Nearly every day, someone publicly states on social media that any of their friends who support Donald Trump should cease to be acquainted with them. They use words like “racist” and “asshole” or even “dumbass” to describe both Trump and anyone who believes in his right to the presidency. There is no discussion, no open dialogue, simply a declaration and a click, ending a relationship with someone who, at some point, was considered good enough to be connected to them.
I think this behavior is problematic, especially from people who claim to be above the hatred Trump so regularly word-vomits.
If we as voters are truly so different from a man who advocates xenophobia, sexism, slander and intolerance, shouldn’t we behave differently, too?
As a woman, a mixed-race Latina, a wife to a current active duty service member of 19 years who has served multiple times in war (and came to this country illegally from Mexico at 11 months old, becoming an American citizen at the age of 31) and the mother of two Latino sons, I have taken personal issue with many of Trump’s statements against immigrants, women and even our military members.
Still, those issues and concerns are not enough for me to end relationships with people because they don’t agree with me.
In our small military community, a surprising 60 percent of enlisted members, people who are our neighbors and friends, actually support Donald Trump. My non-Latino family members have also expressed admiration for the man and I’ll be honest, it befuddles me.
My husband and I have had a hard time understanding how people we know, like and even love could want a man like Trump to become the leader of our country, which was founded on principles of fairness, equality and tolerance. A vote for Trump feels like a vote against us, and that is hard to swallow.
Still, these people who embrace his brash politics are welcome in my home and in my life.
My acceptance wasn’t immediate. To get there, I had to do some serious soul searching.
I’ve witnessed many friends openly disparage both Donald Trump and anyone who would vote for him. They’ve used words like: fool, idiot, ignorant, uneducated, racist, redneck, hillbilly and worse to describe anyone who could mark their ballots in support of Trump. I’ve seen friends I admire for their intelligence and passion pledge to unfriend anyone on Facebook who is pro-Trump without a second thought.
Those same friends cheered when, in December, news spilled across the internet that it was easy to find out which Facebook friends supported Donald Trump. All one had to do was search “friends who like Donald Trump” and a list of offenders would populate, making it easier to isolate, blame and disconnect from anyone who had different political beliefs.
It was tempting at first to follow that tide of political dismemberment, but then it occurred to me that the very act of doing so would make me a lot more like Trump than not. That, in a nutshell, was something I never wanted to be.
Grouping all people into one category is something Donald has done with gusto. In the considerably short time he’s campaigned for president, he has marginalized women, Latinos, Muslims, Asians, black Americans and even prisoners of war and citizens of Iowa, among many others. His disparaging remarks foster the false belief that by a single affiliation, we can know the entirety of a person.
Just because a white man shoots children in a school, or an auditorium full of movie-goers, does not mean we all equate white men with terrorism. That would be wrong, that would racist, that would be ignorant.
The truth is that our country has a long history of pointing fingers and blaming groups of people in an “us versus them” ideology that has hurt so many. Remember the Jim Crow laws that prevented black Americans from having true freedom and equality after the horror of slavery? What about when our government destroyed the lives and careers Jews in a supposed “communist cleansing,” imprisoned Japanese Americans in internment camps because they could be enemies, hospitalized women who stood up for their rights as “hysterics” and denied gay couples the right to marry and have families?
All throughout our history, “otherness” has been used as a way to deny even the most basic of human rights to groups of people.
Trump’s correlation between terrorists and Muslims, rapists and Mexicans, cowards and prisoners of war only serve to continue our country’s legacy of divisiveness, hatred and intolerance. The marginalization and oppression of others has never, not once, made our country great.
In fact, the so often touted Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again!” rings untrue to me. I can’t pinpoint a single time in history where greatness was a reality for all of our citizens, not just a privileged, empowered few.
I learned a long time ago that to behave like the person you dislike is to make yourself a mirror image of them. Name calling, fear mongering and spreading hatred against people who aren’t like me sounds a whole lot like Donald Trump, and that’s not someone I want to be — not ever.
Even if I don’t agree with the political beliefs of certain family members and friends, it isn’t enough for me to remove them from my life. I am smart enough to see that a political affiliation does not mean someone agrees 100 percent with the rhetoric. Just like many people of faith disagree with certain aspects of their religion and many Americans are supporters of our government but not all of the laws and leaders, it is possible that people can support aspects of Trump’s campaign without supporting his more controversial, hurtful sentiments.
This understanding has guided my acceptance of the people whose politics I don’t understand or agree with. It has informed my decision to not unfriend anyone who favors Trump. If anything, I’ll try harder to understand their support of him. If at some point I called them my friend or family member, then that means there was something good and likeable about them, and that they aren’t hateful, hurtful people who want to take away my or my family’s rights and freedoms. Knowing that means we have a point of commonality from which we can build upon, and hopefully, learn to understand one another.
Maybe, by behaving differently than those we disagree with, we can inspire people to do the same. We can squash mob-mentality xenophobia, encourage critical thinking and open discourse and actually lead our country to true greatness, which is what I have to believe we all want, no matter who gets our vote.