From my perspective…
We mostly connect with people who are like us. Our contact with folks who are different primarily comes through media — television, movies, books, social media — or through interactions that revolve around commerce — at a store, restaurant, service station. There are a few anomalies within our bubbles, but mostly we gather with people like us. We’ve been living in this way since we were born. Some of us have expanded or diversified our bubbles and others hop between different bubbles.
Most of us hold preconceived ideas about what folks who live in different bubbles are like. We develop these ideas from the personal experiences we have with people who are different. Our ideas of others are also shaped by what we’ve been taught by our parents, in schools, through the media and from our peers. These preconceived ideas can become dangerous and lead to stereotypes, discrimination, hatred, and ultimately violence. On top of all of that, people in some bubbles are granted access to things that people in other bubbles are denied, such as healthcare, healthy food, jobs, housing, quality education, etc.
I think that there are many people who are living so deeply inside our own bubbles, intentionally or unintentionally, that we are missing a lot of what is happening at this time in history. We are blind to life in other bubbles. We can’t see the ways we are affecting each other. And the bigger picture is absent to us. There are also plenty who straight-up hate people in other bubbles. This intentional and accidental ignorance keeps us from working towards a future that is good for all of us. I believe it is fueling a divisiveness that is present and growing.
Meanwhile… from a systemic perspective… there are individuals with the power to make decisions that impact the lives of the masses (most of the bubbles). As I understand it, in the United States, we have a government system that says, ‘the people’ can influence those decisions by electing leadership and providing input to how the elected officials govern.
I believe that if our system worked well, we would live in a country where ALL the people living on and contributing to this land and its people would be treated with dignity and respect. We would have leadership that represented our most shared values. Everyone would be able to live as their authentic self, free to contribute their gifts and be fairly rewarded for their contributions. Everyone would be able to express their love and culture with pride. And when there is conflict or violence in the system, we would be able to address it in just and humane ways.
I don’t believe our system works well, and yet I am still living under its dominance. Therefore, I believe in voting and in doing everything I can to influence the leadership that has the ability to make decisions that impact the masses. I want for our country’s leadership to be as intelligent, compassionate, honest, and just as possible. I want for that leadership to genuinely strive to serve all of the people living on and contributing to this land and its people, not just a select few.
I am currently deeply troubled by our governing systems and especially alert to the political climate we are in right now. I pray that the kind-hearted, compassionate and courageous people (the masses from many different bubbles) will find the collective strength to influence the decisions that influence our lives. This includes the lives of people that are inside our own bubbles and people in other bubbles. From the long view, I believe that it will be the compassion and actions of these good people that will shift the political climate and demand movement towards a system or systems that work better for all, towards leadership that leads effectively and compassionately.
Given all this, I attended a Trump rally on September 12th in Asheville, NC in efforts to better understand the folks that feel that Trump would make a good president of this country. I also wanted to feel the tone of his rally’s now, beyond clips and soundbites. I watched a full rally during the primaries in March and was extremely alarmed by what I saw. In the 6 months since then, I perceive that there has been an escalation of violence and hatred felt by many across the country. The divides between people are growing extreme. And I believe that Trump and his rallies have contributed to this escalation.
People asked me to share about my experience at the rally. I’m not accustomed to political commentary. I didn’t imagine it was going to be so hard to write or that I’d need to use so many words!
My perceptions of the rally sit within the context of all these other beliefs I’ve just shared. I can only see through my bubble, wrapped in the filters of my identity and all the lenses I wear, some consciously and many unconsciously.
Here are a few components of my bubble that feel relevant to how I perceived this rally:
- I come from, grew up in, and live in a middle class household. I was raised by two working parents in a divorced home. During my childhood, we didn’t live luxuriously, but our basic needs were more than taken care of. We had money for leisure. At college age, some of my family experienced financial wealth. People close to me have and currently do live in poverty, but I have never had that experience myself.
- I have been fortunate in my ability to find work since I was 15 years old. People who live in bubbles similar to mine, hired me and gave me opportunities. I have also been able to take professional and entrepreneurial risks because I had financial support from family. Access to generational wealth and connections have provided me with opportunities.
- I am White. I come from 2 generations of White family members on both sides who have been able to access quality education, take out loans to buy homes, cars and businesses. They have been able to purchase houses in the neighborhoods they want to live in (I think*). While all of these folks faced obstacles, as a whole, if they worked hard they were able to achieve their dreams and/or some prosperity. Many of these opportunities that my family experienced, Southerners with White skin, were privileges not available to others whose family members have also been in the United states for 2 generations, but whose skin is Black or Brown. *It is possible my grandparents experienced religious discrimination that I am not aware of.
- I am Jewish. Since childhood, I felt culturally Jewish more than religiously Jewish. Woven into my cultural identity is a sense of responsibility to work towards making the world a better place and to do so by questioning the way things are, and fiercely standing up for truth and justice. I was taught to root for the underdog, stand up for those that are being mistreated, and don’t turn away when I see people doing horrible things to themselves or others. I feel these attributes are sourced in my Jewish roots.
- I am disillusioned by our government. I do not understand our government structures and how dishonest, corrupt and ineffective they are in serving the people.
I would prefer that we strip the system down and start over as I can’t see a legitimate way out of the mess we are currently in, using a system that is rooted in so much systemic and structural bias, discrimination, and ineffectiveness.
What are the lenses you wear or bubbles you live in that influence how you perceive this political climate, this election season, the presidential candidates, the potential impact of their policies and their respective followers? What will influence how you read my words?
My experience of the rally
To begin with, I must note that I felt safe wearing my White skin to the Trump Rally. When I was discerning whether or not to attend, I spoke to a handful of friends of Color who said that they wished they could go for similar reasons. However, they did not feel safe going with their Black or Brown skin. I knew that I could blend in and potentially avoid conflict thanks to my Whiteness. My friends did not have the same disguise and feared for their own safety if they attended this rally. This is the climate that has been cultivated around Trump. This is precisely the climate that I fear intensifying if he becomes president.
As a whole, very little surprised me. The room was packed with 6000 or so, predominantly White, of varying ages, people. The tone was definitely a rally — from the stage, lots of energy was put into stirring people up and not too much was substantially said. Trump’s comments were rather straightforward and polished compared to what I’ve experienced in the past. It definitely felt like he is trying to speak to people in the middle now, no longer stirring up his base with extreme statements, but softening, offering a more mild and compassionate story with the tone of, we got this together and I can lead us ALL there. The crowd broke into chant at the expected moments, he mentions the US and the room erupts chanting USA. Mentions Mexico and “Build the Wall” fills the room. Trump asks, “Who’s going to build it?” and the room yells “MEXICO” and goes wild. Mentions Hillary’s name and people shout a litany of sexist comments and swear words. When a protester is escorted out, they heckle with derogatory slurs. Trump pauses for the spectacles and makes comments about what bad people Hillary the protesters are and the good people that he and his supporters are.
While Trump’s words were not as piercingly discriminatory this time, his crowd was a different story. There was definitely hate palpable in the room. While I didn’t perceive directly any physical violence around me, it was very clear that the energy in the room was hot and I am certain that if the right provocation happened, if Trump had made more extreme comments, or someone around me had spoken descent, many folks in the room were ready to let that aggression out. The clips you see from media all happened here too (including a violent assault by a Trump supporter towards 3 protesters inside the rally and a Trump supporter who supposedly punched a 69 year old protester on oxygen outside the rally. Both of these I did not see personally, but have since seen video and news accounts of).
There was also another group of people. These are the ones who touched my heart in the most empathic ways. I felt that there were a lot of working class people who are genuinely scared about the lack of jobs that they and their children have access to. They are worried about their future and looking for hope. Every time that Trump made a promise that “I will create jobs for you”, I felt a genuine cheer of relief and gratitude from the crowd, a desperate, we need this. It felt like Trump was representing this father-protector persona with his many ways of saying “I will take care of you and protect you.” He repeated many times about how he cares about people and will take care of them. On an energetic level, it felt to me like a room full of all ages and all genders, collapsing in his arms, giving him their worry, fear, and turning over a trust that “He will make this all better for us and our children.” I felt sighs of relief expressed in wild cheers when he addressed the room as “Hard working American patriots.” A sense of yes, this is us! I perceived it as people saying, “He sees us and recognizes how hard we are actually working. He will make life better and less hard for us.” One way he addressed the young people present was, “Your parents are trying to work hard to save your country and make it better for you.” My sadness, however, is that I do not feel him genuinely making these promises to ALL Americans.
It is possible that he will create opportunities for this White, homogeneous group. For those inside that bubble who are unable or unwilling to empathize with folks in different bubbles who are Latin American, Latinos, Muslim American or Muslims, I can understand voting for him. Trump could make their world better and they don’t feel a responsibility to people in different bubbles. And yes, Trump might provide those folks with a sense of safety and security, and since they only care about the well-being of people in their own bubble, they may not be concerned with the lives of innocent people such as the family members of terrorists who Trump says he will have killed or using illegal torture techniques with his expanded and modernized military.
So as far as Trump’s supporters and the tone of the rally… I felt hate and violence in the room and I felt fear, desperation, and hope in the room. I also felt a lot of people whose presence was pretty neutral. I didn’t feel much life or passion from them in any direction.
Some of the core things I heard Trump speak to were:
- Insulting Hillary Clinton prolifically, saying that she is a corrupt politician, all she cares about is representing people with money, and she’s running a hate campaign filled with bigotry, no policy and no solutions.
- Building up people’s egos by telling them how smart and accomplished they are, “Anyone in here xenophobic? I didn’t think so. You are lawyers, doctors, teachers. You all were at the top of your class, the smartest in your class. You are everyone. And above all you are Americans.”
- Assuring people that he loves them, cares about them and will take care of them by providing them with jobs, education, and security. He will change foreign policy, defeat the Islamic State and protect the 2nd amendment. He guarantees them that he will make their lives better.
- Proving that African Americans are voting for him and they love him. The conditions that inner city communities are currently facing are such a mess, so just give him a chance and trust that it can’t get worse and he can fix it. “What do you have to lose?” 3 or 4 African Americans shared their support for Trump from the podium. To me, it felt like they were hired help, paid well for an easy gig, traveling around and saying 2 sentences from stage and that’s it. I also wondered who he was talking to when he kept promoting his Black supporters — is he really trying to get the Black vote? It also felt like he’s trying to convince White folks that he really does support and care about Black people. It didn’t feel authentic to me.
- Calling out that the liberal establishment has disrespected their voters, they have taken them for granted — saying they will do things for votes and then not doing those things.
- Assuring folks that he has very extensive and detailed plans for everything, just read his website.
- Painting a picture that:
- Every American deserves to be treated with dignity and respect
- He will restore honesty in the government
- Under him, our country can actually “start working together as 1 people, under 1 God, supporting 1 country.”
I wish I could believe him with this last one. Instead, I perceive that his definition of the word “American” is the many people in that room that he called the real Americans… it’s only people in certain bubbles.
Leaving the rally, we had to walk the gauntlet through a confronting sea of anti-Trump protesters. There was a thin line for us to walk through as the crowd chanted “Love trumps Hate” and many people yelled at us. To be honest, there was nothing that I experienced leaving the rally that made me stop and pause and listen to what the protesters were saying. No signs caught my attention, nobody did or said anything that made me want to feel them as a human. In my role of trying to empathize with being a Trump supporter, I found myself more inclined to stick with my decision to vote for Trump as the experience he offered seemed much more civil than the experience from the protesters outside.
I have since read many accounts of what happened in the streets before, during and after the rally. You’ll have to research that yourself or let me know if you want some links.
In the end, I still feel that a vote for Trump promotes a future that puts the lives of many Black and Brown people at serious risk and could strip many Americans of freedoms of safety and speech. There is much more I could say, but I have to stop trying to assign words to my complex and impassioned internal experiences. I’ll end this with a prayer.
I pray for systems of governance and power that are built upon compassion, justice, and collaboration. I have faith in human beings. I pray that we can take care of each other and make life better for ourselves, one another and future generations. I know that there are leaders walking this Earth right now who can lead us. They are fierce protectors of that which is holy, sacred, and essential for life. They are courageous and willing to face their enemies and move towards solutions. They are paying attention to and in relationship with the most vulnerable amongst us. They are leading the way out of oppression and are wildly innovative. They are divinely guided. May we recognize and follow their leadership.