Why The Fuss?
Last Tuesday night, as those of us who were charged with creating the Flyer cover story awaited election returns, a pattern became obvious: Donald Trump was winning in places he wasn't supposed to win. This was a surprise to nearly everyone — pundits, pollsters, Democrats, and Republicans, alike. The Wall Street Journal later reported that even Trump and his top staff expected to lose.
As Jackson Baker wrote and rewrote the topper on his cover story, and as our print deadline of midnight approached, it appeared that Hillary Clinton's path to the White House was almost nonexistent. We didn't know Trump had won, but it sure seemed likely. For those of us in the Flyer newsroom, and indeed for much of the country, it was truly a "WTF?" moment. How did everybody get it so wrong? How did this already bizarre campaign get even more bizarre?
So, we went with the now-infamous "WTF?" cover and went home to bed.
The next morning, the calls and comments started flooding our phonelines and our Facebook page. We got dozens of emails. For the first few hours, almost without exception, the messages from our readers were overwhelmingly, even heart-warmingly supportive, the general sentiment being "Thank you for expressing exactly what I feel." "Thank you for being a sane voice in the wilderness," etc.
Then, as the papers began getting delivered to the outer reaches of our circulation — the suburbs, north Mississippi — the other side began to be heard from. "How could you put such horrible profanity on your cover?" "What about the children who see this?" And my favorite, variations of: "I'm a long-time, loyal reader, and I will never buy your publication again!" The irony of Trump supporters worrying about "profanity" was apparently lost in translation.
Then we started getting photos of Flyers being tossed into dumpsters and ugly personal threats. So it went for a couple days — back and forth — but overall, the positive reactions far, far outweighed the negative.
Trump's election shook the great majority of our regular readers to the core. The Flyer's "base" is, and always has been, thinking, progressive people — accepting of racial, gender, and cultural diversity, environmentally aware, pro-women's rights.
Though it's possible he may surprise us, Trump represents the polar opposite of all of that. Indeed, his first announced staff appointment was Steve Bannon, an anti-Semite who runs Brietbart.com, a white supremacist website. His possible choices to head the EPA (a climate change denier), Justice (Rudy Giugliani), Immigration (a "build the wall" guy), Interior (Sarah Palin!) are a further indication of just how hard-line this administration may be.
Hispanics and Muslims are terrified of deportation and harassment. African Americans and Jews fear the legitimizing of alt-right racism. LGBTQ folks fear renewed discrimination and a repeal of their right to marry. Environmentalists fear a rollback to the era when corporations could pollute our air and water with impunity. Pro-choice voters fear the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The people who care about these things are our people — Flyer people. The Trump administration will likely challenge progressive ideas in ways we haven't seen in decades, so we all had better be ready to stand up and be heard. It isn't Democrat versus Republican anymore, it's sanity versus a rollback to the Dark Ages.
And yes, it's frightening to think what could happen to our country, but it's also an opportunity to get organized and reconnect with our core beliefs. We won't back down, and neither will our readers and supporters. Thank the folks who display our racks. Patronize and thank our advertisers. They're a big part of this.
We're Memphis progressives, we're a community, and we need to recognize the inherent power we have if we speak out as one. So, onward into the breach, my friends. WTF.
I'm writing this from the restroom facility at Big Hill Pond State Park in southern McNairy County. On Monday, I commandeered the building, which contains the men's and women's restrooms, some racks of pamphlets, and two vending machines. There's no one here right now, but I plan to stay as long as necessary to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee is run by oppressive know-nothings who wouldn't know small government — or freedom, for that matter — if it bit them on their considerable backsides ...