Eleven days ago Hillary Clinton made a remark that her political opponents, and some in the media, thought was rather deplorable. As most of you know, she referred to half of Donald Trump’s supporters as being a “basket of deplorables.” (Click here for the video and NYTimes article about that.)
To review, Hillary said, "To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobia, you name it."
|HRC on Sept. 9|
From the outset, let me suggest that that Hillary made at least two mistakes in what she said: nouning an adjective and labeling some people as irredeemable.
It is generally not good to turn an adjective into a noun used to label people. I remember Dr. Wayne Oates, my pastoral counseling professor in seminary, talking about this. While I don’t remember his exact words, I remember his important point.
Dr. Oates emphasized the importance of remembering that we always relate to persons. Thus, for example, pastors don’t visit/care for the sick and the bereaved. Rather, they minister to sick and bereaved people.
With this sort of thing in mind, people shouldn’t be called deplorables. There are only some people who believe/say/do deplorable things. Deplorable may be a legitimate adjective describing some people’s attitudes or actions. It is not a legitimate noun to use in place of person.
Calling people deplorables is, perhaps, an example of “hating” the sinner, not just the sin—never a good thing to do.
In her remarks, Hillary also referred to those in the “basket of deplorables” as “irredeemable.” While it may be true that the social stance of most of those in said basket may not be redeemed, still, to call any person, or group of people, irredeemable is highly questionable.
A few days after Hillary’s infelicitous remarks, Franklin Graham posted this on Facebook: “I’m not ‘Deplorable’ to God, even if Hillary Clinton thinks so” (see this Christian Post article). He emphasized that “all sin is deplorable” to God but that because of Jesus “our deplorable sins” can be forgiven and we can have a “right standing” [pun intended?] before God.
Fair enough. But that statement misses the point. Hillary said that only half of Trump supporters were in the basket of deplorables. She wasn’t indicating that that is where Franklin is—unless that is the bunch with whom he self-identifies.
In a similar vein, a former missionary colleague of mine posted this on his Facebook page: “DEPLORABLE. A lot of white, male, traditional value holding, peace loving Christians are in this basket. Not ‘phobic’ and not haters.”
Why, though, would my friend and the peace loving Christians he refers to not consider themselves among the other half of Trump’s supporters? Even if half are in the basket of deplorables, that does not mean the other half are the same or that they are guilty of the same injurious attitudes.
Hillary talked about two baskets—and the legitimate concerns of those in one of those two.
Whether as many as half or not, there does seem to be a sizeable percentage of Trump’s supporters whose attitudes and words do appear to be incontrovertibly racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and/or Islamophobic. Trump himself has also said plenty that can be properly described by those adjectives.
There are those who seem to fear/”hate”/denigrate people of color, women, LGBT persons, foreigners, or Muslims. Those attitudes often lead, unhappily, to deplorable words and actions.
Happily, though, there are “admirables” who exemplify an attitude of love, understanding, and acceptance of those who are “different.”