2020, You are Exhausting

I haven’t written for a long time. I’m working on entries about my language vacation, but I’m going to be honest – the state of affairs in my country has me beat down. A lot of my energy has been poured into activism and taking care of my family.

2020 sucks – I don’t think there’s any other way to look at it.

It especially sucks right now in ‘Murica.

It’s election season in the US, and in Trump’s America, that means we are being inundated with even more lies and propaganda than usual. It’s a scary time to be an American: an uncontrolled pandemic, deepening corrosion of our institutions, daily onslaughts of horrors from the White House, a leader who is showing more and clearer signs of veering towards a dictatorship, and a much-needed reckoning on the deep levels of racism and denial running through the veins of this country.

Like many of you, I have struggled for years over how to deal with the Trump supporters in my life.

This is not about politics.

That bears repeating: This is not about politics. This is not about the role of government, or taxes, or potholes and how to fix them. This is not about differing opinions.

This is about Human Decency. Morality. Ethics. Values. Character.

I’ve taken turns being furious, depressed, disgusted, hopeless, and occasionally hopeful that some of them will come around. At times, I’ve viewed them with empathy – as people who have been conned and brainwashed by Fox, Breitbart, and 45’s propaganda. Trump’s followers are rightly compared to a cult. Logic, reasoning, and an appeal to better the better angels of our nature don’t seem to reach them.

I’ve also felt resentful. Resentful that their careless, chest-beating votes have wreaked so much havoc. Resentful that so often the burden is put on those who would never vote for Trump to put in the work to understand why someone could vote for this horrible man. The number of articles that came out trying to help those of us on the political left to understand why people voted for Trump were numerous. I didn’t see the same avalanche of articles and appeals to Trump voters aimed at understanding the people who didn’t vote for him, or imploring them to reach out to us to mend fences. I just saw a whole lot of gloating over “liberal tears.”

I believe that having hard conversations is important: especially right now about systemic racism. If any of the Trump supporters I know actually wanted to have a good faith discussion about why so many of us could never, ever, ever support him, I’d have it. But that’s not what I’m seeing. Not once, in any of the people I know. People who still support Trump are rightly compared to a cult. They aren’t listening. They’ve surrounded themselves with an impenetrable wall of lies and hate and a sense of victimization.

There’s a statement that’s been circulating widely on many social media platforms, and I’ve seen it and it’s resonated differently with me at different moments. The idea behind it stuck with me and I’ve spent a lot of time pondering what it meant to me in my life:

lose friends over morals

As I often do when I’m trying to understand something, I wrote about it. Here’s what I wrote:

I didn’t want to go here.

I have friends and family who don’t agree with me politically. I find that to be valuable: discussions and ideas that challenge our points of view can help us see things from a different perspective, help us figure out what we believe, and even change how we perceive things. It has always bothered me that discussions on issues and politics are so taboo in this country – we should all be talking to each other.  People are complex, and I’ve never wanted to reduce any person to a single moment, a single statement, a single vote, or a single characteristic. I haven’t wanted to contribute to the increasingly divisive nature of our national state of affairs.

I’ve stayed connected, mainly on social media, with some people who have said things I find deeply disturbing or offensive. I kept the connection because I thought I was honoring a relationship and not reducing it to the simplicity of what we see on social media. I also thought it would be good for me to see those different perspectives.

But here’s the thing: I’m not seeing different perspectives. I am seeing a huge difference in values, in morality, in empathy. I’m seeing hate and intolerance and racism and extremism masked as “I just see things differently.” I’m seeing lies and propaganda, parroting of the extreme right and of dubious news sources, including of course #45, masquerading as “research” and “the truth the MSM hides.” I’m seeing gleeful attacks on any ideas that don’t align with one narrow and increasingly extreme point of view. I’ve been told I should just leave the country – as if the vision and hope I and people like me hold for our country are less valid, less American, than those held by the people who believe Trump is doing great things for this country.

I am seeing the worst of the stereotypes reinforced with every post, and when I have real life conversations. I hate that this is the case – I have sincerely strived to understand why people I know and like could support a man as abhorrent as Trump, and support the increasingly extreme policies and politicians put forth by the GOP. I’m seeing ugliness in people I used to like, and I would rather remember those people fondly than to see what they say, and what they believe, today.

You know what else I’m not seeing? Reason. Kindness. Empathy. A sense of community, a belief that every person in this country, this world, is deserving of dignity. It’s often said that good people would never support Trump, and I’ve balked at that. Because people are complicated. Yet… people who choose to support a terrible human being like Trump, to place him in the highest and most influential office in the land, people who choose propaganda, lies, and conspiracy theories over reality, have revealed what is in their hearts. It pains me to see people I thought I knew enthusiastically support this, or excuse this, or rationalize and normalize this. It’s not about politics. It’s about values and basic decency.

I tend to search for, and find, the best in people. So it pains me to realize this truth: When you see what people choose to show of themselves, time and time again, it’s time to start believing that is who they are.