I saw a t-shirt the other day that said “I would like to unsubscribe from this year” and oh boy is that the truth. Sometimes I wonder how much stress a normal human body and brain should be expected to take before the radio stops working, or the tires fall off, or the turn signals go. If I were a car, I’m thinking that I would resemble a Flinstone-mobile at this point. Same for most people in the world, I’m guessing.
I’m working on understanding that for a certain number/type of people, there’s simply no reaching them. My son recently said to me the same things that I say about my own father when it comes to Trump and the Republican Party: “How can such a smart person be unable to see what’s going on?” That’s not verbatim, obviously, but the idea is there. We both fall on opposite sides of the spectrum with regard to our political beliefs, but our disillusionment, horror, and anger at someone close to us being so incredibly wrongheaded and refusing to consider anything else is the same.
This conversation was before the reporting about Trump calling dead soldiers “losers” and “suckers.” I don’t know how that hit for my son (active duty veteran) or my dad (National Guard) because I told myself I wouldn’t bring Trump up with either of them again. There’s just no good faith argument there.
As I teach my students, if there’s no good faith desire to understand another person’s point of view, or a desire to learn more about a problem, but instead, just a desire to score points off someone else, or “prove them wrong” or – god help us and keep us – “own the libtards,” there’s no gain to be had in engaging with that person.
I suppose that to a certain extent my stance could fall into that category, in that I will never be a pro-Trump person, and the only vote for Trump he will receive from me is to send him off the island. I am absolute in that, and cannot imagine a time when my opinion would change.
But there’s a difference, even if it’s small: I don’t want to change my son’s mind, or my dad’s, but I sure would like for them to be willing to do the research themselves and find out what’s actually happening. That sort of research and education is good for us, and there’s so much to be gained (aside from knowledge, although knowledge is awesome on its own). I guess if Trump appeared on all the TVs in the world one day, and said…well, I can’t imagine what he could say to justify his racism, or his classism, or those horrible comments about dead soldiers (as well as live ones). But I do believe that if there was legit proof that he was acting for the common good, I could take that into consideration and rethink my position.
But I think we all know that’s not going to happen. If you’ve read Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, then you know exactly how damaged Trump was before he became president, and the willingness he has to inflict pain on others for his own amusement.
So while I can’t understand what it is that makes Trump followers capable of ignoring so much factual evidence, right in front of them, I can understand the fear that they must be feeling. I’m sure that to a racist, facing a world in which you might suddenly become the minority and thus be treated the way white people have treated brown people since forever would be terrifying. Not just for the simple reason that that sort of treatment is bad and wrong, but also from the standpoint of their fear of revenge. It’s not hard to imagine how tempting it would be to put my boot on the throat of someone who had done that sort of damage to me and my people. So I get that.
I want to try to be understanding of them – the people who are behind Trump – but there’s a part of me that sees that as a very Neville Chamberlin sort of move. I don’t think that Trump made these people racist – I think he just made them think that their racism was ok.
I spent a lot of time after the 2016 election reflecting on how horrible it is that there are actually so many racists in America (and the world – let’s be honest, Brexit is just about as racist as you can get, as far as I can tell from this side of the pond). I realize that my own ability to remain ignorant of just how horribly racist this country is is nothing more than my own white privilege rearing its ugly head, but once you see that, you can’t unsee it.
Trump is a terrible racist, and his election is a pushback at the horrible temerity of a black man who ran for President and had the uppitiness to actually win – and then go on to succeed, and be one of the most popular Presidents ever. Trump isn’t the cause of the problem – Trump is a manifestation of the problem. Trump goes away, eventually, without us doing a thing about it, but his racist followers? They’re here forever.
I don’t think that there’s hyperbole in the statements people are making about the Trump presidency leading us into fascism (I mean, look how many boxes his administration ticks!) I believe that another Trump presidency will move us squarely out of the “still room for saving” zone and well into the “Well, that democracy thing was cute but you need to give it up now” zone.
In the course of writing and proofreading this entry, I ran across this video I’m using in one of my classes and I’ll cut to the important part: this guy references a Life Calendar, and puts it up on the screen behind him. It’s just a screen full of teeny boxes – each one represents a week over the course of a 90 year life. A family member of mine – in her 90s – passed away this morning, and that particular concept, of weeks and weeks flying by as we just move through life, and all of a sudden waking up one day to find you are out of boxes…it’s just a lot. I’ve got to work out some sort of schedule for myself, for my writing, for my training, and for the things that are important to me. Life is both too short, and too long, not to do this.