My father and I have two rules for talking about politics:
1. He gets to call President Obama my boyfriend.
2. I have to agree with everything he says.
Oh, and he’s voting for Donald Trump.
Here he is holding a baby. My baby.
But in all seriousness, my father, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, and me, a bleeding-heart liberal, have some interesting and productive conversations. He taught me everything I know about the free market and commodities trading, but also about photography and black-and-white printing and the golden hour. I taught him that sometimes it’s okay to take a portrait in landscape mode. We still agree to disagree.
This political season has been long and brutal and full of anger and hatred and venom and lies and accusations. And that was just the conversations between my friend Rachel and I during the primary season.
This is Rachel. She’s a Berner. She sometimes slips up and calls me Shillary.
Anyone who thinks this level of divisiveness is new doesn’t remember the nineties. In fact, it was the nineties (not college), which turned me liberal. That’s right. The first time I registered to vote I registered as a Republican.
My deepest roots are in Detroit. I grew up at the periphery of a blue-collar family which was wary of racial tension and racial divide, in ways that made them fearful and not inclined to acceptance and unity.
My parents were also also the kind of people who believed in hard work and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. My father started his own small printing business in Tucson which thrived until technology changed dramatically in the early part of the millennium, swiftly wiping out film photography faster than any of us could have anticipated, and leaving my father without a business and without a retirement.
I grew up in that studio, and still feel a pang when I think of it. It’s where I learned everything I know about art and photography and risk-taking.
Rightfully or not, my father hates the government, high taxes, and rapid change.
He likes Donald Trump because he believes that Donald Trump is not a politician. He believes that Donald Trump is businessman, like himself. He doesn’t believe all of the most horrible things about Donald Trump, because he is and always has been deeply suspicious of the media.
One of the biggest things that frustrates me so much about the political cycle is that people really have no understanding of the power of emotional appeal. You can dump any amount of facts and information on someone, but if they don’t believe it in their gut, if they don’t believe it with their whole soul, they won’t believe it any other way.
I’ll never forget the lesson my brother-in-law, a Baptist minister, taught me when we were arguing (pleasantly) about religion. He said, “It’s not about facts; it’s about faith.” This is true for many people, and if you don’t understand it, then you haven’t experienced it.
You can call people like that stupid, ignorant, stubborn, or evil, but that’s not going to change their minds either. You are doing exactly what they expect you do: looking down on them.
I honestly don’t know the answer. I do know this. Many people who support Donald Trump are smart, interesting, complicated, and worthwhile human beings.
Like my parents:
Clearly, I have no problem letting my children associate with evil, sinister beings.
Meanwhile, I’m with her.
I mean, I’ve made this face at faculty meetings many times.
A lot of people think she is just as evil and conniving and unworthy of higher office as Donald Trump.
I happen to like her, for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into right now.
Whatever happens, I honestly don’t think it will be the end of the world. I could be wrong. After all, the Cubs just won the World Series. But I will go on loving my family and friends, and the country will move forward, because the Founding Fathers balanced out the powers of our government over three branches, and as far as I’m concerned, they are frigging geniuses.
I will keep trying to teach my children to be kind. I will keep trying to teach my students to be better writers. I will keep trying to finish my novel and do more yoga and eat fewer potato chips.
My son Oscar will continue to teach me about life.
Oscar was watching one of the debates with me and he said, “Gosh, everyone is so angry. It’s like when Aria and I are fighting over cleaning up our room and who did a bigger job of messing it up and the room is still not getting cleaned up.”
The room is still not getting cleaned up.
So lets all figure out what brings us happiness and joy, and what brings others happiness and joy, and work on doing more of that.
The way to bring people over to your side is not to yell at them, berate them, make them feel stupid, pile on your statistics or tell them they’re going to burn in Hell. The way to win people over is to be a shining light.
Make positive effort for the good.
I was pregnant with Oscar the night President Obama was elected. I cried tears of joy that my son would be born into the presidency of a black man. Why? Because he will always have the experience of growing up with a person of color in a position of tremendous power. Now I want my daughter to see a woman in that same position.
I don’t care what you think of Hillary. I’m okay with the fact that you may not like her, or worse. I still love you and respect you and care about you. I’m still with you, and I’m still with her.
“I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”