OP-ED | Confronting the Banality of Evil Over Coffee
“White supremacists are voters, too.”
Those words, uttered by a man in horn-rimmed glasses and a button-down shirt who could have just as easily been sitting at the next table in the Yale Club dining room, were what finally made me get up and leave the Coffee Hour with my state legislators.
It was bad enough that Greenwich’s four Republican legislators — state Reps. Fred Camillo, Mike Bocchino, Livvy Floren and state Sen L. Scott Frantz — sat there silently as the white-haired lady next to me told me to “Be quiet” and the man across the table kept saying “Stop talking” the entire time I was trying to speak. They were joined by many others in the crowd, according to the person accompanying me.
I had attended these coffees with legislators before as a Greenwich resident, an RTM member, and a columnist for CTNewsJunkie.com. I’d actually had a medical appointment scheduled for Monday morning, but rescheduled it, because I’d been so dismayed by an article in the Greenwich Time in which Rep. Camillo, First Selectman Peter Tesei, Connecticut Republican State Central member Ed Dadakis, and to some degree, new RTC chair Stephen Walko, said they would support Donald Trump if he were the Republican nominee. And Sen. Frantz and Rep. Floren refused to rule it out. So I felt it important to attend.
I’ve been writing about the dangers posed by Donald Trump and his charged rhetoric for months now, and for my efforts have been called mentally unstable and incurred some truly vile comments. Sadly, that’s become par for the course for a woman who dares to express her political opinions online — Trump has just made it more acceptable. Just listen to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on that subject. She has also been targeted with more than her share of vile comments after standing up to Trump.
But the scene at Glory Days Diner in Greenwich, a place where I’ve eaten with my kids since they were in elementary school, was even more sickening than the worst online threats I’ve received. I left wondering if America has completely lost its critical thinking skills. What made this more disturbing than the online vitriol was that these are supposedly the “nice” people — the folks you see in the Greenwich Magazine society pages. These are my neighbors. These are the people with whom I serve on the Representative Town Meeting.
Sen. Frantz gave his usual stump speech that Connecticut is dying because of taxes and it’s all the Democrats’ fault. To Rep. Floren’s credit, she was honest enough to admit that part of the pension problem originated under Republican Gov. John Rowland. Sen. Frantz went on to say businesses need predictability.
And this is where I start to experience cognitive dissonance with the Republican Party, and members who say they will support Trump if he is the nominee because he is “good for business.”
When Sen. Frantz called on me, I agreed the businesses do need predictability, and that’s why we needed to talk about the top of the ticket. The GOP frontrunner, Trump, can’t even be consistent from the beginning of one day to the next. And among his more disturbing positions is his refusal to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Europe, his dictatorial attitude toward a free press, and his incredibly dangerous ideas about increasing nuclear proliferation — while simultaneously saying that it is a bigger risk that global warming — which is it, Donald?
That’s before I even start on his misogyny, racism, and vulgarity.
Yet my four state legislators sat mute as a crowd of people told me to be quiet, from practically the first moment I began talking. “This isn’t the place to talk about that,” one woman snapped. Oh really? Where is the place for me as a constituent to express such concerns to my legislators? There’s nothing on the invitation that limited the subject matters for discussion. Still, the four legislators sat there and just let it happen.
Fred Camillo, whom I’ve always considered to be a nice guy, told me rather heatedly that he’d changed his mind and is now supporting Kasich, but that he “has the right to support anyone” he wants.
Yes, Fred. You do. This is America. You can support anyone you want, as can the man who told me “I’m voting for Trump because he’s a businessman and an outsider.” And when I said, “Yes, but he’s enabling White Supremacists,” the same guy responded, “White Supremacists are voters, too.” Words I’d never thought to hear from an allegedly civilized and educated person in the town where I live.
But here’s the thing. You can’t dissociate yourself from the consequences of that support. And the consequences of that support are real and they are very, very ugly, as we witnessed at Glory Days on Monday morning. Trump has unleashed America’s most primitive subconscious.
Too many people are putting their extremely strange concept of “business” above foreign policy, international relations, and most of all, basic decency.
What was most disturbing to me, though, and what I have been talking to people about ever since, was the silence. That none of these four elected representatives had the courage to tell the mob in that diner that I had a right to speak is not just depressing, it’s chilling. It’s proof that my elected representatives are willing to put party over country. And isn’t that how we got into this mess in the first place?
My father was a life-long Republican, who proudly served this country. I miss him every single day, but I am glad that he isn’t alive to see what happened in that diner on Monday morning. It would have killed him.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.