As many wiser men have once said, I don’t want to talk too much about Donald Trump. You either hate him because he’s an ignorant, bigoted, sexist, xenophobic asshole. Or you like him because he’s not a typical politician, he’s entertaining, and he’s an ignorant, bigoted, sexist, xenophobic asshole. But whether you’re like me and you’ve read four thousand think pieces on how he’ll be a worse president than he is a person, or you’re someone sick of “political correctness” and have an affinity for trucker hats, your vote counts the same. Them’s the breaks.
The problem that I’m struggling with is that followers of Trump (and of course Trump himself) are acting like teenagers. And I thought we universally agreed to hate teenagers?! Forget tribalism where we pin liberals and conservatives against each other in a never ending ideological bloodbath. The only us versus them here is that teenagers are terrible. They are selfish, ungrateful, and think they know everything without experiencing anything yet. Teenagers are dramatic, self-centered, and angry. And yes, I know it’s not your fault (it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault, its…) with the hormones, the school and social pressure, the dic pics…there’s a lot going on. But that should be okay, because most teenagers can’t vote!
Except…yeah, about that. Why are half of us voting like teenagers? Angry, insecure, and blaming most of our problems on everyone else, including the people trying to help us. Yes, life is unfair, but telling your parents you hate them because you think they are giving special treatment to your younger brother isn’t going to correct that. Neither is taking it out on your siblings. Even if you are being wronged, blaming the ones that benefit is misguided whether in your family or in your society as a whole. They probably didn’t ask for the special treatment, and even if they did ask it’s because they needed it. And even in the small percentage of people who don’t really need it, they were not the ones making the decisions. I don’t blame voters for getting mad at the government for neglecting them and trying to make a change against those in power. Sure. Just don’t forget all the things that those parents…err…government does to make your life easier. Things that you take for granted like food safety, clean air, healthcare, education. Those little benefits.
Even among the more appreciative, I understand the frustration of Trump supporters (and really all Americans) that are pissed the economy hasn’t helped them specifically, or really anyone but the 1%. But Trump? What convinces someone that this con-artist capitalist gives a shit about your situation? I see how it’s hard to support do-nothing establishment politicians, but how is embracing an entitled rich person who cares about nothing other than making money for himself any better? Repeating catchy slogans won’t get your name on a hotel any time soon. You’ll still be working at the food court, nervous about your future, and broke. Only now your president will be trying to turn you against the people you work with that are in the same lousy situation as you. Only they happen to be a different sex or race. Divide and conquer is not a great plan for life improvement when you are among the ones being divided. Man, teenagers sure do pick lousy role models. Or does anyone still think Bieber should be president too?
I get the fascination with Trump. I surely enjoyed it when he was taking down the other Republican Primary candidates. Cruz is a liar and deserves much worse than a Trumpian nickname. And I’m not shedding any tears for Little Marco or anyone in the Bush family either. But that doesn’t mean Trump is not a yuuge dickhead. As was I when I was 15. Yeah sometimes I was funny too, but a lot of the ways I made people laugh was by tearing down others. You can understand this behavior from our American youth, but at some point you have to grow up. Especially if you want to be, uh, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Are there some things that I wish I could say in public without worrying about it being “politically correct”? Absolutely. But are there some things that I’m embarrassed to have said when I was in high school? Abso-fucking-lutely. And it’s not just because certain words are “wrong” or “offensive”: I’ll say any word (even the “C” one…gasp!) as long as the intent and setting are comfortable. No, I’m ashamed of saying certain things or even having particular thoughts in the past because they were just plain inaccurate. Thankfully, you learn over time that the things you thought you knew about women were way off, that relying on anger alone isn’t going to help you be happy, and that the things that you said about how hard you have it don’t compare even a little to others throughout the country and especially the world.
Aside from knowing when not to make fun of people for laughs (like when they are disabled for example) the biggest thing I learned since being a teenager is letting go of my insecurity, resentment, and default position of being defensive. Sure, I’m still not totally secure about going bald (see Donald, we’re not so different), I still resent conservative politicians who don’t share the same viewpoints as me, and I get really defensive when my girlfriend accuses me not washing the dishes because I know I just washed those goddamn plates and it’s probably a ghost filling up the sink with dirty dishes. But when I was a bratty, entitled teenager everything was: why not me? Affirmative action? That’s BS, why don’t I get special treatment too? Girls don’t have to register for the draft? See sexism goes both ways! Mexicans can just come into the US and live here, but they wouldn’t like it if WE sent all our Americans across the border! (yeah, good luck with those drug cartels though) I was too young and dumb to understand how sweet of a deal I had it as a white male child. In the US no less. Even in the most privileged position in society it’s hard to believe that you are already doing GREAT. Because there’s always someone doing better than you. I could have sworn that my parents (or more likely some crummy TV movie) taught me that “The Grass is Always Greener” well before I was a teenager.
Even being explicitly told how appreciative I should be, it was hard to accept that not only do I not have a real claim to the favorite teenage (or adult) pastime of melodramatically complaining about stupid shit, but that other people have it worse and being defensive about how great your life is only makes you more of an ungrateful prick. It’s just natural to respond to confrontation with a defensive stance. But over time you learn that when someone calls you out on something and its true… just fucking accept it. It’s actually quite liberating. Not only do you get to avoid looking immature by saying “yeah well they do it too”, but you don’t have to twist yourself in knots defending a horrible argument that leaves out that ever important factor of “to what degree. Is it fair that men have to register for the draft and women do not? I certainly don’t think so. But is that “grave injustice” equal to getting paid less, doing more household work, having to be pregnant, monthly periods, or less representation in government, business, and the media? Uh, yeah, they get to choose between wearing pants OR dresses. Of course, women don’t get to choose the daily harassment, alarmingly high rates of sexual assault, and just your routine condescension and patronizing. (You know that awful attitude I’m taking towards you right now) But you know I’m a guy, so I have to defend my own kind. Bullshit.
A lot of Trump supports (mostly white men) say they are not sexist or racist, but that he still represents them. But why? Just because of skin tone and your sex chromosomes? Unlike my ignorant teenage self, I’m able to say now as an adult that I don’t identify with my race and gender. And no this isn’t a Rachel Dolezal thing or me shrinking away from white male privilege. Just the acknowledgement that siding with someone solely because of these factors is beyond stupid. You can’t let immigrants take over the country? What makes you not an immigrant? My grandmother’s family came from another country; why does that give me more of a claim to belonging here? Skin color? Or we can’t let Muslims into the US? But what do you know about Islam that you haven’t seen on TV? Also, what in the history of Christianity makes it worth defending other than the fact that your parents decided to baptize you? What is everyone afraid of other than the unknown? Trump makes people feel secure by demonizing “the other”; but what if you’re really “the other”? What makes you any more entitled to your version of what is great about America than anyone else’s?
The argument against being so defensive and protective of your “tribe” is universal. But that doesn’t mean we need draw those lines around race or gender. We should be mature enough to understand this. Defending Trump because you think you both belong to the same circle is absurd when you think of the other things that divide you in your shitty life from his life of luxury. Nothing he (or any politician) promises will ever make your life closer to his than the people around you that he’d like you to turn against. Sometimes it takes effort to see through the politicians pandering to you. And it takes even more effort to see through the bullshit distinctions that we are directed to focus on and understand what differences are actually worth a damn. But as adults, we all have that ability. We outgrew caring about lunchroom gossip and SAT scores, surely we can outgrow thinking that voting according to what we see in the mirror is a good idea. I hope. I don’t know, maybe in reality we’re not all capable. Teenagers do seem to love mirrors.