To the people in my hometown who voted for Trump

Hey.

It’s been a while since I spoke with you. It’s intentional.

I lived among you in a small Georgia town during a highly charged time in my life, my teenage years. During my time with all of you, I felt marginalized, pushed to the fringes, and completely unheard. I was told regularly that I was going to hell, my beliefs in tolerance and acceptance of others were naive and unholy, that had I dated a black man I would be socially rejected, and that all the things I’d been raised to hold dear were patently unsupported.

I have never felt more alone than I did among all of you.

I have had so much anger and resentment over 2016’s election. I can’t fathom how anyone with a heart or a head could have voted for a monster. But I forget that 14 years erases many memories. I forget I’ve been living among my people since I ran away from all of you.

I realize in this moment, though, that in the same way I felt so ostracized and erased by you, you’ve felt the same way for years about the city folk I find my home with. Your way of life has not only been threatened, it’s been all but erased for years, and you are desperate.

I believe many of you were racist, xenophobic, and homophobic when I lived with you. I also believe, and hope, that most of you have evolved in the past two decades. I have watched many of you fork away into lives of your own outside of our country town, choosing to expose yourself to a point of view other than your own. I have also watched your town begrudgingly welcome “some gays” who renovated plantation homes near the church – and then, much to your shock, join your Baptist church. (“They’re actually very nice; we were concerned they were heathens but they’re actually normal people.”)

I have seen the race gap closing by micro-inches at a time, as your Millennials marry each other and give birth to some of the most beautiful, race-ambiguous children you’ve ever seen. I can see the stigmas falling away, albeit 30 years behind the rest of the world.

I am furious at you. But I don’t believe most of you voted Trump out of hate.

We elitist liberals, particularly those of us who have the inherent benefit of being straight and white, have the privilege to denounce you and scream, “How can you care about your taxes when my rights, and the rights of my neighbors, are at stake?”

I forget quickly that if I’d asked, your response might have been, “How can you care about your neighbors’ rights when my family can’t eat?”

I get it. I get it. You needed a system shake-up and you voted for the man who promised it. Your jobs are disappearing and your town is dying. The Town Square is a shell of its former self and the church is rapidly losing members. Half the county is on welfare and you struggle between needing to enroll yourself and chastising those who milk the system, because you’re proud of how hard you work to support your family, even when tough times make your paycheck meager. Washington hasn’t given a shit about you for years, and even though I believe he tried his damndest to pass legislation to help you and was often stopped by dissenters from the opposite party, Obama has indeed largely failed on his promise of change for you.

Your desperation urged you to miss the hint that Trump (and I say this with no quiver in my voice) will fail you, spectactularly. He has only ever demonstrated one consistent value in his life: pure and total self-interest. I suspect you see this, too. But you also knew for sure (and I’m apt to agree) the alternative would fail you as well. At least this guy screamed, “Fuck the system.”

Here’s where I can’t go: I can’t accept that we’ve landed here. I don’t actually believe that in this long ideology war between you and me since I lived with you, that I lost and you “finally won.” I don’t think it’s about winning and losing right now. It’s about fixing this terrible mistake.

Let’s all agree on a few things, if we can.

  • The system has failed you, and we failed to notice.
  • The person coming into power will not save you and now has no incentive to care.
  • This awful moment has presented us an opportunity to change the system for the better. Because for all the awfulness that came out this week, we liberals now have an incentive to listen to you – and we wouldn’t have otherwise.

 

But I need you to understand the side that is so passionately protesting right now as well. For our fault in ignoring you, you have also adamantly chosen to insulate yourselves from our side. Let’s be clear: this is not an issue of sour grapes, it’s actually an issue of the same Christian values you yourselves promote. Tolerance and love of others, inclusiveness and making people feel safe, finding the common humanity in others. And on Tuesday, everyone who wasn’t a straight white man felt as marginalized as you have for years… and even worse, they lost all sense of personal safety. WWJD?

We have to fix this for them, too. The easy road is to live inside of a bubble and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. But this road will end. You have the choice now to embrace another path, and to get outside of your comfort zone to recognize the hate wrought upon this world because the same system-shaker you supported is also tacitly encouraging a civil war. You must do the hard thing, the uncomfortable thing, and open your minds and hearts to your fellow man. Wear your safety pin knowing you voted with your heart but need to change your mind. Our country depends on you right now, because without your support, in four years, we will oust this president and return to status quo. Without mutually working on empathy, we will continue to fight each other.

I am angry with you. Against all the values I was raised with, I dance on the precipice of hate. But I am trying to understand your fucking side, because I know there is one. I just need to hear that you’re going to work with me to fix this disaster we’re in, so some of this anger can dissipate and you won’t feel pushed back to the fringes the next time around. So that as we ride this roller coaster of horror for the next four years, we agree that we’re all going to fix it and truly not let love trump hate… on either side.

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