Friday, November 11, 2016

The Elephant in the Closet

Most of my family voted for Trump.  There, I said it.  Some of my close friends already knew.  While I don't yet feel better, I feel a little relieved to type the words onto the page.  
  
Why does this feel so shameful?  While I have friends across the spectrum, Republicans in New York City are rare, with the possible exception of everyone sharing my last name, including those who immigrated from Italy about a hundred years ago.  My late uncle worked for Jacob Javitz and Louie Lefkowitz and lost an election for City Council in the late 70's. I myself am also registered as a Republican (another statement that feels like a coming-out), but not to make mom and dad happy or because I toe the party line.  By "gatekeeper voting" for the most moderate-to-liberal and rational GOP candidate in a heavily Democratic party-primary state, my goal is to have the greatest chance at a tolerable ballot come Election Day.  I vote on issues, not party affiliation, even dividing my vote between Republicans and Democrats for judgeships or supporting third-party candidates.  Subversive, eh?  Given my RINO status, I feel like the black sheep of the family, yet I rarely mentioned my registration to other New Yorkers.  Some friends and acquaintances, mostly those who would consider themselves open-minded and liberal, say they could never be friends with someone of the other persuasion.  Not to mention, social media rants about defriending Trump supporters hit fever pitch once he won the primary.  This election has left me feeling stranded between two extremes, and I have limited deeper conversations on touchy subjects to confidantes, and even then face-to-face over a beer, just one.  After being bullied in grammar school for being smart, I admit it's hard for me to not feel liked, and I have suppressed voicing my opinions to avoid the possibility of alienating others.  



Though the bloggerati blame white women for this mess, I did not "stand by quietly and allow this to happen."  Mom hates discussing politics, though she occasionally vents her frustration on certain issues.  Dad, on the other hand, will gladly get into it on any topic with anyone of any political bent who will engage.  Often we disagree, sometimes it gets intense, two rams locking horns on a small rocky outcropping.  Numerous exchanges with my parents, my brother, and friends happened about this election, discussing, arguing, rebutting, shouting, pleading.  Though my father admitted he thought Trump is an asshole, nothing swayed them.  Please do not dismiss them as bigoted, neo-Nazi, hateful people.  My father introduced me to a transsexual coworker when I was a preteen and told me he did not like that people made fun of her.  To this day, my parents still hold out hope that I will marry one of my ex-boyfriends, both of whom happen to be Asian-American.  

The common theme was that they could not in good conscience vote for Hillary, and they offered logical and compelling reasons for this: 

"Anyone else who transmitted classified work-related emails on a personal account would have lost their job at the very least, if not prosecuted." 

"Benghazi happened on her watch, and she ignored their requests for additional security and then tried to pass it off like a documentary caused it." 

"There's some shady dealings going on at that Foundation."
"How can they criticize Trump's misogyny after all of Bill Clinton's indiscretions with women?" 
"She said such awful things about Obama during his campaign vis a vis his attending madrasas, and they clearly don't like her.  Why are they all pretending to be friends now?" 
"My son is in the Navy, and I'm concerned her hawkishness will send him somewhere we have no business getting entangled and he'll come back in a casket." 
"Health care fees are going through the roof!  No doctors in Manhattan will take a health exchange plan.  God help us if Obamacare turns into single-payer like Europe.  Imagine the waiting!!"   

I pulled every card out of the deck to refute their arguments, that not liking Hillary should not default the vote to Trump - a third-party vote in a non-swing state could break the BS two-party system if they had the courage to do it; that Trump has no poise or gravitas, he's a reality TV star; his rhetoric smacks of Hitler; he called his own daughter a piece of ass; his connections to Putin would have Reagan on a spit in his grave; his big mouth could piss the wrong world leader off and get us all nuked into oblivion; his father was anti-Catholic in the days of Al Smith; his business ventures are riddled with bad decisions; his supporters now feel energized to behave as badly as he does.  I even threatened to leave the country "if things get really bad" which sent my mother into a panic.  

While I'm on a roll with the confessions, I concede that I do not like Hillary Clinton either.  She and I having the same genitalia is not an acceptable reason for me to vote for her.  Sarah Palin is female, need I say more?  Yes, she's busting through glass ceilings, she has a lot of experience, she has (of late) taken the high road.  But if you take the liberal-rose-colored blinders off for a minute, all of the above things are true.  Her suboptimal candidacy was corroborated in her own team per emails from Podesta's phished Gmail account.  (C'mon people, if you don't want to see it on the front page of the Times, don't electronically transmit it! And don't click strange-looking URLS in your inbox!!!)  Rather than let the people select their candidate, Hillary shoehorned in.  But if someone had put a gun to my head and told me to choose one of the mainstream party candidates, under pain of death I would have chosen her.  

Once Michigan and Wisconsin started toggling between baby blue and pink on Tuesday night, a maelstrom of emotion swirled in my abdomen.  Frustration that out of 320 million people, these ragtag candidates were the best each party could muster.  Guilt that maybe I should have called out extended family members on the misogyny of the "bitch of Benghazi" Facebook posts.  Regret that I didn't challenge my friends on both sides of the fence more than I had.  Anger and disappointment that my parents would implicitly condone pussy-grabbing with their ballots.  Nausea when a married Trump voter tried to put his arm around me and rationalized it with "you know I voted the same way as your friend"  when I gave him the brushoff.  Uncertainty about how the economy will react.  Apprehension of Trumpkins buoyed by victory to invade my personal safety and of loved ones who are "different". This fear persists, and so does the shame.  

The hangover from the late-night returns persists, and emotions are still running high.  It feels like the 9/11 aftermath, and in a way something massive has come crashing down right before our eyes.  Sidewalks and subways were somber on Wednesday, no one spoke or made eye contact.  My daily phone calls with Mom went unanswered because I don't want to say something that I will regret later.  Hearing about graffiti, violence and threats is upsetting, although I remind myself that the streets are not flowing with blood-yet.  I try to be hopeful as Trump softens and supportive of others as they vent their pain.  None of my "Trump friends" have gloated, although some have sparred with me.  Despite our disagreements, they're still my friends.  One thing I respect about my dad, he's not afraid of a heated discussion, he doesn't name-call, and he would never disassociate or unfriend someone who disagreed with him.  Maybe more people should emulate that behavior instead of deriding and blocking people with whom they don't agree.  Maybe if they hadn't insulated themselves in a bubble of cat videos and progressive news links in Hipsterville, they would have seen the election results coming.  So far one pro-Hillary friend from high school lashed out at me as being naive and then blocked me when I called him out on it.  The irony of people who consider themselves accepting then shunning difference of opinion is what got us into this mess, but most Hillary voters can't swallow that there is any fault in her campaign and that a Trump win was remotely possible.  As I see this, I start to care less about keeping "friends" who won't find common ground with me and more about facing these tough topics head-on.  

Where does this leave us?  Will our great country still shine as a beacon of democracy?  Will the Apocalypse happen when Trump is inaugurated?  Will the country progress or go back in time over the next four years?  Will we segregate ourselves based on political leanings or maybe get closer and be more fortright and less PC?  Will my friends still love and accept me?

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