A response to ‘Deplorable: How I came to cast my vote for Trump’

This is a response to an op-ed published on the Watch titled “Deplorable: How I came to cast my vote for Trump“.

I’d like to respond to Kyril Wolfe’s op-ed, “Deplorable: How I came to vote for Trump”, and the backlash the Watch got from publishing it.

I want to start with some personal background, because this event resonated with me on a personal level. I come from a small town in rural Ontario. Economically, the region is pretty depressed. Jobs are hard to come by, and when I was growing up, there was a grand total of two (two!) families that weren’t white, in a town of around 8,500 people. Most of the people I knew were elderly, on the lower middle class side of things, and white. While incidents of sexism and more rarely, racism occurred, I lacked a structural comprehension of what these things were. Sexist and racist comments were just ‘impolite’ or ‘rude’, a price to be paid for going about your everyday life. I knew next to nothing about the history of indigenous people in Canada. And sexual orientations other than heterosexual were barely visible at all, for reasons I am only coming to understand now. I give this description because I want to emphasize the discrepancy between my lived experience and my education here at King’s, a discrepancy that can be mapped on political lines, that has also appeared between supporters of Trump and Clinton.

Op-eds like these remind me, vividly, of my own background, and of the conflicts I try to navigate between the culture here and back at home. I come from a place where many individuals, when faced with an election like this one, would have come to Kyril’s conclusion as well. There is a lot I dislike about my home town. I complain about it a lot, and I am glad to have left Ontario behind, but I have connections to people I like and respect in that community. I disagree on many issues with these people. But I am bound, by respect and connections going back years, to hear what they have to say.

I disagree, vehemently, with Kyril’s eventual choice. And I question his interpretation of the events that led him to make such a choice. However, I appreciate that he explained how he came to his conclusions, as much as I may question it.

It’s at times like these where I see the bubble-like nature of King’s most clearly. It is a privilege to be in a situation where we can have conversations about racism and misogyny and bigotry, where we can debate the content of op-eds like this one in an intellectually rigorous way, where we can think deeply about the world’s problems and argue about how best to fix them. I am grateful every day for debates like these, because they never happened growing up, and have given me a much richer understanding of the world. I am a cis white woman, and I feel amazingly lucky to be part of a community that works to bring marginalized voices into its discourse, because so many of those voices were missing from my own upbringing. But many other parts of the world do not share this privilege. And to deny viewpoints that seem to condone racism, misogyny, bigotry, or other hatred does us a disservice. In doing so, we miss the opportunity to engage critically with the holders of these viewpoints, if only to attempt to understand where they are coming from – because the world is large and varied, and not everyone has had the privilege of a King’s education.

In the face of a fractured political scene, it is important that we try to find ways to unify ourselves against injustice, hatred, and bigotry. To do that it is more important than ever that we listen to each other with respect, and try our hardest to understand each other, even if we disagree. But understanding can only be accomplished in a climate of mutual respect. The Watch has a duty to publish articles that provoke these conversations – but we have a duty to listen before judging.