COMMENTARY: If you’re a Trump supporter (I’m not), I want to tell you something you may have never heard on social media. You aren’t stupid. You aren’t ignorant. You aren’t a jackass or a lesser form of life. I’m sorry you have been hearing that so much over the last decade. Your opinion is just as valid as mine and your concerns are just as real.
In fact, you are smart enough to see through efforts by Katy Couric and NBC news to doctor video and audio and make folks that have the same viewpoint as you look stupid. You are logical enough to understand that a country with near-record numbers of food stamp recipients is not demonstrating a “fixed” economy. You recognize when you’re talked down to and probably pretty tired of that too. I know I am.
I have a few friends who support Trump vocally. The most vocal perhaps is a half Asian, half Hispanic gay man who lives in Los Angeles, and he is an absolutely brilliant man (though I disagree with his Trump support). I only illustrate that to show not all of Trump’s supporters are angry white men (clinging to our guns — I wonder if that statement by Obama inspired anyone to support Trump now?).
I also have a few friends who support Trump quietly because they are afraid of the attacks that would be heaped on them if they “came out of the closet.”
Most of them can’t explain his economic policy to me. They don’t understand how the wall will be built or how Mexico will pay for it. Some don’t even care about the wall at all. That’s not why they support him, though — which would be easy to pass off as simple ignorance. In a certain sense it is. But they feel let down by the plans and promises of campaigning politicians so they forgo the intricacies of policy, and Trump certainly seems to recognize that.
But what Trump supporters do have in common is the abuse they’ve endured for disagreeing with the president (any disagreement must be racist), reproduction rights (must be sexist), transsexual bathrooms (must be a bigot), etc. They haven’t been refuted by facts but instead silenced by slander. And now they see the same knee-jerk accusations leveled at Trump, yet he just keeps going. Agree with him or not, they respect that — and I absolutely understand it.
But let’s call a spade a spade. Some Trump supporters have demonstrated violent tendencies. His name has been cited as inspiration for the beating of an innocent immigrant. One of his supporters even got arrested at an event for sucker punching a protestor. We demand accountability from Trump!
Of course, it isn’t his supporters throwing rocks and flaming shirts, breaking windows, injuring fellow citizens, and destroying property. Those folks support another candidate. Yet who’s to blame for the chaos at a Trump rally? Trump, of course, and not the other candidate who was also asked to reign in his supporters. That request wasn’t because of the danger they pose at a Trump event but instead because of rude treatment of Hillary Clinton and other Democrat officials.
Not surprisingly, Trump supporters see that as a terrible double standard. Also not surprising, their complaints fall on indifferent ears.
So where do we go from here? Trump is the Republican candidate, like it or not. We could certainly keep making fun of his name, his hair, the way he talks — you know, bullying. But how has that worked so far? We could keep attacking his supporters, which is much more productive than listening to gain an inkling of understanding as to why such a flawed candidate is so popular. We sure haven’t tried that yet.
Instead we keep belittling his supporters, who also happen to be our neighbors and co-workers. Shaming them into submission has backfired thus far.
So how about this: If you don’t want a Trump presidency, vote against him. Demonstrate kindness to those who disagree and recognize your will has very little meaning to them. On the bright side of that argument, you’ll recognize how little impact their will needs to have on your ideals.
Thomas Jefferson never considered a political disagreement to be cause for withdrawing friendship. We should try to emulate that today.
Jeff Parsons is an NMSU graduate who lives in Las Cruces and works in broadcasting. He has lived most of his life in the Land of Enchantment and is married with children.