Donald Trump is my President. He is, incidentally, your President as well. It doesn’t actually matter what you think about that, because the fact is that Donald Trump was sworn in as the President of the United States of America on January 20, 2017, and unless you are not a citizen of the U.S.A., President Trump is your President. Regardless of what your protest sign or hat or t-shirt says.
Back in mid-summer, the process of acceptance began for me. As the Democratic National Convention drew to a close with concession speeches and cries of unification, it became clear that the Democratic Socialist who could almost certainly beat the tidal wave that is The Donald was the one the Democrats refused to allow leadership over the party. I knew then that President Trump was as inevitable as the sunset. Still I tried, because that is the objective of my activism, but I was not as shocked, appalled, disgusted, sad, and horrified as many of my liberal friends on November 9.
The hardest part of the election for me was refraining from saying “I told you so” during the subsequent two months, even though those mourning around me were not so gracious when my preferred candidate didn’t garner the necessary votes for the party candidacy.
This extended period of prescience and relative calm amidst chaos has allowed me a singular opportunity to remain clear-headed and deliberate with my actions and advocacy. Knowing that a VERY large portion of my extended family supported Trump with a fervor and system of belief that goes directly against most of what I hold dear has made it even easier for me to hold my tongue. Just as dearly as I hold my convictions, the 25.5% of Americans who voted for Trump hold theirs (presumably – it is entirely possible that, as my mother told me, many just didn’t want another 4-8 of Obama and like-minded Dems in the White House).
Wait, what? Around one-quarter of the nation elected President Trump? Yes, and 25.6% elected non-President Clinton. Which means around 49% of Americans voted for Harambe, someone else, or no one at all. So you can stop claiming that this is what America wants. The vending machine wants $1.00 for a Butterfinger, and no matter how many times I press D3 after putting in my $0.25, it still ain’t spitting one out.
The end game here, in my mind, is that we liberals and progressives will be lucky to not lose gains we made that are super important to our way of life. The conservatives and Tea Partiers are well-positioned to close the gaps that have opened between their values and our national direction. The folks in the middle of the road probably aren’t going to care one way or another except about the small, individual battles that directly impact them in their lives.
My therapists over the past 20 years have pretty universally stated that my ability to see both sides of an issue is developed to the point of being a flaw. I’m using it as a strength right now, however, to see the possibility of a path forward. Let’s be real; sometimes logic and facts are not enough to make an impact, and it becomes insanely frustrating to work with individuals who refuse to see things plainly, instead turning to conjecture, speculation, presumption, and flat-out stubbornness to avoid rational discourse, let alone being open to change their minds about dearly-held beliefs. (Note: I’m well aware that some of you see me in this exact way. I’m okay with that, although you are incorrect. If you aren’t open to seeing and hearing me as a whole, as someone who is willing to listen and learn, you aren’t worth the emotional investment it would cost me to dislike you or attempt to convince you otherwise.)
The start to the path forward is to respect all opinions and beliefs, no matter how contrary they are to your own. “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” (JFK) That means you don’t get to tell me that I have to suck it up and unify for the betterment of America (that’s condescending and inaccurate) and I don’t get to call you names like sexist, racist, misogynist, and village idiot (that’s just rude, and also probably inaccurate). I don’t have to respect President Trump, and I sure as hell don’t have to like him. To me, he is an embarrassment and a very specific form of danger to America, one we have yet to begin to realize. However, I do not see him as the epitome of all things unholy and the ultimate downfall of our great nation. That type of belief imbues him with a power he truly does not have, and it makes our cause more difficult to move forward with his supporters.
We stand a better chance of achieving harmony with others if we work to find common ground, no matter how slender, and build the positive relationships that will make us more amenable to seeing other points of view. Some of you may not appreciate that particular character trait, but it is important to who I am as a person. I will not publicly – or pseudo-privately – call people names or say mean or untrue things about them because that is also counterproductive to my ultimate goal, which is progress. By tearing one another down we only serve to regress.
Let us build not a wall but a web, a flexible, living connection to one another that will truly make America great again.
(If you have yet to make a connection between my post title and its content, click here.)