Fully aware that I am a teacher who believes in public education, an acquaintance recently said he hopes schools switch over to online-only learning permanently—even after the coronavirus pandemic is over. When I asked why, he looked me in the eye and said, “Getting rid of all those worthless teachers would cut my property taxes by about 75%.” He added, “They’re all brainwashing kids to be socialists and teaching them to be Antifa, too.”

Travis Naughton

I laughed, but he wasn’t kidding. 

“I’ll tell you what,” he continued, “If Trump won’t send in the military to stop these protesters, he ought to send in the Hell’s Angels. That would take care of the problem real quick.” Before I could think of an appropriate response he added, “By the way, Donald Trump is the single greatest president in history. Period.”

Had I not been trying to enjoy a friendly gathering of classic car owners and their beautiful vehicles, I might have been able to formulate a reply such as, “You know who else liked to vilify academics and felt threatened by anti-fascists?” 

It’s probably good that I walked away instead.

When I wrote a social media post calling for justice for Breonna Taylor, a young black woman shot and killed in her own bed by Louisville police officers who executed a no-knock warrant at the wrong house, another acquaintance said he was disappointed in me, then he called me an idiot and accused me of trying to start a race war. An elected official here in Southern Boone County, my acquaintance wisely deleted his comment after catching hell from some of my friends. 

Another acquaintance accused me of deleting the comment myself and called into question my integrity as an advocate of free speech. When I clarified that I had not deleted the comment, he rebutted with “#All Lives Matter,” a phrase often recited by racists. 

Saying “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter” is like saying “All moms die” after someone says “My mom just died.” It’s completely unnecessary and willfully hurtful.

Yet another acquaintance mockingly commented that I “should lead a mob that randomly kills white people for retaliation to this tragic mistake. Make them pay like only a militant atheist can.” He continued, “But if you run into men who don’t blink or flinch, I might suggest you run from them, as you have established that rules do not matter…you might not like the results.”

After I took exception to his thinly veiled threat, my “friend” doubled-down a few minutes later with this nugget: “If my sarcasm hit too close to home, sorry…I would never threaten you with violence…I have enough blackmail on you to make your publisher disown you.”

First of all, I have written four books depicting my past mistakes in painfully vivid detail. I have nothing to hide. My life is literally an open book. (Four of them.) Second, my relationship with the Journal’s publisher has never been better. (I appreciate you, Gene.)

I shared a news story on Facebook last week that included a video of a white man kneeling on another white man’s neck (mocking the brutal murder of George Floyd) as a Black Lives Matter protest marched by. In the video, a man can be heard yelling, “All lives matter” and “Black lives matter to no one,” while black protesters and a police escort peacefully filed by. The racists in the video used a Trump 2020 banner as the backdrop for their little production.

A commenter on my post said, “I think we can all agree that these guys don’t represent anyone but their own terrible selves.” Respectfully, I disagree.

I think those guys and the other examples I’ve just listed do represent a significant portion of the American population. It is a fact that there are still a lot of racists living in this country. It is a fact that there are plenty of folks who hate it that their taxes support the public education system. It is a fact that the same people who think peaceful Black Lives Matter protests should be crushed with violence are the same people who support armed protests against Covid-19 lockdowns. 

It is an undeniable fact that most of these people have one thing in common; they are Trump supporters.

Before you start writing your letters to the editor calling for my head, I want to assure you that I have a lot of friends who are Trump supporters. Some of my very best friends voted for Donald Trump and probably will again. These are genuinely good human beings. They are kind and intelligent people who do not follow the president’s examples of misogyny, racism, and narcissism. This message is for them: 

Friends, before you vote to re-elect Donald Trump, I encourage you to think about the examples I mentioned and then ask yourself, “Are these people MY people?” If they’re not, then I invite you to align yourself with a candidate and a party whose followers believe that Black Lives Matter. That education matters. That respect for women and LGBQT people matters. That civility matters.

I know who MY people are. Do you?