This has been a really hard month, politically speaking.
And I find myself asking, “How could this happen?” I think many people, myself included, did not take a Trump presidency seriously, including the media. Hell, I don’t think that Trump took the idea of a Trump presidency seriously.
Here in Austin, I think the same is true of much of big city America. I find myself surrounded by people, on social media and otherwise, whose worldview is basically the same as myself.
But I caught myself thinking about the rest of America. Driving around Texas, I drive through countless small towns which at one time were thriving. They had some industry, whether it be farming or a processing plant or a boot factory, at which many of the townspeople worked, and around it they were safe and were able to create a livelihood for their families, a future for their way of life.
And now those industries are gone, gone overseas and outsourced and given over to large multinationals and factory farming. And these towns, these people are holding on out of sheer stubbornness to a way of life they’ve always lived in.
And maybe those people have never known a transgender person, or knew that they knew a transgender person, and maybe those people have never known a gay person, or knew that they knew a gay person, and maybe they don’t know any Muslims or POCs.
And by-and-large, those people are afraid. They’re afraid of the modern world which they feel has left them behind, that there might be no place in the world today, for themselves, for their families, for what they’ve always known.
I may not agree with those people, but to a degree I understand their fear. I understand the feeling of isolation that the rest of the world has grown beyond them and left them behind.
Many of these people don’t consider themselves bigots. Many of these people are the people who voted for Trump. Beyond facts, they feel like their livelihoods are under attack. They are afraid of a world in which they no longer fit in. They feel like they need to go back to some fictionalized time when they were safe and comfortable, when their families were safe and comfortable.
Oftentimes, when encountered with a worldview vastly different from my own, I have been as guilty as anyone of shutting people out, of deleting people or blocking people from social media.
And I think this has been the great failure of the left recently: We’ve shut people out as unreachable or not worthy of consideration.
In a way, we’ve marginalized small-town America. We’ve left people marginalized in what we see as antiquated ways of thinking, and feeling marginalized, they’ve struck out in anger and in fear.
Now is the not the time to sit back and wait. The very things I find great about this country, inclusion and diversity, are under attack. We must mobilize and fight the forces that seek to counter that diversity. But, if we’re going to develop, to evolve as humans, as an American people, as a country, we must find a way to listen to people, to converse with people, with some degree of empathy, even when those conversations are uncomfortable or confrontational. This is something I seek to develop in myself.