My son reminded me today how Trump wants our hate now more than our votes.
I hope it’s not too late to change.
“Mom, the problem isn’t Trump anymore. It’s what’s happened to all of us, on both sides,” my 13-year-old son said today.
Earlier, I’d sifted through social media. All I could see in other people’s posts (and in my own thoughts) was a chasm growing exponentially between “them” and us. It reminded me of four years ago. Today many expressed an inability to find any remaining connection to Trump supporters. Given what our president has said and done to women, refugees, Black and Brown Americans, to the structure of the Supreme court, to those dying in a global pandemic, and to all in his own administration who have opposed him, I struggle not to hate every last bit of him.
But that’s what he wants. He wants our hate.
Every day we wake to the other side. Today it was the other side of an election. Usually it’s only the other side of the bed, the city, the nation— the other side of politics. Refugees I know wake to concrete walls. Prisoners to fences. We wake to our own bodies, skin colors, our financial situations. We rise and move among husbands, children, friends, strangers behaving and sometimes voting differently from how we do.
As an artist and writer, and basically a thinker of stuff diverging from the norm— I struggle with this waking thing, especially when I wake to Tweets and videos from a crazy president. He has spoken about grabbing a woman’s pussy yet he claims to win the respect of states and admiration from hundreds of thousands of people. He, the leader of the “free” world said last night that has won states he hasn’t. He claims to represent a kind of democracy that has little to do with actual democracy as I understand it.
But I’m not a lawyer or politician. As a mere human, I’ve got to address the damage Trump continues to try to do to my heart and that of my children.
If I’m honest, life is about feeling different not just from Trump and his supporters, but from all others. I feel different from my husband, my kids, the slobbering dogs happy with dry food and a walk. I feel different from my Swiss neighbors and I guess from everybody alive. Yet in order to go on, I must try to see others, totally unlike me. I’ve got to draw some connection between them and me in order to thrive.
Is there any connection left between Trump and me? Well my children are talking about it. Yes, there is, since he’s still the president of my country. I’m not only connected to him, but I bear responsibility for how I respond to him.
He won’t make me hate.
He won’t force me to judge those vulnerable enough to believe in him.
Is there a connection between me and his supporters? Absolutely. Some are friends, family. I just don’t understand them.
Whether I admit to it, living among humans, Republicans and Swiss people means I’ve got to work hard to stretch my mind beyond obvious differences. I’ve got to go outside my Midwestern white suburban background, out of my years living in a San Francisco liberal bubble, my Christian ideals, my vegetarianism, my experiences with the homeless, with refugees, and with special needs kids who need to wear big headphones to seal off difficult people who hurt them. I must move beyond my fear of men who prey on women, my repulsion toward a certain gold colored president who demeans those beneath him, and so on.
To work and exist as a mom, in society, and drive down a curvy Swiss road, I’ve got to see how racism and sexism and all isms exist because we are tied to one another.
How did we have the Holocaust? What keeps other folks from rounding each other up and killing each other? What saves us from each other, from keeping on our side of the road? I’ve got to ask, what is it that Trump supporters need that we on the other side don’t understand?
I need to see not just “them” on the other side of politics, but also other genders, religions, other levels of education, other languages (if only I were smarter), other nations. I have to try my best to wrap my tiny brain about perspectives that pile up around me like the leaves I find so beautiful.
These “others” are everywhere. They wear blue and look gorgeous sometimes. Other times they wear red, tote guns and yell shit from trucks. They appear shockingly flawed— like I do. They and I are struggling, Zooming, wearing masks, looking kind, then selfish, then crazy and so on. They’re locked-in, then let out into Tweets, polls, memes, a virus, and wildly changing circumstances. They’re experiencing fatigue, depression. They’re buying toilet paper, trying to breathe, to seek something that fills them, to find a place to live, work and land among others. They’re trying to hear over chaos and masks, trying to see something upward.
Most of us inherently want out of chaos. And so we choose how we respond to the “other”. We find bridges up and out of ourselves, or we pave chasms, dig craters, plow toward colorless black holes.
As I watch election results counted, I’ll keep trying to wake from my own self-imposed inner limits. I’ll tell my kids that we can always do better. We can’t hate, but we can get furious when hearts are at stake. We can listen to the other side. Then we can protest, with love.
No one knows what the next four years will look like for America or the world. But I’m beginning to see that what’s ugly in the “other” is probably found somewhere in the ugliness that’s always been in America, and in me.
Maybe it’s not too late to change that, for the kids.