I’m going to try something different. Rather than writing a blog on how devasted I am by Donald Trump’s presidential win or a think piece on the minutiae of all of Donald Trump’s policies…. again…. that will only preach to the choir or make the other side of the debate see, if they would just OPEN THEIR MINDS!….. Ahem…. I want to write about the arguments people are having from both sides. I want to invite comment, dialogue, and introspection. I want people to speak to one another, respectfully, to see if there’s any possible way we can understand one another. It’s been my experience, in conversations and fights, that we are quick to assume one another’s thought processes, beliefs, and motives. On the one hand, supporters of Donald Trump must be racist, misogynist, xenophobic, uneducated, bigots. On the other hand, supporters of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders must be Godless baby killers, who think everything should be handed to them by the government, without any thought of responsibility or impunity, and cares more about the welfare of foreigners than the security and economic well-being of our own country. The moment we begin doing this, all is lost. We’re all guilty of it. Yesterday, a good friend let me know that, even though my careless words weren’t directed at her, they had made her feel like I thought she was dumb and racist and even a bad parent.
I’ve also noticed how, post-election, things seem to have been turned upside down. For years, white, blue collar workers, especially, have been crying out that they feel ignored and their fears, invalidated. Unemployed and underemployed, they’ve said that President Obama has done nothing for the economy. Rather than addressing that real fear, we Godless liberals simply tried to shut them up by pointing out how much the unemployment rate has fallen. When people complained about the cost of their Obamacare premium or how they were losing their insurance, we scoffed, assuming they were doing something wrong or that they just didn’t understand the way the system works. Then we pointed out how it was really the fault of the greedy health insurance companies pulling out of the Obamacare system, as though pointing that out magically fixed their problem.
Now, with Trump’s election, we’re the ones being told to calm down, in what feels like the most patronizing way possible. Immigrants are terrified that they will be rounded up and placed in internment camps. Muslim citizens are fearful that they will be persecuted or unlawfully deported, and wonder if they should just flee the country now. LGBT citizens are fearful that they will lose their right to marry and federal protections from discrimination, (because Mike Pence has said those protections would be rolled back.) Mike Pence also supports conversion therapy, (and paying for it with federal funds) something that has been found to not only not work, (nor should it have to, because there’s nothing wrong with being gay) but is extremely harmful. They also fear for their lives, as there has been a surge in LGBT hate crime, especially within the last 48 hours. African American communities are worried by the election of the “Law and Order Candidate”. The one who said he would bring back “stop and frisk”, the policing practice which was ruled unconstitutional for its targeting of black and brown men. They worry that the endorsement from the KKK and David Duke’s rejoicing upon Trump’s election means even more open racism and racially-motivated hate crimes ahead. Women are worried that their health and rights to their own bodies are in jeopardy because Trump has said that women should be punished for having abortions, he would defund Planned Parenthood, and that he would work to overturn Roe v. Wade, (which could happen as he fills Supreme Court seats.) As the governor of Indiana, Mike Pence has signed multiple anti- women’s health and abortion rights bills into law. If Obamacare were to somehow magically not get repealed, Pence has said that they will roll back the birth control mandate for health insurance. Speaking of health insurance, there are plenty of people who do like Obamacare and the benefits it provides. Like the fact that you can’t be denied because of a pre-existing condition, or kicked off because you’re too sick, or can’t have lifetime monetary caps placed on your treatment. Speaking personally, as someone with a chronic illness, I now worry that insurance will stop paying for my treatment at some point.
I list all these grievances and think, How could people think we’re all overreacting or just sore losers? How do they not understand our fear or that we no longer feel safe in our own country? This President-elect certainly doesn’t represent me or most people I know and our values. We’re going to fight back and return our country to what it was….Oh.
It hits me. I finally get it. Rightly or wrongly, this is how the people who voted for Trump have felt the past 8 years. Obviously, I disagree and voted for Hillary, but I think I finally understand what it is we have to do in order to engage with one another productively. We need to engage with one another on those feelings of fear and marginalization, not on tax policy, trade policy, and how to wage the war on terror. We need to acknowledge those feelings in one another and try to understand that they come from a place of honesty, without ill intention. We have to drop the facade of superiority, leave our armor on the moral high ground, and meet one another on neutral ground to listen to one another, without having the next shot already loaded in the cannon and ready to fire. We have to explain how we feel, without insisting that the other person come around to our way of thinking. I do not suggest that we abandon our principles and advocating for them. I do not suggest that we do not stand and defend others and ourselves against vitriol and hatred whenever it comes our way. I do, however, insist that if we continue on our current path of discourse, we will do nothing but continue to talk past one another and hurt each other.