Since the election, I’ve taken a break from Facebook in favor of one on one conversations with my friends and loved ones.
- My biracial friend with a black 7th grader who looks 16 is scared for her child in way I’ll never experience first hand because I am white.
- My Asian American who works for the government in climate change is considering quitting because the pain of showing up to work being told to “support our new president” (by a white man) is just too much.
- My married friend whose husband expressed that he’s on the LGBT spectrum for the first time to her is overwhelmed with the feelings she experiences as she redefines her marriage AND the fear she now has for whether her children will be accepted if their dad is not a “normal” dad.
- My Muslim neighbors wonder who in our community are supportive of them and their peaceful religion and who assume they are terrorists simply because they wear hijab.
- My white friend who is devastated that Clinton did not win is upset for her daughters and questioning how she can spend Thanksgiving with a family who strongly supports Trump. She’s worried that unreasonable but also can’t see how to make it work.
- A white friend who can be described only as “stereo-typically liberal” in her physical appearance left a fast food restaurant and someone rolled down his truck window and yelled at her, “Ni**er lover.” She calmly responded, “It’s easier to love.”
- A Hispanic waitress at a Chapel Hill pancake restaurant provided the best service I’ve had in years. She was young and exceptionally kind to my kids. I wonder if she’s an immigrant? I wonder how many patrons she’s served this week who feel anything less than open arms for her here in America?
This election has divided us and I’m not quite ready to join forces and unite, yet. I spent Wednesday morning in therapy and my main question was “how do I relate to Trump supporters now? and “why does this election seem like a dealbreaker?” I’m angry. I’m grieving. I need time. I’m keeping my head down, distracted by my own personal stresses and worries to distract myself from the big feelings I have post-November 8, 2016.
Here’s where my empathy has been kicking into overdrive. I “get” why people voted for him. They assessed the facts on the ground the same way I did. They evaluated their own personal moral values and chose the candidate they felt was “right”.
By and large, most Trump voters didn’t open a few webpages, read a few Facebook posts, and go “You know what? I think I really like the idea that Trump stereotypes Mexicans as rapists, refers to African Americans as “the blacks”, can’t be trusted with Twitter, and enjoys using his power to grab pussies. That sounds like the guy for me and my family. His 8th grade vocabulary and lack of concrete policies gives me confidence in his abilities and when paired with clear evidence that his businesses are less successful than he lets on, I feel confident that he will govern in a predictable and well thought out manner that will make me proud.”
Nope, that’s not what happening in reality. Trump voters supporters by and large feel strongly about conservative ideals as cornerstones of policy. Even if I disagree, our country thrives on that balance between two ideologies and our two party system. It’s unreasonable for me to expect Democratic control of our legislative and executive branches after each election. So I can totally get past that one. Many Trump voters hold a few issues so strongly that voting based on those felt like the right way to go. I’ve seen this most with abortion. Religion plays a role. It informs how people see the world and their priorities for our country. Right or wrong, most Trump voters made a choice that, for them, felt like the smartest and moral choice. Sure, there are some voters who are two steps from being KKK members but by and large, his supporters are decent people trying to do the best they can.
That’s part of what’s hard for me. It’s easy to write off overt racists and those who genuinely believe Islam promotes terrorism. But loved ones who did the best they could? Man. I’m left just stumped. At this point, all I know is that they are comfortable enough with a Trump presidency to actually vote for him. Whatever that reason is, it’s still shocking that those reasons outweigh the man he’s demonstrated himself to be
As we see voting exit poll statistics come through, it’s increasingly evident that many voters who belong to marginalized groups supported his presidency and chose not to support Clinton. I’m not sure anyone understands the specific reasons for that yet but I’m confident it will come. For now, I’m finding myself wishing Trump voters could look my female, gay, trans, Hispanic, black, and atheist friends in the eye and explain why their reasons were enough. Enough to make them feel small. Enough to make them feel scared and unsafe. Enough to make them feel less than American.
Even though it wasn’t the intention, it’s what’s happening and it’s heart-wrenching. I get why they did. But I don’t know to move on from here. How do I relate to people whose priorities are so different than mine?
P.S. Images that give me joy and a tiny bit of hope of what could be the future.
P.P.S. Tech Specs for Photo Friends: State air images are Portra 800 (rated at 200) and Ektar through a Yashica Mat 124G. Jersey images are Portra 400 through Pentax 645N. Both developed and scanned by theFINDlab. Fall images are digital on Canon 5D Mark III and 35L.