Archive for August, 2015

Why you can vote for Donald Trump and still be my friend

So I’ve had a weird week where I haven’t felt well, haven’t ate well, and have experienced a wider range of painkillers than I ever have. But I feel better now, for the moment. It’s the kind of better where you brush yourself off, look around, and then try to remember just how much of the past few days were real, and what was pain- or drug-induced hallucination. Did I really need to find my family and get them away from the scary android-type things invading the school we were in? No, that was a dream. Is my head slowly turning into a metallic elephant? No, that was a piece of art my wife showed me as I was drifting off to sleep. Is Donald Trump still running for president?

Yes. That was not a fever dream. That has not stopped. It’s still a thing people are talking about. Hmmph.

While I remain skeptical about Trump’s long-term prospects in this race, he’s not going away immediately. He’s going to suck up some air for a while. It seems I’ll have find a way to deal with him and his supporters. In that light, there are two principle things I want to say:

1) I am not going to become a Donald Trump supporter. Honestly, I don’t see it happening. The greatest virtues I’ve seen ascribed to him—He speaks his mind! He can deliver his message without being encumbered by special issues!—are nullified by the fact that what he does with those virtues is dangerously similar to a monkey flinging poo. Look, speaking your mind is great, but I live in a city where plenty of people can be found speaking their mind, unencumbered by political correctness or special interests, on any given street corner. That doesn’t mean I stop and listen to them, because they frequently make no sense. Similarly, being free to be yourself is great, unless you’re a huge douche-nozzle. In that case, most of us would appreciate it if you dialed back the whole be-yourself thing a number of notches and tried to power back to a mode of expression that did not leave giant personality stains over our nation’s undergarments.

Trump’s racism on immigration is appalling (please don’t tell me to read the context of his remarks. I did. Didn’t help). His understanding of economic statistics is either deliberately deceitful or sub-elementary school. He has knowledge about how money works, but other currencies that governments deal with, like influence and diplomacy, seem to be beyond his grasp. His sexism is so ingrained that he does not seem to be able to conceptualize that it could be an issue.

These are just a few faults. Suffice it to say, I think he is a terrible candidate, and I think anyone who would vote for them is using their vote extremely poorly. Which brings us to point two:

2) You can support Donald Trump and still be my friend. If you want to vote for Donald Trump, I will not be thrilled with your decision. I might criticize it. I might argue with you about it. I might get very exasperated and throw my hands in the air. But in the end, I will not stop talking to you, and I will not de-friend you on Facebook. I will likely not even block posts from your feed, unless you decide to be all-Trump, all the time. Here’s why:

I am a politically liberal member of the LDS church—a church that, in the U.S., tends to lean conservative, to put it mildly. As someone who thinks a diversity of ideas and perspectives is a good thing to have in almost any decision-making process, I would often get irritated when people within the church acted, as they would from time to time, that political liberalism disqualified people from having a voice in certain church functions. That was ridiculous, I thought. Can’t someone disagree with me politically without nullifying any contribution I might make to a discussion? It didn’t make sense to me to me to shut me out of life just because of political disagreements.

Then, in the course of life, I have heard about and met people I admire who deliberately surrounded themselves with people who did not think as they did so that they could hear a variety of perspectives and learn from them. I’ve seen the strength that comes from that, the ideas and concepts that otherwise would have been missed coming to light and being addressed. And I have seen the disastrous effects that come from groups making decisions that did not have all the voices they needed and really, really could have used some different points of view. Not to name any specific recent presidents.

Diversity is too important for me to start shutting people out. Like any commitment, I can’t just like it when it’s easy. I have to like diversity even when it makes me listen to ideas that force me to dance little mental Watusis of frustration because I can’t believe what I am hearing. But look, I once had a college roommate who briefly was a fan of Bo Gritz, a fringe political candidate who had a streak of racism in him that makes Trump’s look like a little one-lane country road, and I still managed to find common ground with him. If I’m serious about the things I claim to think are important, I can keep trying to do that.

Now, that is not to say there are no limits. If your regularly mistake blustering argument for discussion; if your relationship with facts regularly shows itself to be long-distance; and if you cannot get over the habit of making race-, ethnicity-, gender-, or sexual orientation-based generalizations, then the chance of positive discussion plunges greatly. But be assured that if de-friending takes place after such behavior, it’s not because of your politics; it’s because of how you apply yourself to discussions and relationships with others. It’s an individual thing, not something applied to a whole group of people who think a particular way.

Does that mean I might be friend with racists, anti-gays, sexists, and all sorts of other –ists? Very possibly. And there’s a few reasons for that. First, I don’t think change happens when people are put in isolation. And second, to restate what I said above, I do not want to discount the possibility from learning from a flawed person. One of my favorite authors has very different politics than I do. I don’t like some of the political statements he has made. But I will still pick up my favorite book of his and hug it, for all the joy it has brought me. I’d hate to have missed what he had to offer, just because I didn’t like some aspects of his thinking.

So to sum up, to all my friends who like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and/or Sarah Palin; to all who unironically listen to Creed or Nickelback; to all who have seen every Transformers movie every opening weekend; to all who think that Risk is one of the great board games of all time: You are wrong. Sadly, desperately wrong, in ways that, to varying degrees of significance, are causing damage in the world. There is a good chance I will argue with you about one or these things or another. Then you may argue with me about something I like, or something I do, that you believe is wrong. It will be fun. We both may learn something, then hold hands, and make a PSA for NBC.

And in all that, I’ll look forward to learning something from you, to re-traveling whatever common pathways led us to be friends in the first place, and to building bonds instead of losing them.

 

 

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