As an antidote to post-election despair, coupled with disgust at the endless exhortations to be civil and strive for unity with an opposition that elected an ignorant, narcissistic grifter to lead the country, I wrote a letter to the editor (LTE) of the St. Louis Dispatch that was published on November 16. It was subsequently republished on the blog, Occasional Planet. The letter itself is not the subject of this post, however, but rather the chilling nature of the response it generated.
A few days ago, I received a phone message from a representative of the Post-Dispatch inquiring about whether or not I had received any “blowback” from the LTE since a gentleman in the same suburb in which I live had been receiving lots of unwarranted and unpleasant attention based on the mistaken perception that he had authored the letter. The mistake is easily explained. My first name “Willy” is a shortened version of a feminine name, and the gentleman in question is named “William,” shares my last name, and lives in the same suburb. Evidently some rabid Trumpie with more anger than brains had tried to look me up by name and city, the only identifiers printed in the paper, and jumped to the conclusion that the first likely name he found was the anti-Trump offender whom he/she needed to silence.
In a subsequent conversation with the Post-Dispatch representative, I learned that the harassment was repeated over time and had reached the level of stalking. The Trumpie thug had informed his “lefty” victim that he knew the type of car he drives and would be watching him. This type of implied threat, according to my informant, had left the poor man understandably nearly distraught.
I have never spoken to this man and cannot think of anything to do to help alleviate the distress he is experiencing because of my opinions – which I will, however, continue to express. In the future, though, I will use my full first name if I submit any more letters to the paper in order to avoid implicating the many innocent Williams in the area. Of course I know that small potatoes are the ones that grow in the future when the problem is here and now.
It’s also true that I don’t want to invite the attentions of this or any other unhinged rightwing crackpot; we’ve already experienced random if minor vandalism on our property in past years and, thanks to the NRA, people have far too much leeway in Missouri to shoot whenever emotion moves them. I also hope that the victim of these implicit efforts to violently repress free speech reports them to the police. If nothing more, we need to establish an official record of threats that are delivered in Trump’s name.
Ironically, the letter that started it all addressed my belief that civility is not likely to be effective in dealing with a Trump-led government, and that unity with folks espousing odious goals is not desirable. And then, what do you know? A Trump supporter showed me just how much value Trumpies place on civil discourse. In case you’re interested, here is the text of the letter (see if you can find the outstanding grammatical error)
I have read several letters in this space urging those who voted for Hillary Cointon – winner of the popular vote – to be gracious in defeat and unify behind President-elect Donald Trump. As well-meant as such exhortations are, they ignore the fact that, based on Trump’s rhetoric and the team of advisors he has assembled, many Americans are frightened for our future and the future of our country. There is too much at stake to sit back and pretend it’s business as usual.
Trump actively encouraged a nativist coalition that includes overt racists. He acquiesced in essentially treasonous Russian meddling in an American election. He has promised to curtail press freedom, and impose the socio-religious preferences of a rightwing Christian minority on the entire country. His inner circle includes advocates of police state tactics and torture.
Trump has given the thumbs up to Paul Ryan’s plans to gut Medicare under the guise of replacing Obamacare – the loss of which will itself will cost millions of us our healthcare. Efforts to decimate Social Security are on the horizon. Environmental protection is now a dead letter.
Trump has pledged to nominate Supreme Court Justices who will enable all these depredations while supporting “business friendly” laws that sustain the creation of a corporate oligarchy.
If you think that Trump’s cadres care about civility, you are fooling yourself. This is not the time for exchanging polite nothings; it’s time to get ready for the fight of our lives.
Interestingly, another contributor to the Post-Dispatch’s letters section experienced a similarly uncivil response – while the semi-illegible letter she received is not as frightening as threats of implied bodily harm and evidence of stalking, it is scary enough that it was placed in her home’s mailbox, indicating that a writer who feels that Trump’s election entitles her/him to express his/her inner ugliness knows where she lives.
It’s fitting that the moral of this story seems to confirm the message of my LTE, that “if you think Trump’s cadres care about civility you are fooling yourself.” It is clear that the only thing they care about is submission on the part of their opponents, which leads to the second lesson to be learned: watch out and take care – there are plenty of potential recruits for an American brownshirt-stlyle militia just raring to get going.
*2nd sentence of 4th paragraph slightly edited (11/25/16, 9:33 pm)