Trump’s Forgotten People
Thanks to the 2016 elections, my Facebook newsfeed has been bombarded with obscenities directed at Trump voters. Emotions are definitely in overdrive these days! And I can understand where some of the frustrations are coming from. The idea of a woman as the leader of the free world is undoubtedly seductive. But reality betrayed us. We were all yanked into a world where Donald Trump, in all his glory, was elected President of the United States of America.
Shock. Fury. Disbelief. Those despicable Trump supporters!
I agree that some of these folks don’t exactly bring out the warm and fuzzy in us liberals. But to call everyone that voted for him racist, homophobic, and misogynistic is not just ridiculous, it is the epitome of intellectual laziness. A lot of liberals claim that Trump’s voters are intolerant and ignorant. But it seems as though they are not acting much different themselves. A true liberal does not paint with a broad brush; and will never make assumptions based on race, caste, creed, and also ideology. Doing so, abandons our core values.
I hail from PA, a swing state that has not voted red since 1988 thanks to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. However, the outskirts here have a very different majority. Most people are die hard Republicans. And they came out in large numbers this election.
I am Muslim American, belonging to a minority group that political pundits have been analyzing rather rigorously these days! Being secular like most Americans, I usually do not set off the perpetual red flag of otherness that prompts such analysis. But I am still different, and different can be uneasy. I have conceded to the age old cliche that such is human nature. There will always be people who don’t want to broaden their horizons. They are unapologetically comfortable within their limited world.
California, apart from the sunshine and beaches, would be my domicile of choice as far as political climate and diversity goes. But yet again, reality yanks me back to Pennsylvania with its brutal winters and conservative majority. This is my home, and will be for a few more years.
So how have conservatives treated this Pakistani American immigrant? To be honest most have been very forthcoming. Some unleashed rather discourteous inquisitions, thanks to Sean Hannity and his fellow propagandists on Fox News. But I found their queries to be more annoying than offensive. Especially since I didn’t know much myself about the topics they brought up. Suddenly I became an expert and a spokesperson for all Muslim women around the world! But being the polite person that I am, I tried to explain the best I could. Or I very awkwardly changed the subject.
All in all, these are not horrible people. They may be a bit wary of someone different, and are simply traditionalists who like staying in their comfort zone. And that is perfectly okay. Not everyone thrives on the unconventional ways of this world like some of us.
I have quite a few friends that I know voted for Trump. And instead of calling them names I wondered why they committed this atrocious act! It was quite mind boggling. A guy that was on The Howard Stern Show discussing ménage a trois hardly represents traditional values. Be it any tradition!
So why did they vote for him? Because they hate minorities? They want gays beaten up? Women stuck barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? I really don’t think so. There are always exceptions to the rule, but speaking from experience and not the rantings of twitter trolls, this is far from the truth.
No matter how much you educate people about cultures and religions, what breaks stereotypes is actual relationships and personal experiences. And I will use them as my source for the following conjecture: If you have met a member of a certain group or better yet befriended one, you are more likely to view the likes of them more favorably.
There were many hidden issues that fueled a huge turnout in my state in Trump’s favor. I thought about the typical “forgotten people” Trump mentioned in his acceptance speech. And no they are not just the KKK and coal miners!
The typical forgotten person that Trump talks about cannot relate to universal healthcare. She is a single twenty-something living at home with her parents striving for success and financial security. Obamacare does not help her modest budget. Does she despise Trump’s attitude towards women? For sure. Does she think all Muslims, including myself, should be banned from the USA? I can’t say for sure! But what I am sure of is that human beings are mostly selfish. If it doesn’t hurt you why would you care? She will get to the civil rights violations when the time comes. Right now what matters is the $300 from her paycheck that will be going to Obamacare every month. The $300 she needs to pay off her student loans. The $300 that would add to her Christmas and vacation fund. $300 — is why she voted for Trump.
Another voter comes from an Irish American family. She lived in South Philadelphia her whole life. But due to the massive migration from inner cities and lack of police intervention and employment opportunities, her community was overridden with crime. Even after the hefty taxes she paid, there was no relief. She could no longer let her children walk to school alone; it was simply too unsafe. She was forced to move to the suburbs for the sake of security. She left behind childhood memories and a neighborhood that generations of her family had lived in. Only to find out that her husband was handed a pink slip at work soon after their move. His department was outsourced to India.
She can no longer say “Merry Christmas” to customers because she has to be politically correct. She may offend someone that does not believe in the Savior, and may storm into her manager’s office threatening a lawsuit. And that puts her job at risk. So she agrees to a monotonous chant of “happy holidays,” even to patrons she has known for years. Do some people feel uncomfortable with the overwhelming hype of Christmas? I’m sure they do. But she feels that her tradition has been hijacked. Christmas to her is not the commercial holiday it has become. She feels intimidated to openly celebrate the religious and spiritual significance of a day that has been sacred to her forever. She is disheartened by what her world has become. She wants to be heard. She wants change. And the opportunity to do so has been presented to her. She walks to the polling booth and votes for Donald Trump.
Another voter simply cannot come to terms with people living in his country illegally. He thinks there should be more control over who comes in and out of his homeland. He does not want to learn Spanish and then be penalized by getting paid less at the bank for not being bilingual. Why don’t they learn English!? He knows most of them are undocumented. He cashes their checks every Friday and scans their green cards which are two sides of someone else’s ID’s glued together. He is most certainly voting for Trump!
Let’s face it. Globalization is not working in everyone’s favor. Have liberals considered the grievances of people who are being crushed by this unstoppable force? We only bully them and call them bigots and xenophobes if they voice their concerns. Some of them may very well be these things but is it fair to stereotype and then call yourself a liberal? In our quest to empower minorities, and rightly so, we have consequently alienated an entire segment of our society. Which is why they acted in defense. Without a word spoken in fear of harassment, they marched to the polling booth and remorselessly voted for Trump.
Maybe we need to stop this petulant complaining. Maybe liberals need to go back to the grass roots values of liberalism. Where everyone is welcome — white, black, brown, and even a Trump voter. There are many amongst us that feel left behind. Maybe we need to understand their perspective and bring back the integrity in our movement. Maybe we should identify who from our ranks is that forgotten one Trump appealed to. Those are the ones who saw in him a rebel that will bring change, who will rid them of unrelenting stagnant rules and corrupt bureaucracies. They saw in him someone that will make them feel included again.
Reading the paragraphs of hateful speech on my social media, I am reminded of a quote from the ever so popular Jesuit, Pope Francis. He claims to not be so liberal. And it is fair to say that most representatives of religious institutions are quite conservative. But I find this Pope’s brand of conservatism just as appealing as the progressive ideology of the Dalai Lama.
“Unrestrained liberalism only makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker and excludes the most excluded.”
Something to think about before 2020.