Written by: Carly Greenfield, an American 2nd year student of International Relations. She is focused on women’s issues, the Americas, and conflict in the area.
On Wednesday morning, as the sun began to tint the sky and my dazed mind was forced to settle into the new American truth, my body shuddered. I cried. I wailed. I let tears stream from my eyes into my lap and quaked, as if the tectonic plates of my understanding of the world had shifted.
I turned on my Spotify heartbreak playlist, relating to it more than I ever had when playing it about a boy. I texted my mother:
“I’m so sad Mom. What does this mean for our country? What does this mean for undocumented students? How could we be so hateful?”
My sister texted me “So so sad for America.”, and when I responded with my disappointment and concern, she said
“I don’t know what it says about this country and the direction people want it to move in. Very scared for what it means for immigration, women’s rights, the Supreme Court.”
Now, let me make it abundantly clear— many Trump supporters are economically downtrodden and understandably angry with a system that has ignored them. They are upset about Middle America being ignored and manufacturing jobs no longer being prevalent in our country. This exodus has been occurring since trade deals and economic changes made in the 1970s, so a revolt was a long time coming. They show disdain for a pop culture that focuses on the liberal cities and only portrays rural America when it seeks to mock trailer park white people. The two lifelines of many small towns, the factory and the church, are disappearing or, at best, struggling hardily.
I know. My mother is from the Midwest. As she puts it, she is “Midwestern to the core.” It comes with a sense of pride. She understands what it’s like to grow up poor, to face the college application process on her own, to have to work her way through school, to live within a budget. My family includes those “non-college educated white voters” that you hear all about on the news. My sister calls Iowa depressing. My mom get sad because she says every time we go back, she feels the same.
Was it always like this? So poor? So empty? Was everything always falling apart, or has something actually happened while she was gone?
At the same time, we feel angry. We feel betrayed. These people, these Christians, these aunts, uncles, and cousins, have turned their backs on our values. That is how both sides feel: there is little dialogue around the matter, because as any self-respecting person would know, we don’t discuss politics at the dinner table. Last Christmas, my uncle and I were discussing politics and I was so incensed I began to cry. My grandmother chastised her son, visibly angry that he would allow politics to be brought up on Christmas. It simply wasn’t done.
I stand with my family and others like them when I say that blue-collar workers have been let down in our country. The Democratic Party gave up on union policy in favor of focusing on the blue-blue cities and civil rights. It’s one of the reasons Democrats hold so few governorships or legislators across our states. We have stopped fighting for the working class. We have stopped trying to convince our people that unions, and the strength in numbers, would be a positive situation for our factory workers. We have let them rot because we grew busy with other issues. We should have worked harder to multitask.
But I will not stand with them when they claim that God has left this country in the last eight years. I will not stand with those who are still convinced that their guns will be seized. I will not stand with those who have the privilege to ignore racism in order to embrace economic hope. There are many who cannot trade their reservations for economic possibility because they are both poor and brown. There are many who cannot embrace a man because their job is at risk when he wants to ban foreigners of their same religion from entering our country.
This is where I find my fundamental frustration and sadness. I would never put my economics before another person’s human rights. I would be poor and shut out from so many job opportunities before I decide that my own financial needs are more important than my fellow Americans feeling safe in our country. I would welcome poverty if it meant conversion therapy was never used again towards LGBT+ youth. When I pray, I wonder if my aunt and I are praying to the same God, because we are finding such vastly different answers. I see God in the rights our country has finally given oppressed people. I see God in the children of all backgrounds, races, and gender who see the world opening up before them, with every possible opportunity at their fingertips. This is where my God shows his work, and I worry less about whether a florist has to serve a gay couple.
I know many Americans voted for Donald Trump and believed he was the best option for them. I know he is a big ‘screw you’ to the political class. I know millions of Americans detest the Clinton family and see her apparent “corruption” as no better than Trump’s bombastic comments. But even if I believed every accusation hurled at Clinton about her being tied to banks and donors and the rest of it, I would have voted for her to preserve human rights. I will always take corruption over human suffering. I struggle to see how others wouldn’t— how others, raised with the same Christian values as me, have come to scorn others and see God lacking when we say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas but not when we will not take refugees out of fear and selfishness. Out of some obsession with our earthly landmass, when we all believe in life everlasting.
Yes, there are those who voted with their jobs and families and their ability to support them in mind. There are those who voted based off this idea that we can forgive any action as long as the Supreme Court justices are conservative. Then, there are those who are less concerned with either topic but find the atmosphere of political correctness suffering. These are, broadly, white men who are financially stable but think our country is headed down the rabbit hole. I will open conversation with them for the sake of our future, but I have no allusions: we will disagree openly about whether hatred of Hillary Clinton was gendered, whether Trump’s comments on undocumented immigrants were racist, or whether he is actually anti-LGBT. I will disagree with them. I will listen to them, and probably still find them hateful afterwards.
Even if one voted in spite of racism instead of for it, it was still a tolerable price to pay. It was more tolerable than casting a vote for a “corrupt” woman.
This election many pundits discussed voters who had never voted before getting involved. This focused on the ones voting for Trump. I have another story to tell, however. I am watching the women in my life grow more engaged. Those who voted passively are now angry and ready to march. Those with daughters, like my mother, are looking to protest. Those who choose to be career-driven women are not shying away from label of feminist. I have friends who tell me that they see their abuser when they look at Donald Trump. There are little girls being shaken by this rhetoric. The outcome was unacceptable, and we will fight.
53% of white women voted for Trump. I have family members included in that percentage. 90% of Democratic women voted for Clinton. I have many more peers and friends in this category. I cannot agree with the liberals who tell me that we simply weren’t listening to our fellow Americans this election cycle, or that I live in a bubble. These voters are the women of my family. I have listened. And I have chosen that human rights trump ‘Christian’ domination. I have elected to put the safety of others before my concerns about big banks. I voted for my undocumented friends who would be deported back to countries they hardly know. I voted for trans girls who need love and support, not electroshock therapy. I voted for women who needed to know that they are more important than a protest vote. I voted for the women who choose to wear the hijab and should not live in fear because of it. I voted not for every Clinton policy, but instead for every American.
While I feel concern for Trump’s policies, like his announcement of the deportation of 3 million people as soon as he gets into office, I feel more concern for Americans who heard what he had to say and decided the risk was worth it. Those who say we need to pull back the government that has grown too large, when rights are trying to be protected. Those who claim the Supreme Court is more important than having a “nice” president (yes, this is a real comment, because Trump’s actions simply amount to ‘not nice’). Those who are convinced that the immigration system is completely fair and manageable and that we live in a meritocracy. Those who do not see that change for some means change for all, including but not limited to certain groups’ fundamental rights. I am just so angry.
I will try and listen. I will try and sit down and see where our priorities lie. We can work to see when being decent people became less important than being prosperous. We can discuss what Hillary did that made you so mad. I will even pour over the Benghazi reports with you, just so we are all on the same page. But I do not expect to ever fully understand. I do not think I will ever fully live your reality. I will understand your Christian faith and your struggle with whiteness. I will listen when you tell me that you do not feel like an oppressor, that you do not understand. But I will have the same reaction— I will never “get it.”
So, looking at the way the vote split, I presume the average Trump supporter is like me: White, Christian, not a member of the lowest class. We probably come from different parts of the country, but still, it is our same country. When did the divide happen? When did we begin living in alternate realities? When were the phone lines cut; when did we, the American people, decide that being a womanizer was permissible? Was it all about smashing the establishment at the risk of smashing others? The most common ground we will find will be the most sacred: neither of us is perfect in the eyes of God, our peers, or ourselves. We will only be truly equal in silence, in prayer, kneeling shoulder to shoulder. And I will pray to forgive you, because I haven’t yet.