Why am I so angry? #TrumpTape

As I write this, it’s about 24 hours after Trump’s ‘pussygate’[1] scandal broke. And in that time, I’ve been frothing with rage. I am normally a fairly calm person — this anger is out of character for me. I’ve been consuming article after article, scanning my twitter and facebook feeds, quoting the best sentences to my (progressive, feminist, awesome) husband, and making my own posts spewing my frustration and rage.

At some point this morning I realized that while my husband completely agrees with all of my frustration and outrage, he was getting a bit tired of hearing me rant about it. The differences between our reactions made me step back and try to figure out why I was seething with so much rage about this.

As an aside: one of the things I particularly like about myself is that I have a pretty good mix of skills in both analytical thinking and ‘emotional awareness’ for lack of a better phrase. I’m an engineer by trade — I like logic, clarity, decision trees, and appreciate a great algorithm. And as someone whose superpower is empathy and really understanding and empathizing Ender-style about others’ points of view (even if I disagree with their conclusions), I am pretty good at the more ‘squishy’ emotional stuff too.

And so after some introspection today, I think there are two main reasons why I am So. Damned. Angry:

#1: Because (duh) I’m a woman. The personal is political. I have thankfully never been raped or sexually assaulted or even groped (a fact that one friend who reviewed a draft of this was shocked by), but I know many who have been (mostly women, but at least one man as well). There’s a spectrum of words and behaviors, and those kinds of words are really far along one end of the deplorable[2] end of the spectrum. And I know first-hand as a woman (particularly one in the tech industry) how these kinds of statements contribute to creating a toxic culture — a culture that others take their cues from. The danger of normalization of this type of behavior is very real and very far-reaching.
This may seem obvious to some, but it was an important realization for me how my personal life experiences played a role in shaping my reaction — being angry on behalf of someone else is an entirely different thing than being angry on behalf of ourselves.

This is one of the biggest problems facing our world right now — because our opinions and beliefs are shaped by our life experiences and those of people close to us, the more insular we are, the more likely we are to disregard the opinions and emotions of people who have had different life experiences. Racism and bigotry royally fucking piss me off [3] and I rant and rave about them and consider it a responsibility for myself as a privileged white person to speak out on those topics, but the ‘volume level’ is different because as someone with pasty white skin, I have the relative luxury of them not affecting my daily life.

#2: It’s not just that he’s a candidate for the presidency and that he said it (+ any of the other awful things he’s said) — what’s even more egregious to me are the reactions from people who are defending it. As to those defenses:

  • “Hillary’s worse”: most Hillary supporters I know are fully capable of talking about Hillary’s flaws and mistakes when the conversation is about that. But we find it… telling… that when Trump’s flaws and mistakes come up, many choose to redirect the conversation to one about Hillary.
  • “It’s just words, not actions — actions are worse than words”: and again the redirect to Hillary. Yes, I know she’s a career politician and he’s not. But when someone is not a career politician, we can’t evaluate their political impact, thus we have to go on their words and their actions in other spheres outside of politics. His words and actions that we know of, from the very first day of his campaign, have frequently been racist, sexist, misogynist and bigoted. You don’t go from that… to suddenly being the paragon of virtue a month or even 10 years later. And can we please stop with this redirection crap? We can see right through it. We are talking about Trump here, not Hillary, or Bill, or JFK, or LBJ.
  • “It’s just locker room talk”: I know many great men — I’m happy to call many of them coworkers, one of them my husband, and I am trying desperately to raise my son to become one. Sex talk is sex talk, it happens in locker rooms and private conversations around the world between men and women — that’s all very mundane. But what Trump said is not “just locker room talk”. No decent human being even thinks those thoughts, let alone says them in private. This was a candidate for the goddamn[4] presidency of the United States of America joking about sexually assaulting women. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew. EW. YUCK.

Listen — Hillary is by no means a perfect candidate (hint: there is no such thing, people are human beings and human beings having flaws). And although I voted for Obama twice, there are many things I don’t like about his choices in office — but on balance, I’m quite happy with most of the steps he took in his presidency. All large systems are complicated, and with any candidate for political office, I look at a candidate as a whole person — a human being with strengths, weaknesses and flaws. Mistakes can be forgiven. Weaknesses can be looked past if there are enough strengths. “Perfect is the enemy of good” is something I firmly believe in.

The very idea of evaluating another person’s worth for a particular political office is an exercise in defining one’s own willingness to compromise — on which aspects do we stick to our values and principles, vs those where we compromise and accept the bad with the good. And each of the items in the ‘pro’ vs ‘con’ column have a weight applied to them — and reasonable people can disagree on the relative weighting of any one item. It’s a balancing act, similar in many ways to the evaluation we do when choosing a spouse or entering into a business partnership.

And so when I do that evaluation for Trump, I try to stack up the goods and bads and think about the weighting and be as fair-minded as possible… And I’ve done this math time and time again, and it keeps coming out negative, and it makes me so angry that I can’t get the math to compute. Because in no math anywhere should a candidate for the president of the United States of America be acting on, saying, or believing such horrible things, time and time again. These are not the ‘normal mistakes’ of a politician or public figure — or a leader. I am afraid — terrified — of what this math tells us about the state of our country and our citizens.

And while it’s been a while since I took Psych 101, I think it’s clear that the reason I’m angry is because I’m afraid. And what I am most afraid of… is that more people aren’t just as afraid as I am. Even if he does not win the presidency, our country will be forever changed.[5]

- KC

[1] I sat here and calmly debated to myself if I should use the term because, hey, it’s vulgar. But then I thought — why the fuck should I be held to a higher standard than someone running for the president of the United States? I’m a human beings with flaws too, and one of them is that I can be vulgar and crude, and I swear a lot.

[2] Yeah, I went for it.

[3] This realization also lead to an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me about “the angry black man” stereotype and the importance of talking about things even when we know we won’t change each others’ minds… more on that in another post I’m still organizing my thoughts on.

[4] See [1] about how one of my flaws is that I swear a lot.

[5] Regarding the state of our country, I should be clear about something important: this election season has taught me that I was out of touch with a large portion of the United States’ population — people who probably haven’t had as many privileges as I have had in growing up. People who feel trapped, who feel that the current system let them down, and that our political system needs a reboot. So despite my anger and fear, I’m very grateful to the Trump candidacy for teaching me what I needed to know, and I am very hopeful that regardless of what happens with this particular election, the visibility of that problem will help change the course of our country’s political and economic choices over the coming years.

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