Over the past couple of months I have learnt that emotional pain invariably originates from misunderstandings. Whether that’s the failure to be understood or failure to understand another, one thing is true: misunderstanding causes suffering. So what does understanding create? It creates empathy. Acceptance. And love.
I have struggled with these election results. Not just because of the man elected, but because I could not understand how America consciously elected him to be president, especially given everything that we witnessed in his campaign. Ah, but what about the media’s influence I hear you say, are the media responsible for what we witnessed in not just one, but all three presidential debates? The child-like behaviour, the narcissism, the degradation of women, the racism towards Muslims, the hypocrisy, the lies, the failure to take accountability for his words and actions, the emotional instability, the clear absence of respect for others - yeah that was Trump as his most authentic self.
When I look at Trump, that is all I see. I see a man who does not represent the American people, he represents a small minority; white, wealthy, straight men. I do not see anything that he proposes to do for this country because I cannot see past the aforementioned shortcomings. And perhaps that is very close-minded, or perhaps it is merely because that is what is important to me.
Because this is what I see in Trump, admittedly it was all I saw in his supporters too. And it enraged me. How could anyone support such a clearly racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic bigot like him without being one themselves? I didn’t understand. And that caused such negative energy to reside within me. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. I have been filled with all of these spiteful emotions even prior to these election results. I assumed that supporting a candidate meant that you not only agree, but also condone all that he represents. But tonight, I think differently.
Scott Stabile wrote a fantastic piece on this very issue tonight stating, “They weren’t voting against my interests. They were voting for their own. That’s how elections work. No candidate will meet all of our desires. We decide what issues we care about the most, and what convictions we’re willing to compromise along the way.” He further continues, “A news reporter stationed himself at a polling place in rural Pennsylvania on election day. He asked a woman in her mid-40s if she was voting for Trump or Clinton. She said she had a couple kids in high school and wanted them to graduate and be able to find jobs. She planned to vote for Trump, even though she “didn’t like some things about him,” because she believed he was a better choice for the economy. “I’m voting for my children,” she said.
The reporter interviewed another woman, mid-30s, who was also voting for Trump. He asked her if she was bothered by the things Trump has said about women. She answered “yes, definitely,” but that she was bothered more by the threat of terrorism and felt that he would keep the country more secure.”
These individuals voted for Trump because of what was most important to them and their situation. They didn’t vote for Trump because they thought that his behaviour was by any means acceptable, it was merely less important than issues of the economy and security. Can I really judge them for that?
The reason I struggled to understand these individuals who supported Trump is because social issues are very important to me. My life is governed by the value of how we treat one another. We are all humans and we are all deserving of respect. To see a man so clearly disregard that, how could I possibly support anything that man stood for when he failed to fulfil the value that is most important in my life?
I understand that this value is not shared by all, nor is it overly important to many. I can respect that. I also hope that others can respect that this value is of the utmost importance to me and I cannot, and will not, support someone who fails to fulfil it. In the words of Scott Stabile, “And let’s remember each other in the interactions that make up our day. If you don’t support Trump, please remember that the majority of his supporters are not white nationalist racists. If you’re in conversation with others who want to lump all Trump supporters into some hateful category, speak up if you can. Be courageous enough to say you don’t support Trump but you don’t condemn all those who voted for him. Be a voice for unity, not division.
If you voted for Trump, please remember your candidate was not only enthusiastically endorsed by the KKK, but he himself spent much of his campaign insulting minorities and immigrants. If you’re in conversation with others who support his bigoted views, speak up if you can. Be courageous enough to say you support Trump, but you don’t agree with bigotry of any kind. Be a voice for unity, not division.”
I have no doubt that we will all be okay, we usually always are. But telling someone “everything is going to be okay” only does one thing: invalidates what they are presently feeling. Things aren’t okay for many. Whether they’re riddled by fear, rage, devastation, sadness, grief, or fury, we need to let them feel. We need to encourage them to feel. Suppressing, struggling, and fighting against our feelings only intensifies and prolongs them. It also creates secondary emotions of resentment, bitterness, guilt, and hate – none of which serve anyone.
So if you are not a Trump supporter, I encourage you to feel what you need to feel. I encourage you to be as humanly you as you are, in all the beautiful assortment of emotions that make you real. I encourage you to be loud and vocal; do not be silenced or suppressed, even to appease those on Facebook. It’s about time we use Facebook to accurately portray what it means to be a human, to be real, to be alive. If you are a Trump supporter, I encourage you to step into that space of misunderstanding and to empathise with your fellow Americans (and non-Americans). We can unite through this, but first we must acknowledge, understand, and accept what others are presently thinking and feeling. “Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better, what makes something better is connection.” And connection starts from understanding.