; labeled law-abiding Americans as a threat to security based on their religion; selected a vice president running mate who has openly supported allowing parents to put their children into conversion therapy in order to “turn them” straight; and painted sexual assault towards women as “locker room talk” that all men do.
All of this being said, Donald Trump disgusts me, but he doesn’t scare me. One crazy man running around the country filled with hatred unfortunately is not something that I think any of us are unaccustomed to.
What is scary is the fact that Donald Trump ran a campaign based on fear, hatred, oppression, racism, sexism, and other countless things that I find appalling. . .
And he won.
There was a large majority of Americans who voted for this man knowing full-well the things he had said and done. That is what scares me, and that is what brought me to nausea on Tuesday night and tears on Wednesday morning.
Now again, this is not a political statement; this is a human statement. Maybe you do not like the idea of universal healthcare. Maybe you think that Common Core is the worst thing to ever happen to American Public Education. Maybe you’re unhappy with the way that foreign policy operates currently in this country. Maybe you have issues with the current welfare system.
FINE. We probably have some disagreements on those points, but I can respect those differences of opinions. And I think we could work together to create a system that accounts for both of our ideas and concerns. That is the way our country is supposed to work.
What I cannot respect is a difference of opinion that disrespects someone else’s very existence as a human.
If your opinion of Hispanics is rooted in fear and built around the idea that our country would be better if less of them were here, I cannot respect it.
If your opinion of those who are disabled is that they are lesser and to be treated as such, then I cannot respect it.
If your opinion of peaceful protests is that they should be stopped with force and are just ‘liberals’ crying out for attention, then I cannot respect it.
If your opinion of Muslims, American and foreign, is that they should be marked, tracked, and searched because of the ‘inherent danger’ of their faith, then I cannot respect it.
If your opinion of the LGBTQ+ community is that they should be denied basic human rights and subjected to treatments as children that are shown to have long-term psychological effects, then I cannot respect it.
If your opinion of how women are viewed and treated in this country is so deeply engrained in rape culture and sexism that discussions of sexual assault do not make you sick to your stomach and fear for every woman in your life, then I cannot respect it.
Because those are not differences of political ideals; those are fundamentally different ways of viewing humanity and how your fellow humans should be treated.
Now I know that there are those who voted for Trump that do believe those things without shame, and to those people I only have one thing to say:
On the other hand, I know there are definitely people, some of whom are my friends and family, who are saying: I voted for Trump, but I don’t believe in those things!
Again I point you to the idea of the crossroads, and the decision we had to make on November 8th.
Maybe you only agree with Trump on his strictly-political ideas, and the things I’ve mentioned here you also find appalling and scary. I must say that I’m thankful that you do, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you voted for Donald Trump you made a decision to cast your ballot for the very ideals that you found appalling.
There is no halfway here. It’s not as if when you voted for Donald Trump you could put an asterisk and say you wanted him to forego the blatant denial of human rights and dignity that he ran his campaign on once he ended up in the Oval Office. You knew what he thought and stood for in regard to these marginalized groups of people, and you voted for him all the same.
And my god what an incredible privilege that must have been.
To be able to vote for someone’s political ideals while ignoring their disgusting social ones because they were not going to affect you personally. . .
What. A. Privilege.
But not everyone has that privilege. Not everyone, including myself, could overlook the bigoted parts of Trump’s campaign because they threatened a part of who we are. We could not look at only political ideals, because our very existence was questioned and degraded by a candidate.
We were not only disserviced in that a candidate with those ideals was the nominee for a major political party, but also because we did not have the option to vote purely on politics because there was never even a choice to be made.
We were not at a crossroads in the way that some were. The choice was always clear. One candidate respected our existence and rights as humans, and one did not.
But some of you were at a crossroads and made what I believe was a selfish and short-sighted decision. You overlooked the effect of voting in someone who promoted hatred, fear, and prejudice, because that hatred, fear, and prejudice was not directed at you.
While my heart is truly broken at this point in American history, there is hope to be found.
The crossroads continue, and decisions still have to be made.
I have no doubt that in the near future (within the next four years), we will be at a crossroads again where we will be given a choice to stand by while those who may be different than us are treated as lesser than and have rights stripped from them based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
In that moment, we are once again at a crossroads. And we have to choose to overlook that which doesn’t affect us based on our privilege or fight for those, different from us though they may be, who need our support, love, and voice.
I think we chose wrong. America was at a crossroads on November 8th, and I think we made a very wrong decision.
But another crossroads is coming, and you’ve got to make a decision of which direction you’re going to go bearing in mind that your choice doesn’t affect just you.
So check your privilege at the door please and really think about what all this means, and what future you want.
Because the crossroads is coming, what will you choose?