Talking to Trump Supporters and Staying Nasty - by Greer Clem
I spent my last evening being 22 on a plane with my mom. This was our big mother daughter trip and we're both brimming with anticipation. My mom has the window seat, I'm in the middle, and there's a man - mid 50s - on the aisle. He's immediately chatty, asking me about myself and where I was from and seems to be friendly enough. I take out a big pile of work, some studying, some writing, and he starts asking me about myself and my goals. Inevitably, as they always do, politics come up. He's asking me questions and I quickly realize that he and I are not on the same side of a lot of issues. In the beginning, it seems to be a sort of rousing debate. As always, I welcome the chance to challenge my ideas and someone else's. I had also just finished the first few chapters of Hillary's new book so I'm feeling extra patriotic.
As the conversation continues, we digress into the fundamental issues that divide Americans today. This man espouses the belief that anyone who wants a better life would pull themselves up and work hard and create opportunities. He thinks if you gave everyone the same amount of money it would be an equal playing field. I point out that, no, it wouldn't, because money doesn't solve issues of systemic racism and injustice, etc. We go on like this, my mom periodically jumping in with her characteristic passion that brings a smile to my face as I think, "Poor bastard, he's done it now." The dialogue continues and it becomes more and more apparent that this man just doesn't see the issues I see. Whether he refuses to or merely isn't aware I'm not sure. He doesn't see how Trump's six month deportation timeline for Dreamers is problematic, arguing that, as a businessman, you have to know how to incentivize people. He thinks immigrants who come to our country, who, as I point out, are seeking refuge from systemic violence, are illegal, end of story. We go around and around and on and on. He says, "You're a smart girl, look into Podesta. Look into Comey. He and Hillary should both be in jail." I look at my mom and sigh - there's no point going down that rabbit hole.
I am a smart girl. But more than that, I refuse to let my world be occupied only by what I know. People may think I am pandering or exaggerating, but truly I lie in bed at night thinking about how I want to make equal education available to all children, about how healthcare is a universal right. How we need to expand jobs that involve automation. How we have to save our planet. These issues that are so much bigger than myself occupy my mind so often that they have become part of my identity. And I feel that this is the greatest privilege of being an American. I know that I am a white, middle class, heterosexual female. I know I will never fully comprehend systemic injustice in the same way as someone in different circumstances. But what make me and this man different is that I will never stop trying to. I will never stop fighting to better this country for all citizens.
I end by saying that I wish him well and that I'm grateful for the chance to share our different opinions. To be honest, I'm mostly trying to smooth things over since we have 5 hours left in the flight and he's six beers deep. There's a lady sitting across from us who has been mouthing, "He is unbelievable!" at me the whole time. She comes over when he gets up to get another beer and says how much she appreciates what my mom and I said. She says she's involved with Hillary's new organization, Onward Together, and I promptly give her my card. A few minutes later, she turns around and says, "I love the name!" For the first time since this whole incident began, I feel tears welling in the corners of my eyes, not because I am upset, but because I am so completely, purely grateful for this moment with another nasty woman. The man is coming back to his seat, so she puts my card away and returns her bag to its place, but we smile once more at each other. We share a moment of nastiness - of knowing we are in the same fight. The man next to me told me my views were dark, that I saw an America that wasn't real, that I have hatred in my heart. But really what I have is love. I have a love for my country so great it consumes me. I have a hope for our nation so strong it propels me. I have my mom by my side and I'm about to turn 23, one of the most important years of my life almost behind me. So I get out my neck pillow and I go to sleep, not filled with despair or hate or anger, but with determination and hope. And, yes, always love.