Moving Beyond Polarization With Trump
"As I grew up in New York, the Trump name has been around for as long as I can remember. I didn't have a favorable opinion of him. But I also didn't think of him as a monster." ~~ Kathy K. on a profound experiment in moving beyond polarization
It continues to amaze and sadden me how so many either hate Donald Trump so much that they can't see anything good in him, or they love him so much that can't see anything bad in him. So I was thrilled when a progressive friend and supporter committed to moving beyond polarization sent me the below results of her experiment of stepping into the shoes of the opposition.
Whether you are a Trump hater or a Trump lover, I invite you to read this inspiring story and then consider what it might be like to try to step into the shoes of those you oppose.
What if we really are all in this together? What if the holy grail of building a brighter future for ourselves and our world takes the form of moving beyond polarization and doing our best to respect and understand our differences? Take good care and enjoy the story.
Stepping Into Their Shoes
By PEERS supporter Kathy K.
As a bit of background, I have nearly always considered myself a liberal. I aligned with Bernie Sanders on policy when he ran in 2016. I've voted Democrat in all presidential races, and probably most senatorial races for the last 30 years. While I knew a fair amount with regard to what I'd call hidden knowledge, and believed both parties were corrupt and "two sides of the same coin," I held out hope that my party of choice was somehow a little better.
Then came the 2016 Sanders campaign and the WikiLeaks documents, when I came to understand that the Democrat primary was mostly just for show. I saw that there was no chance for Bernie to win. It crushed me in a way. In another way, it provided me the opportunity to look at things differently than my friends.
As I grew up in New York, the Trump name has been around for as long as I can remember. I didn't have a favorable opinion of him. But I also didn't think of him as a monster. I couldn't understand why my friends would give him that much hate. It wasn't the same distaste and distrust that was given to George H.W. Bush – it was extreme, even before he took office. It didn't seem to match who he was.
Again, I didn't like Trump and was disappointed that he won. I worried about the direction of the country, but I also felt like people were reacting in a way that didn't make sense to me. True hatred. I saw it again and again in the media that I would, up until then, turn to regularly. They were breathless to see him fail.
My parents brought me up to respect the office of president. My spiritual beliefs taught me that you give energy to the things you believe deeply. On the day after the election, I posted to Facebook that I prayed for Trump's success, as his success was our success. I was attacked and "unfriended" by many people I called friends. I just wasn't willing to see him as a monster, as I didn't want a monster to be our leader. I was willing for him to succeed. Actually, I was even willing for him to be one of the best presidents this country ever had. Funny, I couldn't say that out loud. I started asking myself why there was almost a religious fervor around hating him so much.
When we went into mid-March this year and the pandemic task force was on TV every day, I saw my friends saying things like, "I refuse to watch him." But then they would criticize what he said when they didn't actually see him say it.
As an experiment, I decided that I would just watch Trump every day for 30 days. Not only that, but that I would watch him as though he were someone I liked and wished well.
It was such an interesting experience. Initially, it was difficult to listen to him. He would go off on tangents or repeat himself. He clearly didn't like certain people in the press corps and would be contentious with them. I had to continually remind myself that this was someone I wished well. I imagined he was my favorite teacher at school, or maybe a student of mine, or brother or uncle – whatever worked.
As I gradually got better at seeing him in a positive light, I found myself wanting to yell at the TV when he would fall for the questions purposely set to trap him so as to create an unfavorable sound bite for the press corps. I knew, as he was saying it, the very things that would make the headlines the next day. I would shake my head when my friends would post on social media about drinking Clorox, or whatever the sound bite of the day was. Yet I know that isn't what he said. That is clearly not what he meant. When you care for someone, you can look beyond the words to the intent.
I started to feel what it must be like to deal every day with people who want to trip you up, twist your words, and make you look foolish to the world. Here was this person in a position of dealing with something no president in our lifetime ever had to deal with, yet it seemed like the majority of the people in the country were actively wishing that he would fail. Can you imagine what it would be like if you are doing your job and people and the media around the world are criticizing you and hoping you fail? How well would you perform? Wouldn't you have a better chance of succeeding if everyone wished the best for you?
In summary, this little experiment taught me a few things. With regard to Trump himself, I think he's doing his best to move the country forward. I think he honestly loves the country. I think he also is rightfully tired of battling his haters. I still have major issues with some of his policy. I have a particularly difficult time with his environmental policy (or lack thereof), and his inability to do anything significant for everyday people with regard to healthcare. And I continue to have a huge disconnect with Trump's personal interactions. He's so loud and self-centered, and often not the most genteel of statesmen.
On the other hand, he's structured real prison reform. He's gone after pedophiles, child pornographers, and drug cartels in a way that I've never seen. I see major arrests happening all over the country. These people are being brought to justice and children are being saved. That alone is reason enough for me to tolerate the rough personality. I've become a realist with regard to him. He is a flawed human – not a monster. That fact grounds me when the corporate owned media spins out of control with outrage over his most recent tweet.
Overall with this experiment, I learned the importance of looking to first hand knowledge. I want to watch an entire speech, interview, video, etc... and not rely on any media source to tell me how to feel about someone or something. I also won't fall for the mob that tells me how to think or what is "safe to say." This is one of the most dangerous things that has come out of this time. If we are not allowed to disagree with the "party line," do we actually still have freedom?
And lastly, I will hold the intent to always listen to a person as though I cared for them, to reach past the words to the intent of what they are saying. If you find yourself saying that you can't stand someone in your life, you might consider doing this experiment with them. It might make all the difference in how you see the world.
Lots of love,
Note from Fred: Whether you are a Trump hater or Trump supporter, how much are you willing to step into the shoes of those you oppose? If you are a Trump lover, can you see some good in Joe Biden? If you are a Trump hater, can you do as Kathy did and find some good in him, even while working to stop policies of his that you don't like? Do you think we will make progress by hating each other and polarizing on people and issues? Do you think it's possible that we all want what's best for our world and for our children? How much progress might we make if we choose to have compassion and understanding for our friends and politicians of both the left and right? Each one of us holds an important role in this grand play of life. May we choose wisely.
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