Every day that goes by since the election I become more despondent and more infuriated about your having supported Donald Trump.
His continued unstable, childish, dangerous behavior on Twitter and off; his horrifying, extreme picks for the cabinet – individuals who are hostile to civil rights and seem chosen to dismantle government; his surrounding himself with generals, billionaires and nationalists – all of it is alarming and I’m truly frightened for our country.
The thought of speaking with you, just when maybe the anger has simmered somewhat, becomes more unsettling ― and enrages me further ― as each day’s news breaks.
How could I continue a friendship with you knowing that you voted for rolling back my rights as a gay man – most of Trump’s cabinet choices are vehemently opposed to LGBT rights – and the rights of millions of women and people of color?
I can’t fall back on the narrative of you being the downtrodden Rust Belter who is experiencing “economic anxiety” and feeling “left behind.” You ― like, in fact, the majority of Trump supporters ― fit none of that. You’re an educated white woman with college-educated children and you’ve gone from living in one 93 percent white, well-off enclave to another over the past 30 years.
We were childhood friends and went our separate ways in adulthood. But we always kept in touch. We’d see each other at events, catch up on the phone now and then, wish one another “Happy Birthday,” and maybe have dinner on the off chance we were in the same city.
I now realize I never really knew you.
In thinking back there were the hints, which surfaced over dinner, or in a chat on the phone, that perhaps you supported Republicans, or were unsatisfied with President Obama. (Certainly my politics, in my work as a journalist and commentator, are on full display, and some people are more guarded in my presence when it comes to discussing their own views.)
Still, that certainly didn’t mean you’d support Trump. Many Republicans didn’t. You always seemed to care about human rights. You supported me through my own coming out as gay when I was young, and expressed support for marriage equality. You left me a message the day after the shooting massacre at the LGBT nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando last June ― the last time we had an exchange ― sending me your moral support, to which I responded with a thank you.
That’s why this is all the more shocking. You’re too informed, too aware to just have blindly followed Trump. And my only conclusion is that the dark, ugly bigotry of this man was dismissed by you, tolerated by you. That’s unacceptable. You allowed for the legitimacy of white supremacists and a brutal misogyny we have never seen at this level of politics. Any conversation we would have would devolve into my saying things that would surely hurt you far more than simply breaking off or severely diminishing communications.
I only found out about your support for Trump after I went to your Facebook page a few days after the election. An exchange with someone else in a similar situation piqued my curiosity. I wouldn’t have in a million years thought you voted for Trump, but I just had to check.
And there I saw it: the promotion of Trump propaganda by a charlatan who made viral videos rationalizing why it was important to vote for Trump despite his grotesque statements and beliefs. One of those videos made the case shortly after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, explaining that, yes, Trump is a “narcissist” and the tape is vile and gross, but that “we” have to use his narcissism to “our” advantage. Further down in your timeline there was another video from the same con-man promoting the bigger con-man. And there were a few other references showing your support for Trump.
I thought about it for a while, and then decided to unfriend you. Then, days later, I blocked you. If you do reach out with a voice mail or a text, I will likely not return it. Some have said in the days since the election that they can’t believe people are ending friendships and family relationships over “politics.” They’d say that I’m being silly, petty, or overreacting.
But this election was and continues to be about so much more than “politics.” This is about values and respect. It’s about bigotry and hate. It’s about millions of people’s rights being threatened, including my rights as a gay man and yours as a woman. It’s about putting our entire democracy in danger of transforming into an autocracy, and legitimizing and making alliances with our worst adversaries, whose goal is to dominate us.
Others would say they understand the desire to cut off the friendship, but that it’s better to continue dialogue and educate. Perhaps, this thinking goes, you’ll see what’s happening as we move forward and then reach out for an understanding and maybe offer a mea culpa.
I get that. But we are in a grave situation, with little time to spare. At this current moment, since you don’t see that we’re in a national emergency (to which you contributed), you may only be jarred if your comfortable life is affected – such as by losing one or more friends and being forced to reflect on the magnitude of what you’ve done.
Beyond all that, as I said above, I realize I never really knew you. When it comes to the things that matter greatly to me, I’ve now learned we have very little in common. Words of support for me and concern for my well-being are superficial when you can’t be counted on when it really matters ― when rights are on the line. The election has brought that into sharp relief.
So I’ll keep my ears open, but unless you experience a truly deep transformation, I’m simply being honest when I say we can no longer be friends.
Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msignorile