‘I Voted for the Middle Finger, the Wrecking Ball’

A woman gestures as she takes part in a protest against President-elect Donald Trump in New York on November 9. (Kena Betancur / AFP / Getty)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A Trump voter describes his worldview in great detail. Despite his blunt quote above, his note is more nuanced and perhaps more relatable than you think:

I am Southern. I am white. I am a male. I was raised Roman Catholic and now go to a Methodist church regularly with my wife and kids. I value the 2nd Amendment but do not own a gun. Every male in my family, save me, is currently serving or has served in the U.S. military. I stand at the pledge of allegiance, and stand and sing with the anthem. I live near streets named after Stonewall Jackson and Strom Thurmond and know Tillman Hall was named after a racist populist who carried a pitchfork. Until recently, I attended field trips with my kids to our state capitol where the Confederate flag still flew, and I am genuinely glad we finally took it down.

I have a Masters degree. My kids go to public school with kids of all races, colors, and creeds. Our neighborhood has immigrant families, mixed-race families, minorities, and same-sex couples. Our sports teams are multi-cultural, diverse, and play beautifully together, on and off the field. I have neither the time, energy, or room in my heart for hatred, bigotry, or racism.

I work hard and sacrifice for my family. I expect everyone to do the same and believe most do. I am romantic enough to still believe that America was created and intended to be a meritocracy. I am intelligent enough to understand the realty that not every one starts off in life from the same spot and not all of us will reach the attain the same levels of success—however you define it.

I also know that living right now, right here, is the greatest advantage any man, women, or child in the history of humankind has ever had. I understand a ruling class exists in our country and contrary to what many believe, my white skin does not provide me access to it. I started off with advantages others didn’t—many of which were afforded me by my parents sacrifices, judgment, and toil. They stayed away from drugs. The waited until marriage to have children. They moved to chase a better life, took night classes at local community colleges to earn credentials. They passed on new cars for used ones, sewed to repair clothes, declined cable television, ate in, not out—and saved every day and every night. They taught me right from wrong, first impressions matter, there is no substitute for hard work and no limits on achievement.

I love working people who answer the alarm clock. I love parents who make sure their kids will have it better than they do. I respect people too busy paying the light bill to keep up with “the news.”

I do not hate on the basis of race, sexual orientation, gender, or faith in any way shape or form. I like liberals, conservatives, and independents. I do not hate Obama or Hillary; I do not know them. I did not deny Clinton my vote because she lacks a penis.

I appreciate the incredible difficulties that surround an unwanted pregnancy, marvel at foster parents and adoption, but detest even the thought of abortion. But I have read a history book or two, so I get the lessons of prohibition.  I know we can’t just “turn the switch off” on abortion and I know a red herring when I see one. Abortion isn’t going away because we elected a Republican. It just isn’t.       

I know the Clintons do not really care about me. I know Trump could not care less. I know Morning Joe will look the same tomorrow and the day after, and Fox News will put even more colorful graphics and pretty anchors on next week. I know Rush is a buffoon, and Al Sharpton is too. I know some schools are better than others, some students are too, and not everyone is destined to Jay Z or Jordan or Bill Gates.

I know life has meaning beyond $ and I can be happy with what I have—and most importantly, ok with what I don’t. I can dream big and one day maybe design a better duck call that gets me my own TV show or make a loom for kids to make rubber band bracelets that makes me a fortune. America fosters those dreams.

I voted for the wrecking ball—and I feel better about it now than I did in the booth.  

I love New York—Gotham, the capital of the world. I watch George Clooney movies and download Kanye—not because I care about their politics but because O Brother Where Art Thou is funny and “Gold Digger” is a good song. I love visiting Seattle and Chicago, Atlanta and Vegas.

I tip well. I am courteous to the airline attendant, the hotel concierge, the blackjack dealer, and the roofer fixing my leaky roof. I try to pay the bills, save a little for college, retirement, the emergency fund. I try to eat better, work out a little, read non-fiction, watch Frontline, listen to NPR, learn something new every day. I respect, appreciate, and marvel at the success of others of any and every race, religion, and gender. I check out Mother Jones, the Daily Kos, and the Drudge Report.

I know my brother in the U.S. Army will die tomorrow so a millionaire quarterback can kneel during the Anthem while my oldest brother, the police officer, will kick in the door of a trailer to get a white kid, an African American kid, an undocumented immigrant kid, out of harm’s way. This isn’t about hate; it just isn’t.

I know what the Fed is and who created it. I know the Treasury will be led by another JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs suit with an Ivy League degree and a painting hanging on the wall in the Hamptons worth more than I will ever see or know. I know lobbyists will still lobby, and tax money will still fund bridges to nowhere. I know people who know important people will be let in on deals and corruption on both sides isn’t going away any time soon.

I know the world isn’t perfect. I know American democracy is far from perfect. I also know it’s the best form of government on Earth—electoral college and all.  

I know a bi-racial kid born in obscurity in Hawaii to an American mother and a Kenyan father can grow up to be president and I want to live here, where that can happen.

I know our representatives used to be the local banker, insurance agent, hardware store owner, and they used to serve at the expense of their business and then hand off the duty to the next citizen in line. I know we cannot go back to that way of life, that speed of life, that small of a world.  

I am for progress, but what I deem the right kind of progress. That’s my right and I exercise it at the ballot box. I am against career politicians owning condos in the Dominican Republic. I am for clean air and water. I am against throwing jobs away in West Virginia when coal still makes sense.

I am for Muslims living openly and worshipping as they please. I do not care who you choose to marry or divorce or date or whatever. I will not apologize for the Christmas pageant at the public school or a Christian prayer before kickoff. I am for Israel existing; I am for Palestine existing. Peacefully.

I am for a safety net for people when they fall on hard times. I am not for government handouts as a way of life. I want everyone—of all kinds—pulling on the same side of the damn rope. Pitch in, make this a better place for everybody that obeys the law, pull yourself up by your bootstraps everyday and do some form of honest work. Come here legally, adopt our way of life, learn our language and preserve yours, respect our legal and social traditions and observe yours freely, engage in deliberative thought and debate without risk of being labelled a bigot or a hater because you disagree.

I am tired of the machine rolling over us—all of us.  The Clinton machine, the Republican machine, the big media, investment banking, hedge fund carrying interest, corporatist, lobbying, influence peddling, getting elected and immediately begin fundraising for the next election machine—they can all kiss my ass.

Maybe Trump won’t do a thing to change or fix any of it. Hillary definitely would not have changed any of it. So I voted for the monkey wrench—the middle finger—the wrecking ball.  

I do not have the time, energy, or opportunity to march through downtown and chant vulgarities or spray paint buildings or set cop cars on fire. So I protest—and use my voice—with a ballot.

Go ahead: Label me a racist, a bigot, a hate-filled misogynistic, an uneducated redneck. But I turned down Yale, motherfuckers; I ain’t who you think I am. And while I love grits and pulled pork barbecue and collard greens and cold beer in a bottle, I also love my neighbors of all colors, especially if they can cook. I want a synagogue, a church, and a mosque on Main St. all in a row, getting along and following the golden rule. And we mostly do.  

But I have grown tired. I admit, I am tired of arguing with crazy.

Crazy is thinking we do not have to secure our borders when people want to kill us because we don’t stone homosexuals or because we let women drive.

Crazy is thinking you can live in this country below the radar, illegally, enjoy all we have inherited and worked to grow and preserve, and not make some form of restitution to others that follow the law.

Crazy is believing you can get health care for free, cell phones for free, have kids without consequences, drop out of school, join a gang, get a neck tattoo—and not face consequences.

Crazy is treating the same symptoms and never the disease.

Here’s the recipe for success and comfort in modern America: Stay in school, do your best, stay away from drugs, don’t have kids until you are no longer a kid, don’t break the law. You might be a pipe-fitter or a welder, a truck driver or a rapper. You might sell insurance, teach school, sell homes, or pave roads. You might become a chef or a mechanic, work with computers or take care of people in a nursing home. You will be able to afford Netflix, have food on the table, pay the rent or own a home, buy a car that runs, not get shot by the police, and probably find some happiness. Nobody will hate you because you’re a girl, or a person of color, or gay or straight, or speak with an accent. We just won’t.

We will invite you to the block party, watch our kids swim together at the neighborhood pool, go to work together, study at school together, pray together or not, cheer for the Raiders together, play golf together, argue about politics—together.  

Update: Many readers respond here.