I am very sorry for the anger that I have displayed of late. In the days following the election I wore a shirt that says “F*** Don”, cussed someone out for wearing Trump memorabilia, and wrote an anger-filled social media post listing my motivations for active protest. I now realize that by displaying my anger, I have not only added to the collective anger of my friends who agree with me, but have also added to your undeserved feeling of persecution.
I’ve done a lot of thinking since the unexpected election of Donald Trump, and the reason that my anger feels different to anything that I have felt before is because for the first time in my life, I’m legitimately scared: scared of the future, scared of the hateful, xenophobic ideas that Trump represents to me, and scared that our society could regress until it resembles something that I only know through stories that have been told to me by my parents. Over the last week, I have seen this fear in the eyes of friends and strangers alike, and it looks like nothing I have ever seen before. Even if you have not felt this way yourself, everyone has been aware of it.
One of the many questions that has been turning over in my mind now is: “How could my Republican friends justify their support for Donald Trump, when to me he is the embodiment of a set of hateful and backward ideals? Is it that they have chosen to forget the sexist, racist, and all-round discriminatory things that he has said, or is it that they simply don’t care?”
I attended a protest over the weekend that has made me come to a realization. I was one of around a hundred Trump protesters that gathered in Lafayette Square, in front of the Capitol building, on Saturday. We had been chanting “WE, REJECT, THE PRESIDENT-ELECT!” along with various other anti-Trump phrases when a man wearing the signature “Make America Great Again” hat appeared at the edge of the crowd. Peacefully, he attracted the attention of some protesters and appeared to want to engage in conversation. Almost immediately, a protester grabbed his hat from his head, and threw it on the ground. The man, visibly upset, picked his hat up and walked away… I was so ashamed.
Maybe this man did not prioritize the xenophobic ideas that I associate with Donald Trump as highly as I did, but the fact that he tried to engage in conversation with us protesters, who were holding signs that said “No to racism” and “Love Trumps Hate” made it obvious that he was not a hateful person. But we saw the slogan “Make America Great Again”, associated it with our preconceived idea of Trump supporters, and rejected his ideas before we had even heard them. I wish that I had apologized to him because out of all of us, he was the one that was most eager to constructively bridge the gap in our differences.
I realize that what Donald Trump represents to me is not what he represents to you. To you he represents an alternative to an increasingly corrupt political system, and a resistance against ideals that you believe will not bring about positive change. Although I strongly believe that my concerns over recent societal divisions and our refusal to address the environmental degradation that threatens our very existence are legitimate, I have prioritized my concerns over yours and, according to the results of this election, the concerns of almost half of America.
Now that I think about it, Donald Trump’s election could be a blessing in disguise for this country. This could be the defining moment that pushes us Democrats to address the Americans whose concerns we have ignored for the last eight years. This could start the conversation about what our differing but valid concerns are, which ones we prioritize, and why we prioritize them over others.
On the other hand, I fear that this election could have severely detrimental effects on our society if preconceived ideas of what it means to support or oppose Donald Trump deter us from engaging in conversation in the first place. I am not exaggerating when I say that our preconceived judgements of one another following the election have already created a divide: a divide that if remains unaddressed has the potential to set back years of societal work toward ending racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination.
In light of this, it is imperative that we voice our mutual concerns to one another, and do so not as Republicans or Democrats, but as individuals. Politicians are different from individuals in that they do not simply state their own concerns, but also the concerns of the industries that they are funded by, and the vastly different concerns of the millions of Americans that have been amalgamated under their party. Fortunately as individuals our concerns are incorruptible, as there is no external pressure telling you what to be concerned about.
Although I will continue to actively demonstrate my opposition to the various hateful ideas that have been advocated throughout Trump’s campaign, I will not participate in protests of his legitimacy, or of the Republican party as a whole. I would like to start the conversation with you; you Republicans who believe that climate change might not be a hoax, and who oppose the hate and discrimination that has been promoted throughout Donald Trump’s campaign, without opposing the result of the election itself. I hope that I have helped to give you some perspective on the sources of my concerns, and the concerns of many of the friends and strangers that I have spoken with since last Tuesday. I look forward to hearing your concerns.