(Updated with your responses – see below.)
This has been an out-of-the-ball-park, stunning presidential election. Forty-two million Americans voted for Donald Trump, a man who during the campaign engaged in the most abusive, divisive, violent, and untruthful rhetoric that I have ever witnessed in American politics. He approves of waterboarding. He says we need to give police more freedom to “stop and frisk” in our cities. He wants to build a wall on the border of Mexico. He’s all for Law and Order and a staunch believer in privatizing prisons. He even threatened to prosecute and lock up his political opponent.
Here’s my question: how deeply must our citizens be hurting, and how desperately must they distrust the current political system to have chosen such an outlier candidate?
And I can’t help but ask: with Trump’s appointee as Attorney General and his nominee for the Supreme Court what will happen to our quest to abolish the death penalty – especially now that we’re closer to ending it than we’ve ever been? What will happen to our quest to end mass incarceration and disenfranchisement of so many minorities, especially African Americans?
It’s time for soul searching. It’s time for deeper listening to each other. I confess that during the 18-month presidential campaign (it felt endless) I didn’t take pro-Trump folks seriously at all. I wrote them off. I couldn’t believe that more than a few citizens would actually vote for Trump as president. Boy, was I wrong!
Now I know that I need to make a concerted effort to engage in dialogue with people whose political beliefs are very different from my own. I need to really listen when they express just what it is they hope for to “make America great again.” Or is “making America great again” what they’re really seeking anyway?
People in the Rust Belt, who’ve lost manufacturing jobs and whose wages have been stagnant for the last 15 years were the turning point in the election. A whole lot of people are not experiencing the Great American Dream, that’s for sure. I’ve been knowing that about those who live in poverty. Now I’m learning it about middle class America as well.
Your responses – and mine to you
Thanks, good people for your hefty flow of responses. Plenty good stuff to listen to. As much as I’d like to respond to each of you, all I can do is this “sampler,” responding to a few iconic responders, whose views embody what a several others also expressed.
To you Julie G for pointing out that the “bad things” Trump talked about have been going on for decades under both political parties, so why not give Trump a try? I get it that we seem to be at an all-time low of confidence that elected officials of either party will truly hear us and respond by enacting policies and programs that genuinely address real needs.
To you Shelby A for challenging us to the max. You say that If we’re (really) open to listen, what about talking directly to Trump himself, who, “like so many people in this nation…[may not be] educated on issues,” such as the death penalty and mass incarceration. You believe he’s a compassionate man, so give him a chance. Only his nasty side came out during the campaign.
To you Paul K, maybe the bravest responder of all, sharing your personal pain about your daughter, a struggling single mom, and your own medical disability and watching your community get “ravaged.” You don’t tend to trust politicians, period, but Trump spoke to you. Am I understanding you right when I interpret that to mean that despite our misgivings and fears, why not try the “new guy,” the one outside the box, who might be able to reboot everything and give the nation a new start?
To you Mary C, you, my fellow Catholic, hit it out of the ball park for me about what it means to be “pro-life.” Simply because someone like Trump said “the right words,” does that mean he’s truly for life? As I see it Pro-life means, for starters, a chance to be born, yes. But it also means a lot of other things: solid family, good education, a decent house, health care…We Americans have never tackled head-on the scandal of 42 million? plus poor people in the richest country in the world. I stand with Pope Francis on this one. When asked what he thought about president-elect Trump, the Pope said he’ll watch to see how Trump responds to the needs of poor people.
To you Susan G A. & Sean O, as you see it, Trump supporters are afraid and angry. Yeah, a lot of anger out there, which psychologists tell us is the most unnuanced of emotions, tied to “fight or flight.” Unconscious fears can drive us to do and say things we’d ordinarily never say or do. I’ve seen it a lot in communicating with the public about the death penalty.
Afraid that murderers will kill you and your loved ones? Execute them.
Afraid that Muslims plot to destroy us? Ban them!
Afraid that “liberals” are out to displace Christianity and our deepest family values? Silence them! Send them all to Canada!
To you, Monica N, like you, I’m taken aback by the fake news and outright lies that saturated the discourse during the presidential campaign. Know the NEW WORD of 2016 that just entered the Oxford English Dictionary? Post truth. Results of post-election analysis of Trump supporters is beginning to give some insight about the meaning of post truth. (It applies to some Hillary supporters, too, but many more Trumpers.) Trump followers say it did not matter what he said, even when they knew he was lying. At some deep level (maybe a survival instinct?) they locked into him as their champion, their strongman, who would stand up for their rights, even if he had to use force. Another dimension of post truth is what has been happening on social media. We all tend to go to the web sites where we find others who tend to think like us. And, conversely to avoid those who differ from us. It’s comforting to have someone else say out loud what we think or believe or have a deep hunch about. I’m as guilty as anyone on this. All during the campaign I visited for the most part, only my tribal silo sites.
Given our reality, how will we listen to each other across tribes, across ideologies, across class and race divisions, even across neighborhoods? Suburbanites talking with folks in the inner city? Business execs sharing with ex-felons just out of prison? Church goers in conversation with atheists and agnostics? Together we need to explore this and look for concrete ways to make it happen. I’ll keep listening. You keep telling me what you think. Thanks for listening.