Political pundits claimed that Hillary Clinton lost the election because of her comments about “deplorables.” Specifically, Hillary said that half of Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables” characterized by “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” views. Trump capitalized on that theme during the final month before the 2016 election. He made it clear that Hillary didn’t care about a huge segment of America. Instead she found them “deplorable.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about that word. The fact is many “deplorable” things are going on in America right now. Perhaps some would call these occurrences by another name. But if we are honest, we would own up to this reality. Let’s just review some items on that list of deplorable actions.
First, make no mistake about it. It is deplorable to separate children from their parents at the border and put them in cages. It just is. The fact that 545 children cannot be rejoined with their parents is an unconscionable dereliction of duty on the part of the United States. Some of these children were babies when they were separated and have been without their parents for more than two years.
Second, it is deplorable to speak about women in misogynistic terms. Comments made recently about Kamala Harris are beyond the pale. Disagreeing with her political views is one thing. Personal comments about her are quite something else. Recently, posts have questioned whether she’s really an American citizen and qualified to run for President. Some question whether a Jamaican and an Indian qualifies as being Black. Others claim that she slept her way to the top. Still others question her competence, including the President of the United States, who also has called Harris a monster. He seems to have a major problem with powerful women whom he does not control.
Third, the hate groups on both sides—Antifa, the Proud Boys and others– are deplorable. Inciting violence and stoking hatred is never a good idea. In fact, it is a deplorable way to act. It is the opposite of what John Lewis would call “good trouble.” Rather it is bad trouble that should have no place in our society.
Fourth, Trump jumped all over Biden’s comments about curtailing the oil industry during the last debate. He attempted to stoke the “Biden will tank the economy” fires, claiming that Biden would cause mass unemployment in states like Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas. To my way of thinking, it’s deplorable if we don’t make efforts as a nation to reduce pollution and create new ways to get the job done using renewable energy. It’s deplorable that we worry only about short-term optics and not the future of our environment. Why is the United States government continuing to subsidize fossil fuels at all? Already oil companies see the writing on the wall, and the smart ones are taking steps to migrate in that direction. To not do so, is short-sighted and demonstrates a clear lack of concern for future generations.
Fifth, it’s deplorable to care about no one—not even yourself–during a pandemic and refuse to comply with recommended CDC guidelines. It’s been proven, without a doubt, that motorcycle rallies, political rallies, campus bar hopping, and massive beach parties are super-spreader events. Shortly after each of these activities major COVID spikes have occurred. By being cavalier about your own behavior, you can spread the virus to others who may be much more vulnerable than you.
Sixth, it’s deplorable that we have not progressed further in implementing reasonable gun control legislation that keeps guns out of the hands of criminals and those suffering with mental illnesses. It is possible to do so and still protect second amendment rights. Because of the lack of vision and leadership on this issue, thousands of innocent people have died.
Finally, it’s “deplorable” for politicians to capitalize on the prejudices or lack of understanding of some voters by playing on these deficiencies to their own benefit. Examples of this strategy include such statements as; Mexicans are taking your jobs. They are rapists. Democrats want to turn America into a Socialist country. It will be like Venezuela, etc.
Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
We know that separating children from their parents is wrong. We know that making sexist, racist, and homophobic comments is wrong. We know that continuing to pollute our environment and not taking proper remediation efforts is wrong. We know that putting other people’s health in jeopardy is wrong. We know that allowing dangerous people to own firearms is wrong. And we know that feeding on people’s prejudices solely for our own benefit is wrong.
As a nation, we know better and we should do better. We can set an example. We can be a beacon of hope. We can push reset and try again.
Maria Grant served as Principal-in-Charge of the Federal Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting. Since her retirement, she has focused on writing, music, reading, travel, gardening and nature.