Yes, I was wholly disturbed and disheartened by Tuesday’s election result in the U.S. What seemed a novelty to the press and the public sixteen months ago actually came to be. Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. How did a country that endorsed Barack Obama for two terms turn to Trump as his successor? How did a hate-spewing and hate-sanctioning egotistical billionaire become the answer for people who felt they didn’t have a voice in government? As a Trump presidency looked more and more like a reality on Tuesday night, I tweeted, “I can’t cope.” Still can’t.
But something more personally disheartening came to light Wednesday morning. I scrolled through Facebook posts, knowing that many of my American friends would be despondent. I wanted to commiserate and perhaps offer something hopeful. At least you’re in a blue state. Hillary got more votes. Red cups are coming to Starbucks. To be sure, there were many people to try to console.
There was the predictable post from my Baptist sister-in-law, praising God for the Republican triumph. I do my best to ignore whatever she writes. She’s too far gone. (She’d say the same of me.) And my mother, a self-declared “independent” who has never voted Democrat but sat out the vote for the first time ever, expressed relief that Hillary would not have a national stage to bash cookie-baking, stay-at-home moms. Apparently some anti-cookie Clinton comment made two decades ago is the closest my mother has ever come to having her identity bashed.
But then I glimpsed a post from a friend in Dallas. I had to read it three times, certain that I’d misread it due to my sleepless night.
Living through amazing history. A beautiful day and warmth in my heart.
America you continue to surprise. Here we go. About to Make America
I do have a few friends from my days in Texas who are clearly Republican. We went to high school or university together. We have the past, if not the future, in common. But I got to know Ben while working in a department store part-time as I had to supplement a then-paltry teacher’s salary from a private school (since I couldn’t work in public school without declaring an intent to become an American citizen). Ben was far more social than I was and he invited me along with other “sales associates” to restaurants after work. Eventually, Ben got me to join him and a smaller group of his friends at clubs. Gay clubs. Yes, despite my being firmly settled in the closet—it seemed the safer option in Texas—Ben figured me out. He was one of my first gay friends.
And now this. How did my eternally optimistic, treat-everyone-with-kindness pal become an apparently rabid Trump fan? It’s more baffling, given that he is Mexican-American and has an immigrant boyfriend from Vietnam. I’m stumped.
I’m aware that people can have differing views, on religion, on politics, on whether pineapple belongs on pizza. (It doesn’t.) I’ve known about Log Cabin Republicans, gay men who align with The Other Side. Okay, I’ve at least heard they exist, like alien life forms, Rob Schneider fans and The Great Pumpkin. And I thought this was the year that even gay Republicans couldn’t endorse their party’s candidate.
So what did Ben see that the rest of us didn’t? How can anyone whose identity has been bashed by hate while growing up set aside the vile Trump so easily spewed and condoned? How can any other issue trump human dignity? I’m not ready to ask. Frankly, there was a moment when I thought I’d have to “unfriend” Ben. I don’t seem to know him anymore. And, really, I don’t. Haven’t seen him since he flew from Dallas and I flew from L.A. to meet in Seattle in 1992. Time passes but what about core values? I may never understand Ben’s thinking. This is not something to be hashed out on Facebook. For now, I’ll continue to “Like” his photos from his world travels as part of his job and I’ll politely take in his comments that I don’t seem to age—I do get to choose which pics I post, after all.
Despite my dismay, I’m coming to accept the fact that Trump happens. Sometimes even to truly good people.