Warning: Slightly political post. Or mostly political.
I was born in Texas, grew up in a Southern Baptist church, and currently live in a state that is first to go red during presidential elections. So I know many of my friends and family voted for Donald Trump.
I voted straight ticket republican my first two elections. I was an officer of the College Republicans chapter for a year when I was in college. In retrospect, I was kind of a political junky. Which is comical because politics nauseate me now. I read books by conservative commentators and watched their shows on Fox News or listened to them on talk radio. I was drawn to this idea of a traditional America where everyone loves God and Country. Probably similar to the American I learned about in school and church. It exists, right?
But my life experience and observations have shifted my political views over the last 10 years. I self identify as smack dab in the moderate middle now. No party. There wasn’t a single transition point. It was a subtle transformation. It started after a major tragic event where I found myself for the first time questioning the rhetoric and narrative the Republican party was dispensing.
When the next big and scary event happened, I didn’t instinctively or automatically agree with the Republicans. This pattern continued through subsequent political, national and world events. This practice of questioning the narrative and forming my own opinion, which didn’t fit into a single political party’s box, made my ears and eyes more sensitive to people with different views.
You know what happens when you listen to someone who disagrees with you and you’re not too busy standing your ground? You learn stuff. I am not the same person I was when I was 25 and I’m proud of that. Not because who I used to be was “wrong,” but because for me it is a direct result of listening, learning and growing.
I did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016 or 2020. I loathe the man. I used to keep that mostly to myself, but I now admit it openly without hesitation.
And over the past four years I’ve found myself loathing the Republican party. But what does it mean to loathe a political party? Does that mean I loathe my friends and family that identify with that party?
Social media makes this challenging. I see passionate, opinionated posts I don’t agree with and my mind immediately tells me we can’t be friends. Certainly no more than casual friends. Not because I don’t like you, but we’re just too different. We don’t have the same core values, obviously.
Which is crap. I know for a fact I share the same core values with most of these people. We love God, love our kids, love our families, and want people to feel valued.
But instead of working through it, I coward away and take a social media break. In two days I’ll be fine again. At minimum I’ll talk about it to people I know agree with me, because it feels so good and validating. I rarely comment or engage.
If someone says “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” does it help for me to write “I hear you, but how did you feel when Adam Lanza shot up a room of elementary school kids the same age as our kids?”
Will the comment section become a productive conversation? Will they think differently as a result? Will I? Should either of us? Most likely a third party troll will hijack the conversation. Not worth it. I don’t want to upset a friend, nor do I want to get labeled a Marxist or someone that doesn’t support the police or military. But mental note: we probably can’t be besties. Just casual friends.
When I watched what unfolded on January 6th in Washington DC, my first instinct was to say “See, I told you. We tried to warn you. This is what YOU stand for. You and your party leader. These are YOUR people. Are you happy now?”
But deep down that feeling doesn’t sit right. It comes from a dark place of anger and sadness. It’s sinful. I know my family and friends, and they are good people. They are not the people who stormed the Capitol Building waving confederate flags and disgracing our democracy.
So how do we reconcile this need to brand people by their political party or who they voted for? Because the words “Trump supporter” literally give me a visceral reaction right now. What do I do with that?
I would like to propose a first step, for all of us.
Just because you voted for Trump, I will not assume you condone what happened or the thoughts, beliefs, or behavior of these people. I won’t automatically associate you with them. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you want what’s best for all Americans, all people for that matter, although we may disagree with what “best” is. And I’d be willing to talk about it if you’d like.
If I do that, I humbly ask this:
When I support Black Lives Matter, don’t say I support Marxism. I don’t. Don’t say I don’t support the police. I do.
When I admire Colin Kaepernick, please don’t say I don’t support the military. I’m eternally grateful for their services, past and present.
When I vote for Biden/Harris, don’t assume I support everything they do. I don’t.
The list goes on. I think you get it.
Let’s refuse to live in a black and white world of political mutual exclusivity. My thoughts, opinions, and values are too complex to fit in a simple box. So are yours. We probably share so many fundamental beliefs. Let’s talk about them and learn from each other so we can actually make a difference in this world.
Lastly, if what happened yesterday made you question your political alignment with a man or a party, listen to that. You don’t have to process it overnight. You don’t have to change your views about everything or anything. But don’t be afraid to trust yourself.