Opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump remains passionate. The recent march on January 21 2017 in DC pulsed with anti-Trump frenzy, quickly shedding its poor disguise as a “women’s march.” I heard “Not my President, not my President” chanted by diverse groups, from global warming enthusiasts to abortion advocates to Black Lives Matter protestors.
The marchers thoroughly enjoyed every sign, chant, or speech that trashed Trump. This week’s opposition to President Trump’s executive order PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES has stoked hysteria with fake news headlines decrying a Muslim ban in the United States and a religious test for immigrants.
Passion like this does not stick to the streets. Since I first publicly shared my interest in Donald Trump and his voters, I have received considerable criticism from some friends and associates. As my interest evolved into support for the Trump/Pence ticket, the criticism turned to denigration and even disavowal. On Inauguration Day, as I joined the celebrations in Washington, this text pinged me.
“I am so sad today, realizing that our friendship is really over. I am in mourning for our country and in mourning over us. … I do not want you part of my life.”
I plopped down and sighed. So my most treasured friend, with whom I’ve shared for decades secrets, sadnesses and joys, was dumping me over my support for Donald Trump. A few days later she added,
“Your “feminism” isn’t real, your beliefs are damaging the world. I have never felt so disappointed in someone.”
These remarks were beyond difference of opinion – they were delivered coldly and impersonally, without the benefit of a phone call or personal contact. More, my friend decided to unload her anti-Trumpism on me knowing that I was in the midst of a difficult and likely final visit with my failing mother. Whether my friend purposefully decided to be cruel to me or whether her anti-Trump passion seemed to justify such cruel behavior, I do not know.
I am not the only person suffering cruelty because of support for President Trump’s candidacy. Being from California, where many of the bereaved now seek to secede from the Union, I may have more of these stories to tell than some. But I doubt it. Friends have confided similar tales of unprovoked hostility and tension within families and between friends. Commentators like Pierce Morgan and celebrities like Steve Harvey report verbal attacks from people who object to their links to President Trump.
These attacks are painful – especially when they come from family members or people with whom we have substantial histories and whom we call friends. The vitriol can be breathtaking, even shocking as we recognize that our love and caring has been swallowed by hostility we did not know possible. This behavior challenges us to frame a response that does not set off or condone a cycle of attack and bitterness.
Here’s the guide I have developed for myself. Please share your own thoughts in the comments.
Prepare to forgive. Even as I was reeling from my friend’s attack, I knew that I had eventually to forgive her. This is both a matter of my faith practice and a practical reality. All long-term loves ebb and wan with our own changes in belief and opinion and physical capacities – my friend and I have differed many times and we have practice forgiving each other. I did not make her graduation from graduate school when I said I would and she was gracious and forgiving. We pointedly argued once over teenagers and their sex practices – but we moved on to a calmer subject. Even if her attacks turn out to be a grand finale to our wonderful, long relationship, I knew I would have to find a way to move on, free of bitterness and remorse. “Forgiveness,” Joyce Meyer reminds us, “is not a feeling – it’s a decision we make to do what’s right before God. It’s a quality decision that won’t be easy and it may take time to get through the process
Remain loving and charitable. I knew forgiveness would be easier if I did not muck up the situation with my own clever retorts, quips and volleys. Tempting as it was, I did not branch to the merits of Trump vs. Clinton; I did not question whether our friendship was ever real if so disposable; and I did not ignore her. Instead, I waited several days, prayed, reflected, sought advice and then, briefly, I reassured her of my “unconditional love” and asked her to pray for my failing mother.
Set boundaries. When my friend responded without a mention of my mother or concern for me, focused entirely on her disgust with my “agenda” and “damaging” beliefs, I was devastated. Could she really be so filled with anti-Trump passion that my mother’s decline and impending death meant nothing to her? Could she be purposefully ignoring my personal situation as “punishment” for having supported the Trump/Pence ticket? Surely, she knew that she was withholding from me the very essence of our friendship – the love and caring we have shown each over for decades especially in our dynamics with our families of origin. Ouch.
As my friend’s words continued to distract me and eat at me, I recognized that I now had a boundary problem. “One sure sign of boundary problems,” Dr. Henry Cloud has written, “is when your relationship with one person has the power to affect your relationships with others. You are giving one person way too much power in your life.” Boundaries are my way of taking charge of my own feelings – so that I do not reel and roil because another person, no matter how dear, has tried to impose their feelings and issues as my problem.
So I have returned the problem to my friend. I posed several questions for her to answer if she chooses, including “Have you actually abandoned me?” and asked that she communicate with me in person. I do not know if she will respond. Perhaps not. But the ball is her court – her passion and hostility are her problem, not mine.
Rabid anti-Trumpism in any other form would be considered hateful, intolerant, and prejudicial, like other emotional attacks based upon race, sex, religion, or sexual preference. Virulent anti-Trumpism seeks no dialogue, no understanding, and no rational exchange – it is as destructive and irrational as any other bigotry used to justify cruelty towards others.
Rational opponents of President Trump and his rapid-fire policy positions exist, embracing traditional forms of debate and disagreement to which we are all accustomed. Snarky humor, point-counterpoint, and appeals to law, codes of morality, and tradition characterize these exchanges. True to form, artist and Clinton supporter Jayne Riew of New York City undertook one of the most elegant of such interactions with her photo-essay project “She’s With Him.” Ms. Riew presents seven women who voted for Trump, women she sought out after the election when she was “repelled by the ugly stereotypes and facile theories about [Trump’s female] supporters.” She adds,
“In many parts of American, female Trump supporters knew that had to keep their voting intentions hidden, not just from pollsters, but from people close to them. That intrigued me. What else did they have to say?”
I’ve bookmarked Ms. Riew’s website so that I can return to it again and again. Some days, it’s my only reminder of the difference – the difference between opposition to Trump policies and the anti-Trumpism unleashed upon us.