I wouldn’t have taken kindly to Clinton calling my grandfather unredeemable

Talk about “a basket of deplorables” … when I first heard the phrase I thought some political writer was describing the events we get to write about recently.

Of course it turned out to be Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton talking about some portion of Republican candidate Donald Trump’s supporters. She’s apologized for estimating the number to be half.

But she hasn’t apologized for the statement itself, which is deplorable. What is it with liberals taking things too far and forcing people like me to defend people who say things I’d rather not defend? Did it ever occur to Clinton or her team that it would be better to try to engage her perceived “basket of deplorables” rather than demonize them?

Who didn’t learn what should be called the Mitt Romney 2012 rule:  it’s a bad idea to insult your fellow Americans when you are running for the presidency?

If she had said that some of the things that Trump and some of his supporters say are deplorable, I could agree — going back to his characterizing Mexican immigrants as criminals and countless other statements since.

But that’s not what she said. She said that some number of his supporters were themselves deplorable and “unredeemable.”

Besides some of the rhetoric coming from the Trump camp and Clinton’s statement, here’s a short list of deplorable things pertaining to this part of the election cycle:

1.  The laughter coming from the recipients of her statement.

2.  The choice between Clinton and Trump.

3.  A failing two party system that produced such a choice for Americans.

4.  (The racially charged rhetoric our governor has used when talking about the addiction epidemic, but I purposefully digress … )

5.  Using an adjective as a plural noun to insult people.

6.  The media’s obsession with the word deplorable while largely ignoring the word unredeemable.

I think I’ve only heard one pundit say that she thought calling people unredeemable was far worse than calling people deplorable — it may have been on NPR last weekend. I totally agree with her whoever she was.

I don’t see how deeming a significant portion of presumably law abiding citizens as unredeemable is any different than Trump characterizing Mexican immigrants as criminals.

Unredeemable is a pretty heavy word.  The definition given by the online Merriam-Webster is “not capable of being cured or reformed.” That definition is much more extreme than deplorable, defined as “deserving censure or contempt.” Talk about a sweeping condemnation of a significant portion of the electorate Clinton claims to want to represent.

People like my grandfather, may he rest in peace. As I’ve written before, he was an openly racist man, but not deplorable or unredeemable. I can’t speak for him, but were he alive today, I’m guessing he’d be a Trump supporter.

And if he were alive and a Trump supporter, I’d take great offense to Clinton describing him as deplorable or unredeemable for many reasons, not the least of which being he served our country in World War II and spent his career on the Boston Police force. His views on race were problematic for me growing up, but they are also understandable now that I am an adult.

Given the context of his life as a first born American of immigrant parents, the culture of his generation, and Boston in the middle of the 20th century, that he held racist views is not surprising. Beyond his racist views, he placed a high value on service be it to his country, his community or his family. My grandfather was NOT a deplorable, unredeemable human being.

How can I say that?

For starters, his views on race seemed to soften toward the end of his life. Years of cumulative experience must have helped him see that things weren’t as black and white, brown and white, as he was raised to believe. Further, he fathered my mother who went on to adopt me  despite of her father’s racist views; and I went on to raise two fine young mixed-race men who are intelligent and tolerant, as are his other great-grandchildren.


Clinton and all the liberals defending and supporting her statement would do well to pause and remember how our country came to be.  If holding racist views makes people unredeemable, then maybe we should burn our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. They contain the thoughts and words of forefathers who committed the ultimate act of racism:  owning and commodifying fellow human beings of a certain race.

Were our founding forefathers unredeemable?

No. The very words and thoughts they left for us were their redemption. Words from The Declaration of Independence, like:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Words from Article V, The Constitution of the United States of America, like:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution …

These words were a map to redemption, an open door for their declaration of rights to include more and more people over time — a process we are continuing today in ways our forefathers could have never imagined. The folks who wrote those words, for all their faults when it came to race, were anything but unredeemable.

Ditto for my grandfather.


Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.