Let me get this over up front. I am terribly disappointed that Trump is our President. I think he is a horrible person who lacks any sort of skills at important traits for civil service such as compassion, empathy and a basic understanding of our political and legal processes. So, I am by no means a Trump apologist. But, I will consider myself a Trump-supporter apologist. And the two are vastly different to me. So, although I would love to make a cleverly worded sign and adorn myself in a feminist phrases t-shirt on Saturday, I will instead be standing at a table for the Union at our University, answering questions and providing information about the labor protections provided by the Union. Let me tell you why…
I feel like a bad ___________. Fill in the blank. Progressive. Liberal. Feminist. It all works. But, I just can’t bring myself to march in Saturday’s protest. I have a lot of friends who are marching, both in DC and their localities. And I totally support them. I don’t think the protests are wrong or should not happen. In fact, I am thankful that some do feel compelled to participate. But, it just isn’t for me.
I remember eight years ago, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, coming across a former student of mine who posted throughout the lead up to the inauguration and for a while afterward that the world as we knew it was ending due to Obama being elected. I’m sure most of you have read some of those claims over the last eight years (and perhaps wrote them yourselves). I liked Obama, so her posts struck me as ignorant and hurtful and totally out of step with reality. Hers were not the only comments like that on my Facebook feed, they were just the most extreme. It was easy to dismiss her feelings because I didn’t share them, but I remember being shocked that someone could actually feel that strongly negative towards a President-Elect.
Eight years later, I sit on the other side of the fence. Now, I’m not comparing Obama to Trump. Lord knows that Obama has about 100 times more class and compassion and empathy in the tip of his pinky finger as Trump. But, so far today, I’ve read on Facebook friends’ posts that we should support violent protests in Oakland and other places, including breaking glass and setting fires, in the name of resistance, that we should stop supporting Girl Scouts because they have troops marching in the inauguration and are supporting it by saying they have a tradition of marching in the inauguration, that we are entering a post-apocalyptic era, that we should not JUST not watch the inauguration tomorrow but that we should turn on our TV to a channel NOT showing the inauguration to truly bring down the ratings. The list goes on and on. Half of the information is based in half-truths. The other half seems like the rantings of lunatics. They are just lunatics who happen to agree with me politically. If Hilary had been elected, I would be seeing many of the same posts, but from those who I disagree with politically. It just isn’t healthy the way we seem to frame the debate so anyone who disagrees with us is deserving of wrath and ridicule. It is all focused on us vs. them. It is divisive, often for the sake of divisiveness, not solutions or true division of belief or ground. It exhausts me and saddens me and sometimes even angers me. I feel like I have to constantly be the voice of reason. I am drawn to find points of compromise or to point out when arguments are flawed. But, that also makes me sound like an apologist at times. And it makes me feel like a bad ________________.
Protests are all about fueling those feelings of us vs. them. They are all about drawing distinctions – those who are protesting, those who support the protests and those who do not support the protests. But, that is really an oversimplification. I guarantee you that there will be groups of women at the protests that I will totally agree with on most, if not all, things. I also guarantee you there will be groups of women at the protests who I totally disagree with on most, if not all, things. There will be some involved in protests who use the us vs. them feelings as a justification for violent acts against police or store windows or cars. There will be some involved in the protests who want to claim the moral high ground and display their oppression as a badge of honor, while ignoring their privilege in many other instances. There will be some involved in the protests who do hold the moral high ground in their day-to-day activities and who change the lives of people daily and recognize their privilege readily. There will be some involved in the protests who see it as their “chance” to be “political,” as if we don’t have and make those choices daily. And because I feel like all of that nuance is lost in the format and purpose of a protest, I can’t find it in myself to want to participate.
I guess I am less afraid of looking like a bad _____________ than I am of supporting something or someone I don’t believe in or support. I definitely don’t support Donald Trump as President, but I don’t think of protests as demonstrating a lack of support for someone, I think of them as showing support for something else. At this point, I’m not sure what that something else is. I feel better waiting it out and trying to make my daily choices more compassionate, empathetic and with knowledge and understanding of our political and legal processes. But, that means I have to be compassionate to Trump supporters as much as I am to Trump haters. It means I have to be empathetic to those who do not see the world the way I do. And it means that I have to recognize that as much as I hate it, the political process deemed Trump the winner and he is President. We shall see what that means over the next four years, but hopefully, our political process will be able to withstand this low point in political decision making. I think it will. I am not preparing for a post-apocalyptic world. I am preparing for some backtracking in civil rights and, ironically enough, protections against government interference and control, but I am also prepared to see our political process work against extremism, as it was designed to do.
I may eat these words. I may wish that I had marched with the protesters and drew a more solid line between me and the Trump supporters. But, at this point, I can’t find it in myself to take that stance. So, Trump supporters, I will be seen as an apologist for you. I will try to come from a place of compassion and empathy. But, Trump, I will not be an apologist for you. You need to change your ways and act more interested in your constituents than yourself. You are not our CEO who can hire and fire us. We are not your employees or your “apprentices”. We are your constituents. We expect you to figure out how to do your job without using Twitter storms as a agent of threat. We expect you to deal with other countries as if there is peace on the line. We expect you to choose individuals who can do the jobs they are chosen to do. So far, as President Elect, you’ve done a pretty poor job of all of this. But, now you are the President. So, step up and act like one. Please and thank you.