Mourning the New 9/11: An Open Letter to My Republican Friends
This is for my Republican friends — and specifically for those who voted for Donald Trump. More specifically, this is for those of you who are saying and wondering, “Why are they being so whiny after losing the election? We didn’t take to the streets when Obama was elected, right?”
I understand that Americans are doing a whole lot of speaking within their echo chambers right now — and I mean all of us, not just Republicans! We’re talking in completely different narratives about the election results — so much so that when we read conversations from the other side, the things we read might look completely foreign. So here’s my attempt to explain some of the feelings of despair and anger that you’ve been observing on social media and on the news and, perhaps, even in your real life conversations.
Republican friends: do you remember how you felt on 9/11?
I do, because I almost certainly felt the same way you did. Were you afraid for the future of your country? Did you feel angry and vulnerable? Did you feel a powerful sense of mourning — for the victims, but also because your country had been attacked viciously by people who meant to do great harm?
There were no echo chambers on 9/11 — at least not on that day. We all hurt and mourned together. I was sitting in the crowded cafeteria at the small college where I was teaching, and President Bush came on the screen to speak to the nation. There was total silence as we listened, the same way we would listen to a eulogy at a funeral of someone who had died tragically. I was no fan of that man, but in that moment, I was grateful to see him on the screen, offering us comfort in our mourning. There was comfort in knowing that we were united.
So imagine this, Republicans:
What if on 9/11, half of the nation was not mourning?
What if, on 9/11, half of the people you knew were saying the next day, “Get over it already! Why are we making such a big deal of this? It’s just some buildings. You’re all being childish and whiny.”
Presumably, you would have felt horrified. And moreover, the experience of 9/11 would have been so much worse for you, because so many of your fellow Americans were mocking the genuine feelings of mourning you felt.
So, Republicans, here’s where I ask you to step outside of your echo chamber and try to understand what many of your fellow Americans are feeling.
To us, the election of Donald Trump is nothing short of another 9/11. We strongly feel that a man has just gotten elected who has the capacity to do great harm to our nation and to the most vulnerable among us. Like you, we are patriots, and for this reason, we mourn because our country is in serious danger. On 9/11, terrorists with the intent to harm America did just that — and based on what we saw in the election, we fear that Trump will do the same kind of harm.
That may be hard for you to wrap your head around, because I know you feel very differently about Trump. But if you’re genuinely wondering why people are reacting the way they are to the election, please try to understand what I’m saying.
Let me make this clear: this is not how we would have felt if a different Republican had defeated Clinton, like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. I would have been pretty miserable if one of those men were the president elect. But I would not be in mourning. I would not be thinking seriously of going to a protest march in Washington the day after the election. No, the reaction you see is specifically a reaction to Trump.
Why do so many Americans feel that the election of Trump is a danger to the well-being of America, and to many of our citizens personally? If you’re still reading, let me summarize some of the evidence we see that Trump is a dangerous man. I know very well that you see different things than I do in regards to Trump, but if you’re curious, these are some of my biggest concerns:
- Trump has clear authoritarian tendencies, much like Hitler, Mussolini, Kim Jong-un, and Putin. Trump has manipulated those with economic and social fears by creating scapegoats out of Mexicans and Muslims. (As a Jew, that scares the pants off of me.) At his rallies and in the debates, he threatened to jail his opponent and said he would not concede the election.
- Trump has no government experience whatsoever. None. Unlike most of the other Republican candidates, Trump offered very little information about his policy positions and plans. He is grossly unqualified for the most powerful position in the world.
- Trump put antidemocratic restrictions on the press during his campaign (like literally corralling them into a pen during his rallies), and worked his followers into an anti-press frenzy at his rallies. He plans to place restrictions on the press during his presidency. I would hope that those of you who are staunch supporters of the Second Amendment are also strong supporters of the First Amendment, which guarantees us a free press.
- As seen by his behavior on Twitter and elsewhere, Trump has a very thin skin and no self-control when he is criticized in any way. And now he has the nuclear codes.
- Trump’s misogyny is very well-documented. He has bragged about how his celebrity gives him license to assault women. He bragged about being able to walk into the dressing room at his beauty pageants, and publicly humiliated a Miss Universe who gained weight. Many women have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault and harassment, including a 13-year-old girl.
- Despite the fact that almost all scientists believe that climate change is an extinction-level danger to humanity, Trump has said that climate change is a hoax. If that’s not something to mourn about, I don’t know what is.
- Trump has called for the ban on Muslims entering America and flat out lied about seeing television footage of Muslims in New Jersey cheering after 9/11. He has called Mexicans rapists and “bad hombres,” and has threatened to deport millions of people, including children. This kind of racism and xenophobia goes against my fundamental values. Oh, and he mocked a reporter with a disability.
- Trump chose a vice presidential candidate who is one of the nation’s most outspoken opponents of LGBT rights — and that too goes against my fundamental values.
- Trump is endorsed by the KKK and Putin. That doesn’t scare you?
- Trump has threatened to take away the health insurance of millions of people.
- Trump has lied routinely about just about everything. Seriously. If you don’t like Clinton because you question her honesty, then how can you be okay with this record of lies? Moreover, he has routinely changed his position on many issues over the years when it suited his interests — including abortion, a position he changed to earn the votes of many Republicans this year.
- Perhaps most frighteningly, since the election, there’s been a wave of violence since the election towards women, minorities, and LGBT individuals. That’s what many of us fear most. No, not all Trump supporters are bigots and sexual predators, but these behaviors have now been given state approval.
I know you will not agree with many of these positions, but I hope you can understand. Like you, I am a patriot. I love this country and the people who live here, and I believe this country is in danger. I am in mourning, just like I felt after 9/11, and so are many of your fellow Americans. And our sense of mourning is even more painful because so many people in our lives are telling us to get over it.
So, when you see people on the news who are protesting on the streets, or expressing their feelings on Facebook, or sobbing at your upcoming Thanksgiving dinner, please try to be understanding. You wouldn’t have told people on 9/12/2001 to stop whining or to get over it, right?