One week ago, I invited Trump voters over for dinner at my house. After posting a picture on Facebook (followed by this piece), I received a couple messages that essentially said, Trump voters are despicable people and your dinners are normalizing them so please stop.
Some of my immigrant family members would have been killed in their country for holding the wrong political views so they escaped to America and experienced racism and took menial jobs to survive, and they voted for Trump. Is my family despicable and abnormal? My Bolivian friend told me that the socially conservative pastor at her Spanish speaking church instructed parishioners to vote for Trump because they should not vote for abortion rights. Are those working class Latinos despicable and abnormal? A young, white woman who sat at my dinner table was descended from Syrian immigrants, had earned an advanced degree, attends arts events, and she voted for Trump. Is she despicable and abnormal? A middle-aged white man who contacted me on Twitter after reading about the dinner owns a small business and told me his mother was held in prison by the Russian communists for ten years, and he voted for Trump. Is he despicable and abnormal?
I’m angry at them for electing a despicable and abnormal man who is a sexist, racist, narcissistic, thin-skinned demagogue. However, I do not believe they are despicable or abnormal. To be sure, extreme factions of hateful Trumpsters exist. I am not interested in them. But not all people who voted for Trump are hateful. Some based their choices on wrong facts and misinformation. Some prioritized money over people. Some adhered to their socially conservative beliefs. Some hated Hillary that much. Whatever the reasons, I want to understand all of it so I can be part of the solution for figuring out how we never elect a person like Trump ever again.
It’s only been 40 days since the election. I’m still reeling from confusion and shock. Hashing out our collective pain over and over with like minded friends has been therapeutic. I understand why dinner detractors aren’t ready (and may never be willing) to break bread with Trump voters.
I am ready to fight and to take action. I am going to do so by meeting our political opponents in the ring (or over the dinner table, as the case may be). I applaud my dinner guests for their willingness to join me.
It would be so much easier to spend all my time complaining to people who already agree with my point of view. That tactic didn’t pan out so well, though. Inviting people to my home and having difficult, respectful conversations over a home-cooked meal is a tool of engagement that I am employing to combat racism, sexism, and inequality of all kinds.
I intend to find a different, new way forward that lifts up all Americans. To do that, I’m getting outside my bubble and getting really uncomfortable so that I can begin to understand all Americans.