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House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., left, shows President-elect Donald Trump, his wife Melania and Vice president-elect Mike Pence the view of the inaugural stand that is being built and Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Speaker's Balcony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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Trump and the repulsed vote

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Staff Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press - June 22, 2012. David Cook

Many of you voted for Trump. For a proudly racist fringe, doing so was a joy. Yet others? You were disgusted by him. Repulsed.

And yet.

You still voted yes.

You did so furious at Wall Street corporatism and entrenched Clinton cronyism. You did so barely scraping by; minimum wage plus ballooning premiums plus a bone-deep exhaustion. You did so because Trump felt like a middle finger to the establishment, and sometimes that feels good.

But you need to know how this election feels to the rest of us.

It feels like death.

As Tuesday melted into Wednesday, then Thursday, millions of Americans passed through stages of civic grief: open weeping, sleeplessness, screaming, terrible anger, nausea, very real fear.

"It feels like a nightmare," said one friend, a young black man.

"A nightmare," echoed another, a Muslim woman.

America finally brought down the Confederate flag only to elect a man endorsed by the Klan. So many bodies seem even more vulnerable now. Black bodies, gay bodies, brown bodies, female bodies, all our bodies, as Trump's policies could very well curb-stomp whatever climate change progress we've made.

Because of Trump, I heard of children of immigrant parents crying in Hamilton County classrooms on Wednesday, afraid of deportation.

Because of Trump, I've already talked again to my children, on their level and in words they can understand, about rape and rape culture, about knowing — always and forever, under any circumstance — that your body belongs to you and you alone. How to yell. Where to kick. And so on.

"Do you understand?" I asked my daughter.

"Yes," she said.

But does she? Do any of us? Has all our progress — gender, race, sexual orientation — been a delusion?

Yes, I have seen the abandoned cities, the vacant factories, the poorest counties, as if part of Third World America. Yes, I see the way Trump refuses to couch his language, the way he seems unbeholden to Big Money lobbying, the way he promises to bore straight through Washington bureaucracy.

Yes, I see Clinton's many flaws. And no, I didn't vote for her, either.

Yet I refused to fall into the delusion of thinking you could separate Trump's overt racism and unadorned meanness from whatever promise he might hold as a populist-vigilante president.

Some 60 percent of Trump voters say they were repulsed by him, yet a repulsed vote is still a vote. It turns the voting booth into an altar, where the morals and principles that should be held dearest — love of neighbor, compassion, human rights — are sacrificed in the name of compromise.

You cannot separate the means from the ends. You cannot detach the way Trump might revive Rust Belt America or save the Supreme Court with the way he has spoken of black, brown, disabled and female Americans.

To minimize our morals in order to vote for Trump suggests they weren't really morals at all.

And that is the great sadness millions of us feel. We are angry at your compromise.

In response to this Trump presidency, we must lay our hands on the deeper chords of America. If such open bigotry could win the White House, why cannot some corresponding vision of justice and peace become equally galvanizing? A needle within me already senses a new tuning of this post-election energy-anger. Within this cleft, something powerfully pure could emerge.

(There are two moments before us: today at 2 p.m., hundreds are expected at a rally at Renaissance Park to march in solidarity with the Standing Rock pipeline protest. And Wednesday evening, Mike Brown Sr. — the father of Mike Brown, slain in Ferguson — will speak at Chattanooga State Community College at 6 p.m.)

In his early morning acceptance speech, Trump called for unity. For a coming together of America. They were worthless words. You cannot start the wildfire then call for its end.

That burden falls to us. It falls to you.

If you voted the repulsed vote for Trump, then you must be the resilient watcher on guard over his presidency, and your resilience cannot wane. If your repulsion is true, then the moral checks and balances held over Trump will be stronger than ever.

If you are disgusted and repulsed, then prove it.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook at DavidCookTFP.

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