This is part two of an ongoing discussion between my friend Kirsten and I about politics and discourse. You can read part one here.
Before I dig into that, let me first say this. I do not think public figures should necessarily be afforded the same decency or patience as common folk, especially with someone like Trump (and, frankly, Clinton) who has lusted after fame since before I was born. He is not a private person, by his choice. He still has every other American right, but I’m not as concerned about being gentle with him or other public figures. There can be some leeway there, perhaps, but in general, nah.
We all view the world through our own lens, crafted by experience and belief, and as such all of our assumptions and thoughts are skewed. We aren’t capable of anything else. And so while you have a definite right to say Donald Trump’s comments about women are, shall we say, inappropriate, it is also true that a large swath of people were offended by Hillary Clinton calling them “deplorable.”
It is hard to remain civil now, but it’s not just hard for you. It’s not just hard for me. For anyone today, with rhetoric as heated as it is, remaining calm is virtually impossible. It is perhaps the hardest hill to climb to appreciate that someone with antithetical views to your own could also be as annoyed and frustrated as you, but for entirely different reasons.
In the same way you have every right to want a candidate who supports your policies, the same is true of Trump’s supporters. My point here isn’t to forgive Trump – he’s intolerable to me – but rather to shine a light on everything. Perhaps the challenge — the hardest hill to climb — is recognizing how people with entirely antithetical views to your own can also feel as threatened or bothered as you do.
Of course, then you have me. I think it’s all intolerable. I was raised in a Republican house, and I likely will never vote for a Republican candidate again (I voted McCain in 2008 and Johnson in ’12 and ’16) because the party is unconscionable and refuses to stand for what I stand for. And so I simply went a different direction.
I think the whole election cycle served as a wake up call for liberals, especially those living in blue states or in big cities. People are obviously responding in different ways: some with complete resistance, and some with a combination of resistance and a desire for understanding. I’m in the latter group, because agree with you—it’s imperative to at least try to recognize that others have different views, and that there may be good reasons for those views. Immediately after the election, many of the news stories I was reading started referencing the book “Hillbilly Elegy” by J. D. Vance. The book was published before the rise of Trump, but it sheds light on how the economic and cultural conditions of rural areas in the United States made way for the success of someone like Trump. In a desire for some shred of understanding, I read the book, and it was enlightening and fascinating.
Liberals have a lot of work to do. And conservatives want to be understood. I don’t believe the person we’ve elected has the ability to heal the country, nor the ability to at least try to create a culture of understanding. He exposed our wounds, and now they’ll fester for a long time.
The best thing we can do for one another is try to understand. Some things I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand—such as the shrug of shoulders in response to some of the comments Trump has made about women. But other issues are becoming easier to understand—such as the anger felt when a steady, good paying job is seemingly unattainable.
It certainly doesn’t help when one side calls the other side deplorables, or snowflakes. Honest conversations need to be had without name calling, without an overdose of emotion, and without dismissive sighs. It would help to completely take politicians out of the conversation. Just talk about one another’s concerns and beliefs.