Sunday, 25 December 2016

Me Among Trump Supporters

It’s hard to imagine that upon attending a school with fees upwards of $35,000 per annum, boasts more than 80 nationalities of students and is modelled on the values of Nelson  Mandela, I’d be sheltered. But the 2016 US elections have unveiled something I had genuinely been blind to - and that is the ubiquity of ignorance and intolerance. You’d think that a school whose core mission is to be accepting and progressive would house students equally so. But I have been proved terribly wrong.

My confidence in Clinton winning the elections was astounding. So much so that I scoffed at anyone who came up to me with a ‘But what if…’. I did not for a second allow myself to believe that the elections would ‘come close’ or that I would even have to check the polls to see who was ahead, because, of course Clinton would absolutely trump him, right? Right.

I realise now that this was a product of my having been brought up in an environment that never shed light on the immediacy of racism, on the realness of misogyny, on the tangibility of narrow-mindedness. When, like me, you’re thrown in a bubble environment where the world seems so perfect, so full of like-minded millennials who breathe equality in and out, the existence of anyone otherwise becomes distant, almost mythical. You begin to refer to these people as though they were some faraway creatures of a fictional land; how dare anyone be homophobic? Islamophobia? What does that even mean? How could anyone be so dumb as to be racist?!

But then Trump was elected. And I didn’t know how to react. And then I started this process of mourning for myself and my fellow liberal friends, who believed so whole-heartedly in the goodness of the world, who thought that we would grow up and skip happily ever after into the sunset holding the hands of our fellow Black, Muslim, Hispanic and Jewish friends. And then the Trump supporters started seeping in, and slowly but surely they began to show themselves, and this is what shook me. 

First it was my female Black friend, who, being the combination of two demographics Trump is known to be intolerant towards, I had the hardest time believing. 

“I don’t know… I just know that Hillary Clinton is racist… like, I know Trump is also racist, but like… I just know that if I had to vote, I’d vote Trump. Oh yeah, and Hillary lies a lot too.”

Yes, because we all know Trump is so tolerant of all races, right? And of course we all know of his immaculate, untainted history of telling the truth. (Wrong. 78% of his statements are false. Check the link at the bottom of this post titled “Donald Trump has been wrong way more often than all the other 2016 candidates combined”).

Truthfully speaking, to see just how many friends around me were breaking out of their shells as Trump supporters scared me, and more than that, gave me a wake up call. It enabled me to understand the realness of intolerance, and how even in the seemingly most progressive environments, bigotry pervades. This is the reality. This isn’t some bullshit liberal folktale woven by the words of our scholastic leaders, this is hard grounded reality. And the reality is that I’ve been sheltered from an overwhelming demographic of secret Trump supporters who believe Trump’s values aren’t ‘all that bad’.

Understanding this has destabilised me, and gripped me into a reality that I was sure to face sooner or later. I still now maintain the same friendships, but I would be lying if I said that I view my Trump supporting friends the same way I viewed them pre-elections. Because as much as people may talk about politics as though it were some abstract concept that doesn’t affect individual lives, one’s political outlook shares multitudes about the person, such as do they believe certain human beings deserve rights? What is their vision of a perfect world? What does the term ‘progressive’ mean to them? So while I do believe that a friendship is much more than political outlook, I simultaneously believe that politics can and have changed my opinions of those close to me.

Donald Trump has been wrong way more often that all the other 2016 candidates combined.

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