I don’t have very many hard core Trump supporters left on my Facebook feed. Some of them got defriended in the aftermath of the election, when I got tired of reading rants about seeing Hillary Clinton executed and racist diatribes against Obama. Some of them silently defriended me, I’m guessing due to my own passionate, highly politicized posts. Some I had to block, when they sent me harassing private messages. But as hard as it for me to read sometimes, I’ve tried to keep as many pro Trump folks in my feed as I can. It’s the whole keep your friends close but your enemies closer feeling. Can’t form the resistance if you don’t know what the other side is thinking.
So when I woke up this morning and scrolled through my Facebook feed in those few luxurious moments I steal each day before my kids wake up, I flinched slightly when I read an anti-Meryl Streep missive posted by one of my so-called frenemies. I don’t know the guy who posted it at all, actually. He’s runs an uber conservative PR company, and how he got my name and friended me I have no idea. Maybe he thought I shared his political leanings because I worked for the New York Post two decades ago.
As much as I yearned to write a response, I balked. I’ve found that posting something—even something fairly innocuous—on a Trump supporter’s page can lead to all sorts of ugliness, something I wasn’t sure I felt like dealing with before my caffeine had kicked in. But I ended up writing something. I had sat in bed the night before and cried as I watched Streep’s speech. When she called out Trump for mocking the disabled New York Times reporter, I wept. Like her, it had broken my heart to watch. As the mother of a little girl with Down syndrome, it had grieved me that others didn’t see the cruelty in our President-elect’s taunts—including many parents of children with disabilities.
So I took a deep breath and posted a comment, a heartfelt defense of Streep as the mother of a child with an intellectual disability. A few minutes later, as I was about to go upstairs to wake my kids up for the day, I heard the chiming sound which I knew in my gut meant someone was responding to my comment. Do I look now? I silently wondered. Or do I wait until they are safely off to school?
Dear reader, I took the bait and clicked. And there, right below the comment, was a comment from another woman, with just one word: “Libtard.”
I was shocked. I’ve heard that word before, of course. It seems many conservatives have no problem throwing that word around when it comes to anyone who’s remotely to the left of them (that’s central for the rest of the world, BTW). I’ve seen it on Facebook feeds, and each time it’s a punch in the gut. Sometimes, when I’ve had the energy, I’ve posted a gentle reprimand, asking them to please not use the word as it’s insulting to people with intellectual disabilities. More often than not, I get an apology and the comment taken down.
But this was the first time I’d seen it used in this context, to attack the parent of a child with a disability. It was clear she’d chosen her words deliberately, carefully picking the one thing to say that would deliver the sharpest sting.
I wrote back within seconds, asking her why she would say that to the mother of a little girl with Down syndrome.
She wrote back almost immediately, telling me to knock the crap off and she wasn’t referring to me.
Then who was she referring to? Empty air?
I wrote back that I found that hard to believe but regardless it was an inappropriate word to use, period.
I waited until the kids were on their respective buses before checking Facebook again. There were no comments. I wondered if I’d shamed her into silence. But when I went back to check the post, it was gone. Mr. Conservative PR man had defriended me. Which, at the end of the day, was no great loss. I wouldn’t have to see his favorite Breitbart articles in my news feed anymore. And my blood pressure probably couldn’t have handled the hate comments that were no doubt being directed to me at that very moment anyway.
I knew I should just shrug it off and get on with things, which included not only a full day of work but phone calls to my senators and Congressman
I posted something on my Facebook page and got a swift reaction. Two of my editors, Louise Sloan and Tula Karas, sent lovely, impassioned letters to Michelle respectfully explaining why they were so upset at her using the word libtard. My mother, bless her heart, actually called the office and asked to speak to either Michelle or her mother—when she explained why, they promptly hung up on her. The comments, which were so full of love and support and we’ve-got-your-back-girl were all that was keeping me from crawling under the covers with Ivry dog and not reemerging until the kids got off the bus.
There’s so much I could say that’s completely un-PC, so I won’t. After all, as my favorite first lady of all time, Michelle Obama, says, “when they go low, we go high.” But I will say, these are the people Hillary Clinton meant when she used the word “deplorables.” How angry do you have to be, how full of self-loathing, to attack a well meaning mother of a disabled child? What about yourself do you hate so much that you feel the need to lash out at everyone around you, including (and especially) the most vulnerable segments of our population?
And while I have rage against them, I’m also feeling very, very bitter towards a group of acquaintances who also voted for Trump. Maybe they didn’t agree with much of what he said, and maybe they held their noses and cast their ballot for him because they consider themselves die-hard Republicans, or they hated Hillary Clinton THAT much, but these are exactly the sort of people who SHOULDN’T be complacent when this ugliness comes out. I know so many parents locally in my Down syndrome community who voted for Trump. Are they so blinded by ideology (which he doesn’t share with them, BTW), or do they simply not value their own kids enough to see that this man and his supporters despise people with disabilities? Just the use of the word libtard is testimony to that. And yes, of course Trump did not come up with that word himself, but he has created an environment ripe for such harassment to happen.
To them, I say shame on you. For all of the Trump voters who aren’t standing up and condemning this hatred, shame on you. You may have voted for him and you may not have liked him, but you have a moral responsibility to stand up and defend those who can’t defend themselves. Which, in this case, is my darling Jo Jo and others like her.