I hate politics. Always have.
I’m opinionated to the gills, but there are some things I don’t discuss because I find the discussion fruitless. Not that a subject is only worth visiting if something will come of it. It’s just that I don’t bother with topics I find dull unless it’s going to affect some kind of change I deem significant or of personal value.
Politics never fall under that umbrella.
A lot is happening in the world. A lot is happening in my country. And it seems I’m expected to say something about it. I could argue that I said all I needed to say with my vote, though I suppose that’s too abstract.
I’m sure it can appear out of character that I haven’t gone into great detail about Trump being our president – especially in the wake of the travel ban. Truth is, I had nothing to say. For all the judgments I make, there are infinitely more I don’t. Some things, I let speak for themselves.
It’s like watching a friend who doesn’t know the first thing about skateboarding climb onto a high ramp with a steep angle, insisting that they’re going to skate down in a fiery blaze, launch themselves majestically from the ramp with the wind at their back, flip the board, and land safely on an overturned trash can twenty feet away.
It’s an accident waiting to happen.
So was the election.
The difference is that in the case of an election, we’re given the appearance of power over the outcome. We’re given the chance, by vote, to express not only our values, but our concerns in a way that supposedly has a tangible effect on the governance of our nation.
But I’ve always understood that you aren’t voting for an outcome. You’re voting for potential. People stand before you and tout what they’ll do, but what they say has no bearing on what’s actually going to happen and the choices they’re actually going to make.
So it’s a gamble. When we vote, we’re essentially placing a bet that the person we want to see in office will get there and do great things or, at the very least, be better for us than the alternatives. Hope is what we vote for. Nothing more.
On July 19th, 2016, I tweeted the following:
Why cringe at this election? Our culture is getting exactly what it’s allowed. Folks are just mad our general foolishness made it upstairs.
To be shocked by the fact that Trump was running for president, and gaining support in spite of the opinions he voiced or the way he conducted himself, was to be shocked that America is America. The election, for me, was a reflection of ourselves and our shortcomings.
Nothing shocks me about what our society has become or what it’s arguably always been in one form or another. Every country has its flaws and historical baggage. We’re no better or worse than anyone except in our potential to be better than we are.
We have so much knowledge. We’re privileged and prosper in ways that are out of reach for much of the globe. We have the benefit of worldly exposure and unmatched diversity, and the lessons that our freedoms teach us, as much by being given as by being taken away.
As a nation, we can and should know better – whatever better there is to know – yet we fail each other and ourselves again and again.
We divide ourselves over things that amount to dust in the vastness of the universe and the shortness of our lives in spite of that division yielding nothing productive or good. We’re weak when we need to be strong, giving in to prejudice, giving in to ego, giving in to stupor, hatred or spite.
We’re petty because we can be and we’re entertained by drama. We instigate shit out of boredom and are distasteful out of trendy habit.
We chase everything harder than we chase bettering ourselves on the inside – including looking better on the outside – because being a better person requires too much effort and doesn’t sow enough external rewards.
We talk about how shameful it is that XYZ is still a problem in [current year] without taking it to heart that our progressive ideas were hashed and rehashed by brilliant, divergent minds throughout history.
We ignore the fact that people were saying this shouldn’t be a problem today when “today” was a thousand years ago, and we’ve still yet to achieve peace.
I don’t care to attribute it to some divine plan. I’d rather say it’s for the simplest of reasons: Some people are just too shitty for peace to prevail.
There will always be a percentage of the population that’s happiest when others are miserable, there will always be those who put their wants above other people’s needs, and there will always be those who prefer the suffering of others over what they perceive to be the compromising of themselves or their values. It’s human nature.
(It just comes more naturally to some than others.)
The best we can ask for is that the good ones outnumber the shitty ones from time to time – and many Americans were devastated when Trump won because it felt like undeniable proof that the good ones are in the minority.
I don’t believe that.
In spite of being painfully aware of our shortfalls and guessing that Trump was going to win because of them, I still believe most Americans would let go of the crap that drives us apart if it meant a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
Things just haven’t gotten bad enough for them to concede. People are still comfortable enough to be dicks about race, religion, and the like. We’re lucky that way. And the rest don’t know how to make things better, so they’re grasping at straws.
Back to the accident waiting to happen, I said nothing because I considered the outcome inevitable. Whether I said my piece or not, people were going to vote for Trump – lots of them – and nothing I had to say about it would have been any different from the things already being said.
In short, I was over it before it started, but people still wanted to hear my thoughts, so I figured I’d give them now for the new year and be done with it…
A lot of Trump supporters felt that the people vilifying him were just melodramatic liberals too blinded by some politically correct agenda to recognize him as the most rational choice. And a lot of anti-Trumps felt his supporters were a bunch of dumb backwater bigots who praised his unethical ideology.
I didn’t fall on either side of that fence and it goes back to what I said about elections being a gamble. There’s no sure thing. No candidate is guaranteed to be a good president or bad.
And as much as people think that being well-versed in the positions put forth by each candidate makes them more suitable to vote than someone who knows very little about their stance or the acts they’ve committed in the past, an educated guess is still a guess.
So I could muddy the water with a bunch of political mumbo jumbo, but none of that is necessary or even relevant. When asked to place my faith in one person or another, I’m always going to bet on the one who puts humanity first – or, in this case, not pick the one who unapologetically sets it aside.
Regardless of their position on things like healthcare, abortion, gay marriage, immigration, business, and foreign policy, the president is going to be put in situations every day where difficult choices have to be made, and I care about how they’ll make them.
Even if I disagree with their decisions, I want to know that the human part of that equation wasn’t taken lightly or steeped in a fundamentally negative bias.
Someone of the character to care about human beings as a single unit will take that perspective into consideration with each choice and conflict they face. That’s far more important to me than trying to weigh promises candidates aren’t even obligated to keep.
Once we the people were on the table and the question of how laws and efforts would affect us required its due, I felt that Trump would lead with a self-serving prejudice and frame his decisions within the confines of that prejudice, creating a very narrow path for this country to walk. I felt he would lack the care and finesse of a thoughtful leader in favor of being impetuous.
Moreover, I felt he would act in accordance with the worst parts of his nature – the parts that many Americans shared quietly, yet emboldened in him – though without the characteristics of leadership required to temper it.
Long story short, I didn’t trust Trump as a person, so I damn sure didn’t vote for him as a president.
It’s that simple.
I know many boiled the election down to voting for an asshole who was at least honest about it versus voting for a liar, but I’m of the mindset that all leaders lie, whether to protect the people or themselves. So I can vote for a liar if need be because I suffer no delusion that an honest person has ever taken office or left it.
But I can’t vote for someone I want to slap every time he opens his mouth on principle because he acts against the good of the people in favor of the good of himself and his class.
At any rate, the fact remains that some people did vote for Trump, and I don’t hate them for it. Yes, some of them are dicks and used Trump’s campaign as a platform for their ignorance, but I think most of them were regular people who felt they were voting for change.
Just like those who voted for Obama.
I don’t care what anyone says. People didn’t vote for Obama because he was (half) black. Not directly. They voted for him because he was something other than what they had, and in that, they saw the potential for things to be different.
Change is a powerful temptress – one that many Americans felt compelled to court. Unfortunately, I think the change Trump supporters were hoping for may come at a price they hadn’t considered. Everything happening now is merely a glimpse at the fox they put in the hen house. There will be more.
But maybe that’s exactly what we needed. Seeing so many of his supporters recant, this may be their wake-up call, just as Trump’s win was a wake-up call for the naive who thought it could never have happened.
Maybe as things decline further and Trump voters become increasingly disillusioned, their regret for having played a part in putting him in office will prompt them to revisit their priorities.
Maybe they’ll reexamine themselves to figure out why on Earth they thought voting for someone generally presumed to be a greedy, racist, sexist, homophobic narcissist who cares only about the rich and powerful would make our country better.
And maybe their desire to make up for the vote they cast will encourage them to come together with fellow Americans in a way they haven’t before, working harder to undo what was done as a nation. To that end, looking back, on November 9th, I tweeted this:
Don’t let the outcome of this election be your defining moment. Accomplish as human beings what we may have failed to accomplish as voters.
And that’s where my opinion rests.
Trump may be our president, but he doesn’t have to be our voice. We still choose who we want to be as individuals and that’s what shapes who we are as a country. We can show each other and the world the America that we want to live in and be known for by pushing for something greater than numbers on a page.
Not to sound like the oracle on the hill, but be wary of things to come, because this climate has the potential to tear us apart from the inside out. This is how empires fall. Don’t sit back and watch it happen. Be better people. You, me, everyone.