Dina

“He loves America,” Dina says when I ask her to tell me the number one reason she voted for Trump.

We are talking by phone on Thursday evening, two days after the election. I had been put in contact with her by a mutual friend, a yoga instructor whose classes I often take. Dina is a massage therapist who was born in 1958.

“What do you mean?” I ask because that response seems both obvious and vague. Didn’t all the potential candidates love this country? Does one run for president and not love America?

Dina is a quirky combination of characteristics. Given her profession and the inclinations of our mutual friend, whose teaching is infused with an all-encompassing spirituality, I would have thought Dina would land somewhere left on the political spectrum. Instead, she’s a far-right Christian who hits every stereotypical evangelical nail on the head: opposes same sex marriage, thinks homosexuality is unnatural, and considers abortion murder. Before completing her license for massage, she was a cashier at a grocery store for 13 years. She became a Christian at age 25 at about the time her first marriage disintegrated.

“I just think everything he’ll do as president will be to our benefit,” she says, trying to clarify her statement about Trump loving America. “Like he’ll sign trade agreements only if they favor us or he’ll secure borders to make sure the people who live here are safe. He loves this country.”

As she explained, I found myself having to reorient my point of view.

I have such a different idea of what it means to “love America.” To me, it exists in the realm of ideas: equality, freedom, acceptance of a vast spectrum of being and expressing. My thoughts on the matter have been shaped by the Statue of Liberty and the famous poem that goes:

 “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Dina went on: “Trump’s life would have been so much better had he not run for president. I truly think he did it because he cares about this country. I think his top priority will be us.”

Dina’s love demands a concrete manifestation. The huddled masses are here, many of whom are not so far from wretched that they are eager to welcome more. She wants safekeeping; she wants the security of knowing a roof will always be over her head and the heads of her children. The star-spangled sky is great as long as that’s not all that’s overhead every night when you fall asleep.

I again got that sense of being at the looking glass, peeking into another version of reality. I could see how, from Dina’s perspective, the dramatic changes in our society over the last 20 or so years—the internet, globalization, the extension of civil liberties to more people—has eroded a sense of wellbeing. Changes that I might consider progress, she finds threatening. I don’t know exactly why this is, only that my ability to see it differently, and the fact that I’ve so easily shrugged off any other way of viewing it, is one of a number of qualities that marks me as privileged.

It’s sobering to realize the ways in which your vision is narrow when for so long you’ve congratulated yourself on how broad your scope. As if a mind can only open in one direction.

It’s possible that our approach to the topic was so different that “President of the United States” didn’t even have the same job description to us.

Dina is concerned with reinforcing our physical borders, identifying enemies, and focusing on national security. Her priorities include strengthening our country’s physicality in a world that’s becoming ever-more “virtual.” She wants our national identity to be reinforced in the face of globalization. She wants an “us” vs. “them.” I guess you could say that I’m more blasé on this matter. I like the idea of “us” being the entire world. I hope someday there is no “them.”

To me, a big part of what a president does is to represent the U.S. on a global scale, leading the charge when countries address matters that affect the entire planet like climate change or humanitarian issues like populations displaced by war and natural disaster.

I can see how my perspective can only exist in the context of a sense of security and, in that way, is a luxury. I also see how depending on what is meant by “loving America,” my version may not win first prize. And, really, who’s to say Dina’s isn’t a more accurate description for a job that’s title is also “Commander in Chief.”

So I’m sitting at the looking glass, but I’m starting to recognize a few words amongst the gibberish from the other side.

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7 thoughts on “Dina

  1. It will be interesting to see what the “other side” looks like during the coming four years. My projection of darkness may be entirely wrong. Sometimes I feel like we will all be hustled into a very large internment camp called, “America” where our song will be a whisper: “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” I am disliking this in between transition time where the news cable programs seem to be in disarray, repeating the same thing every hour waiting for a bomb to drop instead of creating different methods of delivery.

  2. What strikes me the most about Dina’s comments is that there is no possible meeting place for the two of us to even begin discussing things. Where do you begin? The world she sees doesn’t exist as far as I am concerned. Her total lack of historical knowledge and fact leaves me with nothing to say. There has never been a time that territorial OR fiscal (trade, for instance) nationalism has benefitted America, and it won’t now. Nor has history shown that it is possible to keep out the ‘bad’ guys and BE SAFE!!!! Who are the ‘them’ that Dina and all of Trump’s America are so afraid of?

    There is no space for meeting, any more than there was space for meeting of minds between Abolitionists and Southern slave owners. And it is my strong feeling that we are back at the borders of a civil war that is fully as divisive as the last. Unfortunately, it is not going to be as simple as separating state from state, nothing as easy as North vs South. We are too intertwined as a society for that. I don’t know what it is going to take. My hope is that when the rabid nationalists have had their run and run smack up against the rabid nationalists that seem to be also winning in places like Britain…..and things DON’T get better, because it IS a global society……..well, maybe sanity will return. But I agree with Frank that it will be dark til it’s over.

    As I woke up this morning, before getting out of bed, I spent some time praying. Praying that I can continue to trust “All shall be well…..” That’s about all I know to do other than to refuse to ‘normalize’ Trump and his insanity and say NO, this is NOT how America should be.

    Patti

  3. Perhaps I should add more….In the past few weeks, I have been more than quieted to a whisper. At times I have been so stunned that I have become mute. But I am not willing to stay that way. The Sunday after the elections, several women were standing in the Fellowship hall of my Unitarian Universalist Church discussing the March on Washington (the other Washington!) and the other Marches mirroring them. We decided that we here in Yakima should have our own march, allowing the local women and supporters to stand up and be counted. Many here are disenfranchised/marginalized, and we are inviting them in to show that they do, indeed, have a voice. It is a very exciting endeavor. And we will exercise our first amendment rights….while we still have them….

    I emailed Corinna privately about the dilemma of having a sister….whom I am very close to…who voted for Trump and his governing through tweeting….44 characters at a time. Who disdains half of the people he is supposed to represent. No compassion. No civility. I could go on. My sister’s comments leave me shaking my head: “You act like I alone elected Trump. I only had one vote” Really? She and her husband are not fundamentalist Christians, but certainly have a closed belief system where politics are concerned. I generally just try to say NO to any talk of politics….to a point where my sister believes that I am not political. Really, not so, but I see no way to have a discussion with such a huge gap between us. It angers my sister when I won’t “listen” to her values and beliefs. I just don’t understand how we could have come from the same set of parents!

    Trying to translate the language from the Trump playbook….Take back America….We are the ones who love America? I don’t know, Corinna. I am not sure that I am ever going to be willing to concede that my view of America is less than what our Founding Fathers (and Mothers!!) wanted for us…..especially where the Constitution is concerned. But keep at it…this trying to find common ground….maybe it will help me gain understanding and even forgiveness.
    Merrill

  4. I too am grateful for your open hearted approach to create a bridge to others who we seem amazed at for voting for someone who we so dislike and disdain. It can be difficult to say the least, yet I am sure we will all find our way to keeping love in our hearts and refusing to let fear rule over us. If we listen to the still voice within the temple of our hearts we will know how we can each best move forward. Perhaps some of us will need to step forward and march in the streets. Perhaps others of us will find ways to touch other people and share the love in our hearts. ie tutoring, hospice, etc.

    I believe there is a reason for all that happens, and that divine spirit is the moving force offering us opportunities to grow and become greater vehicles for love in our communities. For myself, I have become involved with our local interfaith council to see the commonality in all of our paths. And, secondly I continue to sing HU, (pronounced the like the name Hugh) a sacred name and love song to God, that helps me keep my heart open to life and to try and see the divine spark of God the resides that within each of us, regardless of the beliefs or actions we express.

    It’s challenging to say the least and I wish you all the best, and am grateful for this opportunity to hear and express what is in our hearts.

  5. As I said before, to call oneself a Christian and at the same time support Trump is a massive exercise in cognitive dissonance. In both the Old and New Testaments, we are commended to treat the aliens among us with respect, not label them rapists or terrorists. Dina says Trump “loves his country” yet sees no problem with him ignoring the clear evidence of Russian interference with the election, or demaning vast segments of our population.

    What really takes me aback is how she can reconcile the level of moral certainty she seems to have about many issues: abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, with the Trump camp’s instance that truth and reality have no meaning beyond what they say it is at the moment. As a Christian, I have bedrock beliefs that are unshakeable: that we must speak the truth in love, that to treat anyone with disrespect insults the God who created us, and that to presume we know how God will judge others does nothing but bring down coals on our own heads. How does Trump’s belief that truth and facts have no meaning possibly fit into her worldview?
    She wants security, and what she got is a person who has already unnecessarily antagonized China and stated, with no proof, that the bus attack in Germany was a terrorist attack of a “Muslim” terrorist against “Christian” shoppers. Did the bus driver check ID’s before he went on his rampage?

    Corinna, in your post, you said she wants an us versus them, that security must somehow define the “other” for us to be safe. That is not Jesus’ way and denies reality. Dylan Roof gunned down eight people in a church and he was neither Muslim nor an immigrant. Timothy McVeigh killed almost 300 people, many of them innocent children, and he wore the uniform and took an oath to defend this country. How do we define “us” when so many of “us” are really “them”?

    I’m afraid I’m not as open-minded as you are, Corinna. I don’t seek to understand people like her because to do so would legitimize the politics and religion of fear and hatred. Just because someone firmly believes something doesn’t elevate it to the level of reality or faith. In a world where truth and facts have no value, I will stubbornly insist there are moral and temporal absolutes that cannot be violated, no matter how vigorous the mental or ethical gymnastics one chooses to use to deny them.

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