I’ve been having a hard time lately coming up with words for what I’m feeling. This year has been so…? Every time I turn around, it’s more…? So I’m just…?
Words are hard.
I finally came up with a short sentence, though, that describes a pretty big portion of what’s been bothering me in 2016–it’s hard to like people
This isn’t me, for the record. I generally like people! That might not always be obvious because I’m definitely an introvert–scared of big social events, terrible at small talk, big fan of Friday nights with Netflix. But I do like people.
I like deep conversations, getting to know who people really are, what drives them. If I don’t like someone yet, it generally just means I need to dig deeper. I like to sit back and observe people. I like to lean in and love people. I grew up going to church with the most delightfully quirky congregation, and I learned to enjoy all the spice and variety that humans have to offer. (Suddenly, it makes sense that I feel so at home in “keep it weird” Portland….) Long before I knew where exactly my career path would take me, I knew that it would have to be a job that involved working with people, helping people. Other things in life try to get in the way, but people have always felt like the most important priority. Things are just things, but people are people.
I like finding connections with people and appreciating how we’re similar. I like learning more from what makes us different.
I’ve always liked people.
Right now, it’s really hard to like people.
So hard to like people!!
People of my generation-ish, do you remember when we used to ask ourselves how we would have behaved in Nazi Germany? Or how we would have behaved when the Civil Rights movement was fighting Jim Crow? Or how we would have behaved when Mormons were being violently expelled from the United States? Remember when we used to wonder which side we’d have taken?
Do you remember? Because I don’t. I don’t think I ever asked myself those questions. I just assumed that I would have been the “good guy” in each scenario. That I would have stood by the people being dehumanized, and seen them as more than “other.” That I would have loved instead of feared. I assumed any rational person would be the good guy. I couldn’t fathom who these crazy people in history were that supported the obvious wrong over the obvious right.
I miss that innocent, ignorant bliss. I miss when the “bad guys” were just people in the history books, most of them nameless and faceless.
Now they’re my neighbors. Now they’re everywhere. They have names, faces, and I’m supposed to love them.
Politics and election years have always been divisive, but we all know this year is more than that. I’ve seen bad politicians before, and bad presidents, and people who I strongly disagree with. But this is the first chance in my lifetime to witness a true, through-and-through Bad Guy seeking power in my own country. There’s no question that history will remember Trump as an embodiment of evil. Our grandchildren are absolutely going to be asking us the same questions that the kids are asking now, “Why?? How?? Why did you let this happen??” I’m afraid that I’ll only have the same pain in my eyes and lack of satisfying answers for those kids as I do for the current ones.
Is it even necessary to recite the laundry list of evils again? Sigh. Let’s make it quick…. Trump got his initial campaign momentum by calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. In practically the same breath, he proposed banning Muslims from entering the US. For those already in the US, he suggested deportation, tracking systems, and shutting down mosques. Every time he talks to or about a woman, he objectifies her; he even speaks sexually about his own daughter. He made fun of the reporter for his physical disability. He attacked the Muslim parents of a fallen US soldier. He’s advocated for torture of not just enemies, but also their families. He cheats people out of money owed left and right. Trump University was entirely invented to swindle money from vulnerable people. He brags about how easy it is in his position to assault women…..
We all know I could keep going. But let’s stop the list there, and state the obvious: Trump hates Americans.
Yes, he’s also the lyingest liar that ever lied. And yes, he’s verbally trampled all over the Constitution. It’s easy to argue that he hates American values, ideals, and laws. But remember, my first priority is the people, so let’s keep in the front of our minds that Trump hates Americans. Black Americans, brown Americans, female Americans, Americans with handicapped parking passes, Americans in hijabs…. Trump hates Americans. It’s not a secret. It was never hidden or sugar coated. Since the very start of his campaign, we’ve all known that Trump hates Americans.
And here’s the thing. No matter what happens in the election next month, the damage is already done. It’s not going away any time soon. Because Trump isn’t spewing his hate alone in a vacuum. There are Americans eating up every word, and proudly waving Trump signs. And there are Americans who aren’t fond of him, but they’re holding their noses and voting for him anyway, because they think there are bigger threats than a president who hates Americans. They’re willing to tolerate the hate.
We’ve now seen our country’s population in a very unflattering mirror, and we can’t unsee it. And as offended, disgusted, repulsed, and nauseated as I am by Trump hating Americans, the truth is that he’s made it so much harder for me to like Americans.
I’m struggling to like the people who excuse Trump’s behavior. I don’t know how to like people who are ok with blatant racism, sexism, and so many varieties of hate.
When I repeat comments my students have made about Trump or the political climate in general, people act surprised. “Wow, s/he’s that aware of what’s happening?”
Are you kidding me?! It’s the air my kids are breathing. They can’t turn it off, step back, or ignore it. Not just Trump, but all the people who think he makes good points, are everywhere–attacking them, harassing them, threatening them. “You don’t belong here” is whispered, implied, and screamed at them by peers, by the tv, by the adults who are supposed to be keeping them safe and modeling how to function in society. They’re terrified of this election, and with good reason. But no matter how the election ends, they’re going to have to keep existing in a world that’s taken giant leaps backward and given people permission to spew hate in their direction.
I don’t have kids of my own, but I do have mama bear instincts that kick in when “my” kids are threatened, hurt, or treated poorly. Those instincts have been raging for the last year, with no end in sight. And I don’t know how to like people who are complicit in attacks on my kids!
Let’s not forget that I’m also one of those Americans Trump hates. I’m a woman, I’m disabled, and I’m a teacher in a public school. He wouldn’t hesitate for a second before describing me as a sexually repulsive drain on the system.
His judgement wouldn’t even bother me too much. But what about all his supporters? They either see me the same way, or are ok with stepping back and letting others keep me down.
It’s so hard to like people!!
I have a long running list of topics I’d like to blog about, and this school year is making it almost impossible to find the time to write. But every time I do make the time, this seems to be what comes out. I have to keep processing, and I have to keep doing my small part to speak against evil. So I can look the kids in the eye tomorrow, and fifty years from now.
I really wish I could go back to easily, naturally, by default, liking people.
(Song playing in my head as I wrote: “History has its eyes on you……”)