Wednesday, November 09, 2016

DEAR TRUMP SUPPORTERS: WE NEED TO TALK

November 9, 2016. It is a new day in America and in the world. Donald J. Trump has been resoundingly elected as the next President of the United States of America. 

Many Americans are elated because their outsider candidate actually won. And many Americans are in shock, trying to figure out what happened and how to handle this. 

Every contest has winners and losers. We always say that each side should be gracious to the other, should reach out and pull together. Even President-elect Trump read this in his victory speech last night. And so here goes.

Dear Trump supporters: congratulations on your victory. You have been fighting against the political establishment, the insiders, the political left, political correctness, godlessness and a host of other things, and you won. I have so many questions to ask you now that you are on top.

I am the first to admit that I live in a comfortable bubble here in Portland, Oregon. I don’t know who you are, dear Trump supporters. I think I have one, and only one Facebook friend who I assume is one of you. And so yes, my circle of friends and family is predominately people who think like I do. This is a very big problem.

The age of digital social media reinforces the bubbles of isolation. My digital crowd is made up of people like me; your digital crowd is made up of people like you. In some ways, probably too many ways, the digital age has isolated us more than united us. I go to web sites for information that I know are very different from the ones you go to for your information. How can this be a good thing?

I really do want to know and understand you. What I’ve seen in the media - the media I look at - is hate and anger at Trump rallies. I’ve seen people chanting things like “Lock her up!” “Jew-S-A” and other hateful things. I’ve seen people handled roughly or even beaten up because they have questioned or protested Trump. I’ve heard our President-elect use the most hateful speech towards Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, women, Jews, people with disabilities - basically anyone who isn’t white and Christian. Is this who you are? 

Seriously. Does the paragraph above describe you? I need to know the answer to this question. Are you really so filled with hate that you support a man who spews such things? Or have you turned the other way in the face of this vitriol and simply supported Mr. Trump because you wanted someone different, someone from outside the establishment, someone who will shake things up and make America great again? I need to know who you really are if I am to seek common ground with you.

I am on the losing side this time. I very clearly remember feeling shocked and dismayed when the Cheney-Bush team was elected, and then elected a second time. In my humble opinion, that administration changed history in serious negative ways, and the world is still adjusting to those changes. But this time is different. This political win was based on ugliness, bigotry, hatred and fear-mongering. This political win was based on incivility the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes. Watch the Presidential debates; is this the model for civil discourse? 

So tell me the truth; what will this country be, starting in January? Do you support deporting 11 million people? Do you support jailing women who have an abortion? Do you support keeping all Muslims out of this country, and monitoring all Muslim-Americans? Do you support isolationism and tearing up all trade agreements? Do you support torture? Do you support bombing the hell out of ISIS, no matter the collateral damage? Do you support the problems in our inner cities by putting more heavily-armed police on the streets? I need to know these things. I need to know how to talk with you. I need to know if we have anything in common. And I truly hope we do. 

I don’t want to blame anyone for this election result. I understand that we are a country divided in many ways, and this time my side of the divide lost. If you read this blog, you know that I have a certain level of stoicism that helps me deal with evolving history. And so today I understand that Donald Trump will be the next POTUS. I understand that people on my side of the divide need to pull together and weather the next 4 years or more. And I need to understand history.

The Trump ascension didn’t happen overnight. It has been building for a long time. It started with Ronald Reagan becoming President. It built through the years since. We’ve seen an administration invade and occupy another country, Iraq, with no provocation, and get away with it. We’ve seen that same administration use torture, and find legal justification for it. We’ve seen the rise of the Tea Party whose only goal seems to be to deconstruct government. We’ve seen a Republican-led Congress promise to not let President Obama get anything done, and even close down the government to carry out that partisan plan. We’ve seen leading Republicans dance on a thin wire of credibility in order to support Trump while not supporting the concept of Trump. Here in Oregon, we’ve seen a gang of white, Christian, armed people take over a federal wildlife refuge and be acquitted by an all-white jury. We see young black men gunned down in the streets by police officers, seemingly for the crime of walking or driving while black. We have seen increasing attacks on minorities and women. 

What astounds is that, even in the face of the above, we have also seen very progressive things happen. Same-sex marriage is legal in the United States. A broad spectrum of politicians have found common ground on the need to reform the justice system to remove the inherent bigotry that has resulted in so much pain in minority communities. We have a health care law that, while not perfect, has righted many of the wrongs that kept so many people from getting the health care they needed. A growing number of states have legalized recreational marijuana which will shift the focus of law enforcement and the legal system to crimes that are actually serious. 

Will all of the above be undone under President Trump? Does a majority of Americans want to unwind history? 

And so dear Trump supporters, you have a lot to talk about, many questions to answer. And I’m serious about this. People like me need to talk with people like you. We need to listen in order to understand. We might not agree on many things - I guarantee we won’t - but I have to believe that there are values we share. History moves forward moment by moment. We can’t stop it; we can’t rewind it. We can only try to understand it and try to influence it. I will do my best to remain hopeful. 


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