an open (friendly) letter to my Trump-voting friends and family

Posted: November 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

I know I’m late entering the fray on this topic; I’ve been away from home for the past week due to a plumbing project that took our only bathroom out of commission.  But I’m glad for the lateness; it has given me the much-needed chance to think and process before writing this letter, which I knew I’d need to write from the very moment I learned the election results at 3 AM on November 9.

One of the things I needed to do was let the worst of the wave of grief wash over and through me.  That grief has been nearly overpowering – days of fighting tears and weeping quietly when no one was looking.  Days of feeling angry, other days of feeling almost too hopeless to get out of bed.  The last two days were more visceral – days of feeling like I was going to vomit.  I’ve seen people on Facebook hurling vitriol at young people overcome with grief at Trump’s victory, assuming these are just sore losers and silly kids who don’t know how elections work.  I can only say I am 50 years old, I’ve voted in every presidential election since my 18th birthday (and a number of other elections in between, though not as many as I should have), and grief has never been a part of that process for me, though my candidates did sometimes lose.  I know how elections work, and I know that politics won’t always be on “my” side.  I know that being a sore loser is no act of integrity.  I get that.

For me, this time is not like all the other times.  The other times were more a matter of rooting for “my team,” and being disappointed when the other side won “the game” – really a lot like the feeling of one’s sports team losing for the moment.  It looks to me like a lot more is at stake this time than one side carrying the ball for awhile.  It looks different to a lot of us.  I know our grief irritates some of you who don’t see it the same; please bear in mind as we process that it feels like the beginning of the end of our country, at least for some of us.  You don’t see it that way.  I get it.  But stop a moment and think of all the horror you thought was coming if Clinton won.  I heard some of you talking about it;  your thoughts and feelings were as dire about that as ours are about Trump’s victory.  I know empathy is more a “liberal” word for some, but it’s a valuable human trait, and I’m asking for it from you.

A lot of my politically like-minded friends would not ask for empathy from you, because they believe you are not capable of empathy.  They point to the worst of Trump’s campaign behavior and the worst of the Trump supporters we’ve watched misbehaving on the news throughout the campaign, and they think that’s all there is to it.  On one hand, I understand that – if I were basing my opinion of Trump voters only on what I understand about Trump, I’d have to default to an idea that those who support him are only ignorant, selfish, racist, etc…all the bad words that are being flung at you.

But I don’t get the luxury of that simple idea.  You are the reason I don’t.  You, my friends and family who voted for Trump, are not that stereotype.  You’re not like those folks on the news behaving in genuinely deplorable ways.  You’re not like some of the deeply disgusting things Trump has spoken into the mic or been accused of doing.  Most of you are really, really good people.  People who go out of their way to help others around them.  People with a strong sense of community.  People of faith – not “arguing about ideas” faith, but faith with hands and feet – action faith.  People who show up and roll up their sleeves when things get hard.  People who share from their abundance.  People who think creatively.  People of compassion – not always for the distant stranger, but very consistently compassionate for the people you actually know.

So I’m not here today to blast you for the decision you made at the polls.  I’m not here to point out all the horrifying things I see in President-Elect Trump and the people he’s bringing with him to the White House.  Not today.  While I’ve got crystal clarity on the things that alarm me (and continue each day to alarm me as I closely track the transition), I understand this:  you see him differently.  You see the possibilities differently.  You see the dangers differently.  My friends and family who voted for Trump, I know you – I know your hearts and your lives, and I know that for the most part your intentions are good.  That you genuinely believe this was the only way to save our country from what you saw as a greater evil.  I know that the world you see before you looks utterly different from the world I see before me, and that if it looked to you the way it looks to me, you’d have chosen differently (likewise, if it looked to me the way it looks to you, I’d have chosen differently too.)  Because I know you so well, I am willing to fight against the default idea that you chose him because you’re horrible.  I know otherwise.

I wrote a blog the day after the election committing to act with integrity to this turn of events.  I meant it.  I will encourage cooperation with any good idea that is brought forth by this administration.  I will never be a proponent of telling Trump no just because he’s Trump.  I will respect the office of the President of the United States as I consider what words to use about our President Elect.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to support everything he does.  Many of his campaign promises were frightening to me.  His acceptance speech sounded better, but his choices since then continue to frighten me deeply.  Anywhere that he promotes ideas and actions that go against what I understand to be right, I will resist him with every tool available to me.  This doesn’t mean just ranting on Facebook.  I’ve made donations where I’ve thought the resistance will be effective.  I’ve armed myself with the phone numbers for my elected officials and begun the process of becoming someone who speaks out regularly to them.  I’m watching the things he does closely, and I’m not going to let things slide.  I will do it respectfully, I will go through proper channels, but I WILL resist.

I owe my children and grandchildren that much.

I owe my country that much.

I owe my God that much.

Please note that I am seeking to understand the way you see the world – what drove you to this vote.  I have not turned my Facebook feed or news feed into an “echo chamber” of folks who only see it my way.  I watch those of you who disagree.  It has long been my practice to regularly read things with which I disagree; I’ve ramped that up even more since November 9.  I have my favorite news commentators, but I also go and listen to the ones who make me want to roll my eyes and whip out the sarcasm.  I listen, not only to repudiate, but to try to understand.

I owe YOU that much.

I owe myself that much.

I owe my country that much.

I owe my God that much.

My friends and family who voted for Trump, I’m calling on you to use that deep well of decency that I see every day within you.  I know you’re not like the fools shouting idiocy for the news cameras.  I need to you raise your voices with Mr. Trump – raise them loud enough that he can hear you over the din of those who want to take this country back to its more horrifying passages of history.  I’m holding you accountable for this:  you helped bring him into office.  Now, don’t lay back and let the fringe folks and the backward people whisper in his ear uninterrupted.  Just as the election results have prompted me to get up and get busy speaking into the national conversation, please let yourself be prompted as well.  Make calls.  Write letters.  Speak up.  I know you.  You are decent people.  Many indecent people appear to have Trump’s ear.  Speak louder than them.  Our future depends on it.  Your conservative perspective and my liberal one don’t jive, but I know you.  You’re not white separatists.  You’re decent.  Make your decency so loud that it cannot be disregarded by Trump’s administration.

I won’t make a bunch of specific suggestions on that front, because you are not idiots.  Most of you are thoughtful, intelligent people.  You know what to do.  But I do want to ask one specific thing.  Please push Trump’s people to kill his Twitter account.  You know as well as I do that the way he acts there is unbecoming and unpresidential.  If it continues into his presidency, it will be a worldwide embarrassment.  Watching the way he behaves there further frightens those of us who are alarmed by him – we don’t want someone who sounds unhinged having access to the nuclear football.  Some of the national conversation would calm down considerably if you all could convince him that he’s just flat not allowed to tweet while in office.  Ask him to just use the team that tweets for him, like other officials do.  While those of us on the other side may not like what that team decides to tweet, it’s pretty much guaranteed they won’t humiliate us as a country or further terrify us who don’t agree with him.  He wants to be president for all the people.  That will never happen as long as he’s tweeting the way he has been.  Push this, please.  It’s not the most important guidance he needs by far, but it’s a first thing that needs to happen, post-haste.

I’m also asking you to use your voice as much as you can to rein in the scary people at the far edges of the Trump fan base.  I can’t say word one to them; they would shout me down as a “libtard” or a “whiny special snowflake” or some other really mature and intelligent label.  I have no voice in their world.  Since y’all voted together, in theory they might listen to you.  You are decent.  Be decent.  Fight against their indecency.  My guess is you’ll answer to God on whether you do so or not (but that’s only my guess, not “what God told me.”)  Meanwhile, you have my pledge that I’ll work to spread decency to the scary edges on my end of the spectrum, since I know there are scaries on both edges.

Friends and family who voted for Trump, clearly we don’t agree.  But the future of our country depends on people like you and me not just watching the news and talking amongst ourselves.  Too much is at stake here.  Also, I can’t bear the thought of a repeat of this year’s campaign process again in my lifetime, and I’m guessing you can’t either.  Please take my words to heart, and know they are extended in love.  Our country needs you.   We have work to do.  I do.  You do.  You are my people; that didn’t change on November 9, no matter how much I dislike your choice.

We can do better.  Let’s do better.





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