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The Trump Effect part 2: It's not politics -- It's verbal violence

“Build the wall! Fuck those dirty beaners!” screamed a man at a Trump rally in early 2016.[2]  “You can’t trust Latinos. Some maybe, but not most,” said protesters at another Trump rally. “Immigrants aren’t people, honey,” another responded. “You know them crazy black girls, how they are.”[4]  “Fuck Islam! God bless Donald Trump!” screamed a man at another Trump rally, who was also wearing a t-shirt with big, block letters that read “Fuck Islam”. Another man screamed, “Islam is not a religion, it’s an ideology [sic].” He moved closer to the man in front of him, raising his fists, and said, “You don’t come here and talk about America when you are supporting Muslims.” A sign nearby read “Sieg Heil”. [6]  A Georgia high-school teacher who wears a hijab received a threatening note on her desk that read, “Your head scarf isn’t allowed anymore. Why don’t you tie it around your neck and hang yourself,” signed “America!”[8]. The same day, "Make America White Again" was spray-painted on a softball dugout in upstate New York, along with a large swastika.[10] “We got a new president you fucking faggots,” strangers screamed at Chris Ball as he watched the election results at a bar in Santa Monica. When he left the bar, a group of men violent attacked him, smashing a bottle over his head until he fell to the pavement and lost consciousness.    This is The Trump Effect, the impact of hateful political speech on people’s everyday interactions with those who they see as different from themselves. It is what happens when people do not see the other as a whole person but rather insists on classifying the other based entirely on physical attributes – the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their gender, their sexual orientation, their clothing, their bodies. The Trump Effect is the legitimizing of hate-filled, bigoted abuse.  And it is real. According to a study of over 2000 teachers conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center about the ways in which the election brought hate into American schools, called "The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools," there is “an increase in the bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates.”[12] Trump was not like any other candidate, and 2016 was unlike any other election. We are living in a time when toxic, vitriolic, hateful abuse has entered the public sphere and is now mistaken for legitimate, political discourse. But make no mistake: This is not politics. This is verbal violence. [2] Mayra Cuevas, 'Trump' as anti-Latino epithet: Ugly incidents at high school games. CNN, March 1, 2016 [4] Joseph Serna, Principal on leave for alleged anti-Trump comments; student who voiced support for Trump attacked. LA Times, November 11, 2016 [6] Joseph Serna, Principal on leave for alleged anti-Trump comments; student who voiced support for Trump attacked. LA Times, November 11, 2016 [8] Cory Zurowski, Maple Grove students greeted with...

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The Trump Effect

The Trump Effect. So I recently gave a ride to a guy from my neighborhood. He is an older man who I know superficially, and he needed a lift in my direction, so I agreed to help him out. (I'm often without a car, so I appreciated his need.) When he got in the car, we started chatting – how long have you been living here, where are you from originally, like that. Turns out he is from Texas, and I excitedly told him that I was in Houston not long ago where I spent three weeks visiting a dear friend, thinking that would be a connecting tidbit. But then, when he asked me where I was from, and I said, “New York”, he responded with a kind of grimacing little grunt. “New Yorkers are okay – except for one thing,” he said sardonically, looking straight at me. “You are all liberals.” And there it was, I thought, another random guy willing to verbally attack me, in my space, even as I’m doing him a favor. Another mini-Donald Trump replacing common decency with obnoxiousness, a reminder that we are now in a post-Trump world where insulting the person next to you is fine and expected. Verbal aggression, thanks to Donald, is the new normal. Lots of people have been experiencing moments like these, interactions with trump-like folks who make our personal space unsafe. With this guy in the car, in an instant, my entire life and person was reduced to one generalized caricature: New York Liberal. My work, my family, my relationships, the complexities of my ideas or actions – none of this existed any more. All I became was this stereotype, and it was used as an insult. (Actually, I personally do not consider “liberal” an insult or even a significant identifier – I don’t introduce myself at cocktail parties saying, “Hey, I’m Elana, and I’m a Liberal”; and if I had to choose the One Thing You Should Know About Me, that wouldn’t be it. – but the word is used as a slur by those who do, and it is that intention that is hateful.) Even though the label he put on me is not who I really am, the L-word, like so many other pieces of language that are casually thrown about, was intended to flatten me and blur my entire person by ignoring all the other aspects of my being. I was no longer a friend, a mother, a writer, an activist, a professional, a neighbor, or even a driver willing to do an act of kindness. I was just a thing that some guy decided I was based solely on information about where I was born. Score one for meaningless stereotypes and zero for genuine human connection. The Trump Effect.

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