Earlier today, my friend and I were at Starbucks’ outside seating area and talking about the current politics, the upcoming election, and our mutual dislike of Trump. In the middle of our conversation, a man said “excuse me” and said that he’d like to say something.
I noticed that a little girl sat next to him, whom I assumed to be his daughter. I felt a sense of comfort initially, having the automatic judgment that a man with a daughter was more likely to be a decent person and have something fruitful to say regarding the election not in support of Trump. The man then started to defend those who voted for Trump, and implied that we were inconsiderate of both sides. This dude wasn’t yelling or screaming, and he talked in a way that seemed respectful. But just because someone is nice in attitude and demeanor does not necessarily reflect their character.
The guy went on and on about how people voting for Trump are “well-intentioned,” much like himself. He talked about how coal miners, in particular, were just striving to put food on the table and provide for their families, and how these people were benefitted by Trump– and thus they voted for him. In general, he talked about how people voting for Trump were voting for themselves and to be able to provide and survive.
And the thing is, as someone who is not voting for Trump and is very against voting for Trump, I get that. The thing is, this issue is something that encompasses everyone, some people more than others, across various people of different backgrounds and identities.
I think that regardless of political affiliation, people can agree that it is important for there to be jobs and for people to be able to survive and thrive financially.
But of course, there are people who are only concerned with thriving and surviving for themselves, for certain demographics of people, without a care of whether the means for those entails intentionally and systemically disadvantaging others. If you implement elements in politics meant to uplift the country as a whole on a basis of equity and equality, then you can’t disregard the rights and promote the exploitation of others.
The thing is, for those voting for Trump, for those like this man at Starbucks, they only care about how policies and results affect them and those they can most relate to.
They don’t care about issues that don’t directly affect them negatively. They don’t care that voting for Trump undoubtably is disastrous and dangerous for minorities and the marginalized, because the beneficial policies that benefit them specifically are worth implementing even if that entails endangering people that are different from them. Because, for them, at the end of the day, it’s their own story and survival that should be prioritized.
To them, they’re entitled to freedom and survival, but those different from them aren’t as deserving and worthy.
When I was actually able to get something into his twenty minute lecture, I mentioned how Trump’s policies were only to benefit certain groups of people while not just ignoring– but intentionally and systemically disadvantaging– minorities and marginalized groups. I brought up the concept of equity, and how that should be the goal for policies. I also brought up the point that I was Muslim, and that Trump’s policies entailed violence against Muslims.
Two things were interesting upon me mentioning my Muslim identity: one, the man’s face immediately fell and he looked down, his head bowed slightly, despite me maintaining eye contact (he looked quite distraught), and two, the man did not deny this concern.
But his obvious discomfort was very telling of him– perhaps he had not been expecting that I was Muslim, and it’s a safe bet to assume that the fact that I am Muslim made him uncomfortable because of negative notions he had toward people of my faith. It’s no secret that Trump has a history of discriminating against Muslims, and perhaps the man felt the shame and truth of that but didn’t want to acknowledge that part of Trump (because he couldn’t exactly argue against that and wanted to justify his presidency, and/or he perhaps justified such discrimination and violence). And perhaps his lack of knowledge and regards given to discriminatory policies that didn’t affect him made him insecure in openly acknowledging them and justifying them in front of me, because he probably knew that anything he would say would show how ignorant and bigoted he was.
But he didn’t stop there. As if to defend Trump despite his discrimination against Muslims, he brought up how Obama had more involvement in the Middle East than Trump did. The thing is, I’m not particularly a fan of Obama, but that’s a story for another time. I hope that many people on both sides of the political spectrum can agree that we should withdraw military involvement and violence from other countries, and I mentioned that to him.
I didn’t get to get this in to him at the time, but it occurred to me after– but how did he get to relating Middle Eastern involvement by the US from me mentioning Trump’s promotion of discrimination toward Muslims?
Of course, much of the violence perpetuated by the United States on Middle Eastern countries is fueled by the dehumanization of people who are not deemed Western enough and/or are non-caucasian. But for the dude at Starbucks to jump from Trump’s policies, affecting Muslims both within the United States and other countries and promoting White supremacist ideologies, to Trump’s lessened involvement in the Middle East in comparison to a previous president, shows his obvious deflection and willful ignorance of the violence and blood on Trump’s hands. To him, Trump’s promotion of religious discrimination and violence were not grand enough in the scheme of everything else; because according to him, after all, people who voted for Trump were only voting for what was good for them and that was justification enough for discrimination to be ignored.
Also, I myself am not Middle Eastern– I’m South Asian-American. Trump’s rhetoric and policies don’t just affect people in the Middle East– they affect people in the United States– and on the basis of religion.
People in the United States struggling to put food on their tables and feed their families doesn’t just include white Americans– it includes people of color, immigrants, and Muslims. On top of the struggle of finding and keeping jobs, people don’t need discrimination and bigotry to deal with. This dude who is obviously in a white-washed fantasy land laced with privilege fails to consider and let alone acknowledge how people different from him are affected.
He just doesn’t care enough, in additional to being willfully ignorant. And his willful ignorance is reflective of him not caring enough.
He doesn’t understand– or chooses to ignore– that his reasons for voting for Trump are discriminatory for innocent people whose struggles he chooses to invalidate and ignore.
Why didn’t this guy touch at all on how minorities in this country itself are affected, especially with Trump’s America-first rhetoric? Because Trump’s “America-first” is referring to the prioritization of white Americans with the simultaneous degradation and dehumanization of non-white Americans and Muslim Americans. And this Starbucks guy has jumped on board, justifying Trump’s presidency for the sake of privilege and reinforcing the privilege of a very specific demographic of people.
It’s not wrong that this man rooted for policies that created jobs and promoted financial stability. It’s not wrong that the man wants the economy of this country to be stable.
What’s wrong is that this man is willing to promote policies and a presidency that benefit him and a specific demographic at the dehumanizing expense and disposal of others.
What’s wrong is that this man is not bothered or concerned about Trump’s complicity and promotion of white supremacy and fascism.
What’s wrong is that this man trivializes and excuses bigotry.
For someone who promoted that my friend and I look at both sides, this guy certainly didn’t seem to do the same. His focus was very one-dimensional, something that his white privilege could afford him. His entire lecture was just that– a lecture, not a discussion, not a means for fruitful, mutual understanding, with his barely letting my friend and I get anything in, brushing over and deflecting from any points that we managed to make.
If this guy was so concerned about considering both sides, then why didn’t he do the same?
It’s also interesting to note that this man didn’t seem very well-versed and knowledgable regarding his own party information, either.
When I managed to mention the fact that Trump failed to condemn White supremacy in last night’s debate, the guy mentioned that he hadn’t been keeping up with politics and the news in general for the past several days. So the question is, how qualified is this man to even argue for his own side, let alone consider the opposing side?
Overall, it’s hard for me to say that Trump voters and/or supporters have to be bad people. Of course, there are Trump supporters– many, many Trump supporters– who are bad, horrible people (White supremacists and neo-Nazis, for one). But I’ve met people who are good, and seem to struggle with cognitive dissonance when it comes to Trump. For instance, many people who value human life and consider themselves pro-life vote for Trump in order to fulfill their moral consciousness of preventing what they perceive to be the murder of unborn children; but these same people are turning blind eyes to what’s happening in concentration camps under Trump’s administration. To what extent is this ignorance willful and to what extent is it not? Or it is completely willful?
As humans, no one is fully good and bad, but of course there are certain actions and characteristics that make a person a horrible person who deserves to go to Hell no matter what “good” things they may have done. No amount of good can ever compensate for any accomplishments of bigots and fascists who have innocent blood on their hands and are responsible for violence and discrimination that others face because of them. For instance, Aung San Suu Kyi is a horrible human being despite being previously awarded the Noble Peace Prize; she’s responsible for the Rohingya genocide and there is absolutely nothing, no amount of good deeds, that can outweigh her sins for the lives that she’s had taken and the people she’s had tortured.
I think that when it comes to people voting for Trump or thinking of voting for Trump, it comes down to a mix of understanding and knowledge and what someone consciously decides to do with the knowledge– do they choose to ignore it, or acknowledge, accept and justify it, or acknowledge and fight it when that knowledge is revealing of injustice, bigotry and fascism?
It comes down to people choosing to be good people. Does the wrong bother them enough, go against their morals and values enough (or at all)? Does the wrong make them uncomfortable, or does it make them complacent or even happy? If it doesn’t make them uncomfortable and concerned, then that is extremely telling of someone’s character.
The question is, for those who continue voting for Trump despite the discomfort– how could they?
Perhaps it’s because the discomfort of change (in political views and affiliations) and personal discomfort is more bothersome to them than is the promotion of racism, bigotry and fascism. Perhaps it’s because they genuinely don’t realize the damage being done, the extent of the danger affecting marginalized and targeted groups who are enthusiastically degraded and discriminated against; perhaps those who are proud conservative Republicans genuinely don’t realize the dangers of Trump and are voting with good intentions, but how good are those intentions when they are choosing to ignore the very real dangers? Perhaps it’s the desperation to be part of the inner circle and feel the bond and belonging that only Trump supporters feel with each other, the nationalism disguised as patriotism, is an effective motivator and reinforcer. Perhaps it’s several other reasons and excuses.
As for this Starbucks dude, I think that he wants to be a good person– he tried convincing us as such through his twenty minute lecture. But the thing is, is he more concerned with being a good person truly, or with others accepting him as one?
This question can be related to Trump himself, and politicians in general, too– are they really concerned about character or performance for the sake of power?
And an overall question to consider relevant across the Republican and Democratic spectrum is this: is bigotry a deal breaker or not, and what does that say about someone?
What else is at stake? And how does cognitive dissonance come into play, and what does that say?