Sarah

My last conversation for this phase of my project speaking with female Trump voters would be in person with Sarah, born in 1963. As I drove to our meeting spot, I had time to reflect on what this experience had taught me. It hadn’t made me more of a Trump fan, but it had done something important—though I was still trying to figure out what.

As a university professor who practices yoga, attends a Unitarian church, and lives in the Pacific Northwest, Sarah is not your typical Trump voter. In fact, just about everyone in her social network is opposed to Trump. In the weeks leading up to the election, she took a yoga retreat with a group of girlfriends. The campaigning was in full swing, and the audio of Trump’s comment about “p—y grabbing” had just become public. Perhaps emboldened by the assumption that everyone in their midst felt the same, the women spent much of the weekend criticizing Trump.

Sarah found herself in an awkward position. She did not feel safe speaking up. She would have liked to engage in a conversation about the reasons she would be voting for Trump—her preference for his party’s stance on abortion, what she believed was his more serious approach to homeland security, his focus on keeping jobs—but she worried about her friends’ reactions. She thought it unlikely that level heads would prevail, so she kept her mouth shut.

Had the women on the retreat known that an alternative perspective was in their midst, would they have wanted Sarah to speak up? Or was it better to maintain the impression that they were all on the same page? Certainly that illusion was more comfortable. But since when did failing to acknowledge a point of view ever benefit society? Isn’t that a big part of what has made the current socio-political climate so painful—the biases that are being revealed? And not just that they exist, but the force with which they have come forward?

In the days after the election, Sarah’s town organized a “peace” vigil. (Perhaps this was code for “anti-Trump”?) Regardless, Sarah took the event’s label at face value. Among the candle-holding attendees, she spotted an acquaintance from her church. She approached and greeted the woman who she considered a friend. On this evening, the friendliness was not returned. The acquaintance, who knew Sarah had voted for Trump, asked what she was doing at the vigil and told her that she should to leave.

As she recalls this encounter to me, Sarah’s eyes well up. She does not strike me as someone who cries easily, and I can tell how hurt she was, and still is, by this encounter.

Several days after our conversation, I’m still thinking about it.

I suspected that this blog project would circle back to what I learned during my explorations into religions. At last it appears the eagle is landing. During those years of worshipping with Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims, I came to understand that the one truth each faith points to is humanity’s interconnectedness. If this is so, then each of us is, in our own way, accountable for the ideas and actions of the collective. It’s an uncomfortable notion, but one that challenges us to do better.

This endeavor has been a personal test. Can I tolerate viewpoints that differ from my own? Perhaps even some I dislike or might consider harmful? Can I sit calmly with the discomfort that acknowledging these ideas may create within me?  Am I strong enough to admit when aspects of those ideas exist within me? What if I thought that ideas denied—forced into hiding—only gather potency? What if the light of attention works to diminish an idea’s ability to do harm? What if listening is a radical political act?

Trump does not take this approach. He lashes out at opinions or viewpoints that do not support his own. He seems unable to give opposing thoughts the space or respect they need simply to exist. What he does not appear to understand is that he empowers the ideas he denies.

I want to take Trump’s example in this regard and do the opposite. If humanity is a singularity, as religions tell us, then whatever thoughts and feelings some of us are having are part of the bigger picture. No amount of rejection will change that reality. The challenge, then, is to tolerate the discomfort of disagreement, even if it means uncovering in ourselves some of the same characteristics we find distasteful in others. There is no hope for peace if we can’t even listen to one another.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Sarah

  1. Applause! Applause! Most likely we come to revelations about things that resonate to our inner self and find the space of love and acceptance as we recognize that others are doing the same and are entitled to their uniqueness. As with every finger print and snow flake we make up the One Life experiencing our humanness in the midst of a spiritual consciousness. Ah…humanity.

    Frank

    On Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 9:05 AM, One None Gets Some wrote:

    > Corinna Nicolaou posted: “My last conversation for this phase of my > project speaking with female Trump voters would be in person with Sarah, > born in 1963. As I drove to our meeting spot, I had time to reflect on what > this experience had taught me. It hadn’t made me more of a Trump” >

  2. True. Yet when I see all the people being harmed and about to be harmed by Trump’s words and policies and the GOP’s current world-changing legislative endeavors, I have a very, very hard time with it. Especially because of how clearly he signaled exactly who he was. At the minimum, I look at these people as eagerly complying with evil in order to maintain their solidarity with their scared and deeply self-serving white tribe. I think I have the HARDEST time dealing with people who claim they do this because they are pro-life. If that were true, they’d be out fighting for prenatal care and health care and food and a living wage for the poor. But they almost never are (yes, I know there are some exceptions — but most of these exceptions appear incapable of doing the math and trying to help the most people vs. maintaining their own sense of purity). Having said that, though, I also know they mostly live in a pervasive alt-reality where they can feel good about their choices right up until the moment it results in disaster for them personally.

  3. Sarah’s church acquaintance was certainly out of line. Shutting each other down is never going to fix this divide. I am surprised that she was with good friends that did not notice her quietness and lack of response to questions. But I also wonder why she seemed to have dismissed their concerns. I get that she likes what the republicans/Trump say they stand for…I question how she rationalized all the things that her friends were concerned about. I guess I question that about all the women that you have interviewed, and all the people that voted for Trump. Yes, I see how Trump and the republicans spoke to some of their concerns. But, I don’t understand how it counters his general conduct, behavior and temperament which everyone seems to agree is not consistent with how we would want our president to represent us. It is like somehow the ends will justify the means (to use a tired cliché), but, to me, this has never been more false.

  4. Although I inderstand your conclusion, I hold very little hope that the people who voted for the current president, have any willingness, intention, and perhaps even capacity to reciprocate. That leaves me feeling that whatever effort I might make would be fruitless in resolving our national/world dichotomy. Hope your’re right-I’m willing to try it because I’ll feel more hopeful than I do now!

  5. Unfortunately, I share Valerie’s perception of Trump’s followers. I saw an interview last night with an ardent female Trump follower who sounds much like Sarah. She said, despite the obvious incompetence, the moral hypocrisy, and the complete and utter dishonesty of the man and his cortege, she still supports him because she hated Hillary so much. She couldn’t articulate any reasons for her hatred, other than what she heard and read on Fox and Breitbart. There is simply no way to reach an understanding with that kind of blind animosity—it must be stridently and consistently opposed. Sometimes, there really aren’t two sides to the story. We can speak the truth in love, but the truth must still be spoken. From the early 1950’s on, Harry Truman called Richard Nixon out as a liar in public to his face, and didn’t stop to have a “dialogue”. He was right and anyone who said Nixon was ‘redeemed” was wrong. I don’t particularly agree with the way Sarah was treated by her church friend, but I understand it. I cannot fathom how any decent person can support Trump. Sorry, but there is a point where trying to understand someone merely enables the evil you’re trying to thwart. This is one of those times, and we will be held accountable by history for what we did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s