I originally published this in November of last year, but decided to edit and re-post it for two reasons. First, I have greatly increased my readership since then and am hoping the message will find a much larger audience then it did the first time. Second, through the drillbitnews.com page on Facebook I have become much more acquainted with conservatives, and “core Trump supporters” in particular. This is an honest letter as to why I disagree with you, am confused by you, get angry at you, and still respect, love, and will continue to engage with (most) of you.
I probably should’ve written this letter to you long ago, but I honestly didn’t know where to start. You are my family and my friend, you are my coworker and my boss, my neighbor and a stranger. We’ve tried to have discussions about what’s going on in the country today and they never seem to lead anywhere. It usually starts with me expressing concern about some Trump statement or conservative policy point, followed by you getting defensive and even a little angry. We both decide it’s better for our relationship not to have the conversation at all and so we go back to discussing football and the weather. But I really must tell you some things and so I figure the best way to do it is with a letter. Many of the things I’m going to say will seem critical and even accusatory, but if you were addicted to drugs rather than conservatism I would say this is an intervention. It’s done because I love you, I respect you, I need your help, and I’m tired of fighting you.
First and foremost, I don’t understand your blatant hypocrisy! You told me two years ago that the reason you were supporting Trump was because whatever else was going on you hated the corrupt government and you wanted to see “the swamp drained.” But when I try and point out that corruption in Washington DC has grown exponentially under the Trump administration all you do is make up excuses, turn it back on the previous administration, or call it “fake news”. Some of you judge the world around you according to your evangelical beliefs and I am constantly in awe of your ability to incorporate them into your daily lives. But I am even more confused when I see how quickly you are willing to set those same principles aside when discussing politics and the president in particular.
I have real sympathies for the pro-life position of conservatives as protecting lives, unborn or otherwise, is the most noble of pursuits. Sadly, I am then amazed at how often you have little sympathy for the same life once born. I do not pretend to be a Christian, although I have read the Bible cover to cover, and it just seems to be a contradiction to protect the unborn and then deny the poor, the sick, and those seeking refuge the same unconditional love. I try hard not to be one of those reflexive liberals simply saying the opposite of everything you say. But I’m continually surprised at the number of times your position on a topic seems selfish and mean, especially when you are continually wrapping that position in words of patriotism, community, and faith.
This is not me just calling you out as I know I have my biases as well. As you’ve pointed out to me in the past I can certainly be ‘the angry black man’ at times. I can get very upset about what I see as a society that has often been against me for no other reason but the color of my skin. I see you getting uncomfortable as I implicitly indict this and previous generations of white people for complicity in the suffering of my ancestors. I admit I’m not always sure how to respond, and I know that you’re not directly responsible for slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK, and the numerous other instances in which this society has espoused hatred towards my kind.
But when you respond to my anger and frustration with disregard or even contempt it only leads to more anger. What is interesting to me is that not only are you clearly angry as well, now that your man is in the White House you have actually become downright furious. Although I don’t quite understand, I do hear you when you say things like you hate Obamacare, Hillary was a criminal, and the caravan coming up through Central America is a threat to our national security. But I must be honest and tell you that I listen to your complaints with narrow eyes and a clinched jaw as I consider the advantages you and your ancestors were able to gain through the suffering of mine. I try to hear you out as you tell me “there are good people on both sides,” or that neither you or Trump have any responsibility for the actions of white supremacists. But then you are silent when they thank Trump and you as enablers of him for the growth of their movement in the last several years. In the end, no matter how much I may be biased by the centuries of discrimination you sometimes wave off, I honestly feel like I have a lot more reason to be angry than you do.
Like you I can certainly be prone to conspiracy theories (I’m 100% convinced that JFK was not killed by a lone gunman). What’s interesting to me is that when I was growing up the left was the home of the conspiracy nut and extreme activist. The “lefty looney” was convinced the government was hiding aliens in Area 51, putting micro implants in citizens for monitoring, and all at the direct request of the military-industrial complex. Most of the activists on the left seemed to be hippies who chained themselves to fences at nuclear facilities or spray-painted fur coats. I do recognize that the most extreme activists on the left from the Weather Underground to ANTIFA have employed violence against their declared enemies and I am as against that as I am anyone else’s use of violence. But it seems that the conspiracies and violence from the right-wing extremists have always been, and continue to be, more violent and destructive.
As far as hate groups go there is nothing on the left to compare with the political and social legacy of the Ku Klux Klan (which still exists to this day). Too often the mass shootings we experience today are driven by individuals with their own racist or anti-government conspiracies, often espoused in conjunction with more mainstream conservative rhetoric. I try VERY hard not to begin connecting you and your political beliefs to those individuals. But the truth is that I sometimes feel like I’m trying harder to avoid that connection than you are. I just need you to be more vocal and convincing when you explain that your stance on immigration, social services, or crime are not in any way linked with the long and brutal history of racism in the country. I understand that Trump’s rhetoric and your need to support his political platform makes this difficult at times. But I continue to hope that in the end you will value your relationship with me as your brother-in-law, your co-worker, your neighbor, your friend, or even just as your fellow American, more than the one you have with him.
I don’t really know where things are going from here, but I suspect that eventually the anger and frustration will subside for both of us. I am afraid that you’re in for more shocks and upsets as your principles and loyalty are tested by the second half of Trump’s administration and beyond. But my biggest concern is that there’s going to be a lasting bitterness between the two of us. I just keep feeling like I’m screaming at a friend as they get ready to drink a second glass of Kool-Aid at Jonestown and the only response is, “Have you seen the economy? It’s doing great!”
I know some of you have already stopped reading this and I suppose that’s the nature of the beast. But for those of you who are still reading I hope you’re willing to begin considering some of the things you’ve said and supported over the last three years. I know you, your wife, your daughter, and your mother. I know that you do not disrespect women out of hand so how do you so fervently support someone who does? I know you’re not a white supremacist, racist, xenophobic, or any of the other labels that have been rightly attached to the extreme members of your party. But that’s also why I can’t understand why you have not done more to distance yourself, your party, and your view of America from them?
Many of the conservatives that I have known have had power, money, prestige, authority, or some other significant capability to try to change the world around them. More personally, those same individuals have helped, mentored, taught, and employed me. So, for me this is not just a political rant or calling out ‘the other side’, I truly care about you because you have often shown you care about me. That’s why even if it costs my relationship with you, I will continue to try and explain my concerns. There have been too many times in this country’s past that conservative philosophies of both parties have ended up on the wrong side of history. But this time history is also the future and even if I can’t make a difference in the country right now, maybe I can make a difference with you. If you want to talk, I’m where I’ve always been, right next to you.