Today marks the one-year anniversary of the election. The think pieces, Facebook posts and Twitter threads are rolling in with commentary on what happened, what’s happening and what’s going to happen at the President’s tiny, orange hands. Many are asking themselves, “What have I learned? What do I know now?” I recently asked the same of myself, and while most of my answers aren’t surprising, one change in opinion was jarring.
Let’s start with the obvious: I’ve learned the president rants and raves on Twitter while the White House falls apart trying to control his tantrums. Fake news ads interrupt my reading at an exponentially growing rate (even on Odyssey). The country is more politically divided than ever. The world feels submerged in chaos. What deeper life lessons could I possibly take away from that? Are people cruel and ignorant? Is our government corrupt?
Yes, absolutely. But that’s not all there is to it.
Since this day last year, it feels as though I’ve been navigating the news like an innocent lost puppy. Every headline from the Paris Accord to Puerto Rico to Charlottesville broke my heart over and over again, pitching me into a state of disbelief fueled by the soul-crushing idea that people could do such awful things. I couldn’t fathom how people supported an administration that knows its actions would hurt people. I complained that I “just didn’t get it,” or asked, “how is this even possible?” I still don’t get it, and there are a million other people of all ages, races and genders that are in the same boat.
The point is, we will never understand what we don’t understand. When I hear stories about Latinx or Middle-Eastern Americans supporting Trump, I am quick to jump to disgust and anger. How could anyone from a marginalized group support him when he’s literally trying to expel them from this country? I roll my eyes and attribute it to ignorance without a second thought. I’ve always asked “how ” but I never actually wanted to hear the answer.
I’m not alone in this dismissal. My Facebook page is an echo chamber filled with the same exasperation and complaints, but the fact of the matter is: unless they are someone close to us, we don’t know where these people come from, we don’t know what they’ve gone through, how they were raised, their level of education, nothing. I’ve never lived in poverty in a fly-over state. There was never a single point in my life when I doubted that I’d receive a college education, and my parents let me decide my political beliefs on my own. Of course I’m not going to understand Trump supporters. I get so frustrated with those who refuse to learn their political leanings are racist, classist, hypocritical, whatever, assuming that they’re bad, ignorant people with no souls. I don’t understand.
Maybe it’s time to let my lack of understanding go, and continue to speak up about what I do understand. I understand our government’s actions are hurtful, and we must speak out against them in order to make a change. I understand I can make a difference by voting in each and every election. So, I don’t understand Trump supporters. At the end of the day, who cares? Private citizens are not legislators. Use your time to call your senator, not your racist aunt.