By: D’Anne Witkowski*/Special to TRT—
The other day I heard a self-proclaimed Democrat who voted for Trump say he didn’t like Hillary.
“Bernie would have won. We told them we wanted Bernie,” he said, referring to Sanders winning the primary election in Michigan. “But they didn’t listen to us.”
He didn’t exactly admit that voting for Trump was a mistake, but he did acknowledge that Trump was not a good president. He was also (spoiler alert!) a straight white guy.
While listening to this man talk I thought I was going to grind my teeth into powder.
This was just a few hours before Trump was to announce his U.S. Supreme Court pick. Something I felt literally sick over.
You see, the Supreme Court is pretty important to me. In June 2015, I was sitting in a chemo ward getting poisoned pumped into my body as part of my treatment for breast cancer. I was more miserable than I’d ever been, and not just because I was bald, bloated and nauseous.
The clock was ticking. Not on my life so much, as treatment—though hellacious—was going well and I had a good prognosis. But my insurance was running out. Aug. 31 would be my last day with insurance and I was only halfway done with treatment. I was terrified that saving my life would bankrupt my family.
Before the Supreme Court in June 2015 were two cases over issues that would decide my fate: marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act.
See, I was legally married to my wife. We had a legal document from California as proof. But that wasn’t recognized in Michigan. And so my wife’s health insurance, far better than mine, was out of reach. So I’d planned to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
Yet the court’s ruling could’ve effectively dismantled the ACA. And the court’s ruling on marriage equality could’ve effectively rendered me permanently without a legal spouse.
So when the Supreme Court ruled that the ACA was safe (for that time being), I was relieved. And when they ruled that yes, my marriage was real and Michigan damn well better recognize it, I was, well, I was very sick, so it was hard to feel especially celebratory, but I did feel like a huge weight had been lifted off of me and my family.
The next day my wife called her HR person to add me to her insurance. I was expecting a fight. They just said, “Okay, can you spell her name?” We then went to our lawyer to have papers drawn up to make me, finally, the legal parent to my son. It was literally life-changing.
So to all of the people who voted for Trump because they “just didn’t like Clinton,” I cannot forgive you. You put America’s most vulnerable populations in peril because you didn’t like a lady’s laugh.
You didn’t have to vote for Clinton. You could’ve voted for the Supreme Court. You could’ve voted against the candidate endorsed by Nazis. You could have voted against the candidate that bragged about sexually assaulting women. You could have even voted for no one!
The problem is, of course, that Mr. “Bernie would’ve won” didn’t have a lot at stake when casting his vote. Being white, male and heterosexual is pretty much a superpower in America. Very little hurts you. This superpower is even stronger in men with money.
Under Trump, every day’s a new nightmare for minorities and women (and, yes, I know that white women also went for Trump; whiteness is a hell of a drug). His administration has attacked (and this is a partial list) transgender people, the sick, immigrants, asylum seekers, black people, Mexicans, women, the disabled, the press, lesbians and gays and anyone who doesn’t look like Stephen Miller.
If you voted for this and you’re happy about what’s happening, well, congratulations. Enjoy it, I guess. I hope it filled the void in you where empathy is supposed to be.
And if you voted for this and you’re not happy about it? You have a lot of work to do! But it will first take the ability to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I did a selfish and shortsighted thing and I am personally responsible for hurting lots of people.” Which isn’t an easy task. It’ll suck, but not as badly as having your civil rights stripped from you sucks.
As they say, actions speak louder than words. Volunteer for a Democrat’s campaign (because under Trump Republicans have proven to all be trash). Donate money to progressive causes that help people being hurt by Trump’s policies.
Don’t you dare ask me or anyone else who wakes up every day terrified by the erosion of our rights and our democracy for forgiveness. The road to redemption is long. And no, we will not give you a ride. You walk and think about what you did.
*D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.