As the election cycle heats up I find myself responding to commentary yet again from people who live in blue bubbles who don’t understand how other liberals can coexist with Trump supporters. The assumption tends to be that if you dislike Trump but have relationships with Trump supporters, then you must not be someone who keeps up with Trump that much, or you must not hate him enough, or you must not pay attention to all of the ways he is a disappointment. The assumption from these blue bubble Trump Haters is that there is NO WAY to dislike our President as much as much as they do and still live/work/play/love Trump supporters.
And once again I have to say, “Yes. Yes there is.”
This often comes up after social media declarations of, “If you still support Trump then unfriend/unfollow me now because I can’t be friends with anyone who supports him.” I tend take those opportunities to remind the person that many of us in red states would not be able to function after making declarations like that. I mean…when you live in a red state, the assumption is the majority of people you interact with on a daily basis are Trump supporters. You can’t make blanket anti-Trump declarations for risk that your coworker likes him…or your child’s teacher or their soccer coach. You have to accept that you are going to interact with Trump supporters because that is just LIFE. That’s the default. I’m always pleasantly surprised to discover new people in my life dislike him.
To get around the, “If you like Trump we can’t be friends!” type of declarations I see people make who life/work/play in blue bubbles…I focus on policy. This tends to let it be known how my politics line up so no one mistakes me for a Trump supporter, but it doesn’t alienate me completely from those who do support him because – the truth of the matter is – I need those people in my life.
I think for me – I just tend to keep a protective barrier up a little bit. If I’m going to connect with someone on a deeply personal level…maybe over grief or parenting difficulties or mental health issues…I tend to keep them at arm’s length until I know where their politics lie. So much of my mental health stems from anxiety about the current political climate in our country, that I can’t really separate it from any other aspect in my life. To really know me or understand me, you have to be able to understand how worrying about systemic racism can interrupt my sleep, or how I stress-eat with every knock to the people seeking asylum in our country, or how I worry LGBTQ rights being stripped away as my loved one’s futures depend on those rights.
It would be hard for me to really connect with someone on a deeply personal level in any part of my life without eventually discussing how this President’s policies and attitudes cast shadows over all of my days. It would be hard for me to be really vulnerable with someone who didn’t also break into a sweat thinking about the possibility of him winning reelection in 2020. It would be hard for me to lean on someone who did not cry sometimes at the rise of white nationalism and xenophobia, who didn’t sob when popular media figures claim that white supremacy is a hoax.
I keep functional, and sometimes even personal relationships with Trump supporters because you can’t live in my world without it. But to get deeper with me, to be someone I lean on in difficult times, I need to know we’re on the same team.
*Edited to Add* This is all a privileged stance of a white person who can EASILY blend in with Trump supporters if I fear for my safety or if I’m worried about conflict.