Since the election result, after the shock and inchoate rage, I’ve pursued the people in my life who voted for Trump. I half-harassed, half-entreated them: what’s wrong with you? Why wasn’t the hate a red line you couldn’t cross?
I think Hillary will destroy the country. It had nothing to do with you.
Obviously. Because if you cared for me, you couldn’t endorse such hate towards people like me.
I don’t! That stuff is horrible. I didn’t vote for that part but don’t worry, he can’t do anything with it, anyway.
If he does, it’s not you at risk, is it?
It’s not as bad as you think, it’ll be okay. And I’m here for you.
No, you’re not. You don’t have my back, you just stabbed me in it.
You know the arguments, you’ve had them too. As I went through mine, I saw the non-bigots struggle to explain their Faustian bargain. They couldn’t because they can’t see they’ve made one — and done so at others’ expense. They simply don’t live in the same America as I do. Whatever they can see of their moral compromise, they accept. Since they’re not truly at risk, there’s little to fear. I see their acceptance of bigotry as one born partly of Ignorance and partly of Otherization.
But what of my feelings? After the debates, I’ve been probing myself. Why am I distraught? Is it an issue of identity? Is it due to my propensity to take too much personally? Am I indulging my worst impulses?
I’ve felt no measure of the only guiding principles to withstand the fires of both my heart and my intellect: Total Equanimity, inwardly, and Unconditional Love, outwardly. No matter the provocation, I’m learning — to my own dismay — that only I am ultimately responsible for my state of mind. So, I’ve been peeling back my emotions, asking myself -
Why are you so hurt and angry? Because I feel betrayed.
By what? My deepest beliefs are damaged, threatened. I thought most of us agreed such overt hate is wrong and wouldn’t compromise.
What if it were reversed — what would you compromise? I wouldn’t. I, unlike these moral hacks, am one principled mothercusser.
Really? Well, I wouldn’t compromise on this!
What if this had been, I dunno, say, a Kim Kardashian with a pro-choice, fight-climate-change etc platform vs. a John McCain with an anti-gay rights, anti-immigrants platform? I’d abstain, go third-party, write myself in!
You’re also a pragmatist. Okay, I get their quandary. But, the red line!
You’ve never compromised cherished principles? <racing through the times I…>
The recording of this interview with my conscience mysteriously ends here. But it’s clear that I have, indeed, at some point, at least fudged what I’d thought of as a red line. I think many of us have. When we do it, we know our reasons and forgive ourselves our transgressions. After all, we’re fallible humans struggling with a seemingly unsponsored existence.
We compromise more easily when our desire is great, when the cost is borne by Others, and when we conveniently don’t have to see them pay it. All but the saints among us have Others to whom we have, at one point or another, guiltily, but knowingly, shifted the cost of our choices.
Especially as Americans, our comfort is to some extent always perched on someone else’s back. I won’t explicate this thesis here. You know well the grist for our industrial, carbon-fueled, globalized mill. Very few of us make consistent moral choices. We let ourselves get away with this, usually, because the Others who bear them are voiceless or at a distance. Now the Other is Us, right here at home.
I no longer need the non-bigoted Trump voters to explain themselves. I know why they sold me out. I know how it works, I only have to look within myself to find times I’ve also sold out the ones I claim to care for.
What I want next is a reckoning. I face myself and find I’m not much different from them — better, I may eagerly tell myself, but not different. I won’t accept their happy dissonance. I want to make them face themselves, too, and have them admit they chose not to care about us.
We can’t move forward with ignorance. Let us really see each other and let each of us see ourselves. If we do it right, we’ll find we are all only looking in the mirror — always.