What Can Trump a Trump?


I’ve been wanting/dreading to write about the Donald Trump phenomenon for months now, but I kept delaying, hoping it wouldn’t be necessary, that I wouldn’t actually have to face what it says about us as a country that he may win the Republican nomination. As each primary day approached, I would think, “Surely, this time, people of ___fill-in-the-state ____won’t vote for him.” And yet, each time I was proven wrong. I was SO very wrong about last Tuesday’s five states. Thank you Pennsylvania, Delaware, et al, for fueling up that crazy train and pointing it West.

The Donald finally arrived on my own Southern California shores on Thursday night. His first rally ended in violent protests, destruction of property, physical and verbal assaults and seventeen arrests. Welcome to the Golden State! But Trump didn’t seem worried in the slightest; in fact, he seemed to enjoy it, which is just another sign of his unsuitability to be President. He has taken on the persona of a WWF promoter, not the leader of the free world. The President of the United States needs to be able to solve problems though consensus, and regardless of how well you think our current, or past presidents have done it, things will not be improved by stirring the public to violence and hate speech. Sadly, based on the rally’s turnout and recent polls, it looks like Trump is going to win here in California too. And all I can think, as I look out my window at my sunny palm tree-lined street, is “Et tu, Brute?”

When Trump’s campaign began to take off, I, like many others, thought his popularity was an anomaly. But as the weeks and months passed by, my incredulity grew and as did my curiosity about his supporters. I just kept thinking, “What is wrong with these people?” But I’m not asking that anymore. Although I don’t agree with them, I don’t think there is anything wrong with them. They are simply speaking their truth and giving voice to their pain and frustration, in rallies and at the ballot box. I may not agree with them, but they are not fundamentally different from me.

Whatever’s wrong with them is what’s wrong with our whole country: classism, consumerism, racism, sexism, cynicism, and a whole bunch of other things. We are deaf to each other’s cries for help and blind to the painful realities facing Americans of every race, gender, class and age in this brave new world of ours. No one is immune. For the most part, we are poorer, sicker, less hopeful and (coincidentally?) more suicidal. We are afraid for our safety, at home and abroad, and afraid for our children and their future. (This is especially true if you are one of the minorities that Trump demonizes regularly.) The winning lottery ticket entitled “The American Dream,” used to be handed out freely with a high school degree (at least if you were white). Now, it seems like there’s a 1 in a 100 chance, even if you play by all the rules. I don’t know anybody who isn’t affected by these fears, either consciously, or unconsciously, but our future and the future of the world will be defined by how we face them.

Trump wants us to face them kamikaze-style, by clinging to an out-dated idea of who we are as Americans – a colonial power: all-white, all-knowing, and all-powerful. For some Americans, that vision is a dream come true, but for many, it’s their worst nightmare. However, I don’t know that any of the candidates, on either side of the aisle, have significantly better appeal. Cruz was recently called, “Lucifer in the flesh “ by the former leader of his own party, (although that was more of a pot-and-kettle situation). Hillary has serious credibility issues and serious ties to Big Money, which is a huge problem for many voters. Kasich, whom I have been rooting for since Day One, is apparently too nice of a guy to be taken seriously by the general public. (Jimmy Carter anyone?) Bernie is a kamikaze in his own way, calling for such radical economic and social changes, that the country may crash and burn in his hands as well. (Based on the age of his supporters, I have a feeling that Bernie’s flight plan is where we will land eventually.)

The late civil rights activist, Vincent Harding, said, “For me the question of democracy, also opens up the question of what it means to be truly human. My own feeling is that when it comes to creating a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, democratic society, we are still a developing nation.” We aren’t used to thinking of ourselves in that way. We are used to believing that we have “arrived,” that we are “evolved,” that we are a model for the rest of the world to follow, but this election cycle has shown that we are just getting started.

The first thing we can do is have a little humility. We aren’t the cool kids on the block anymore, like we thought we were when we elected Obama in ’08 and’12. Apparently, we are in that awkward phase of puberty, with angry red pustules popping up all over, revealing the infections beneath the surface. We stink in all sorts of places, reminding us that we have some dirty laundry to take care. God knows, no one is going to do it for us.

Because this is such a painful revelation, the second thing we have to do is remember that “No situation is improved by going berserk.” It might feel good in the moment, but it is neither helpful, nor kind.

The third thing we can do is speak up, with decency and respect, to the people with whom we disagree. I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of avoiding politics with people who I think might be Trump supporters. While I haven’t actually swallowed my words, I’ve certainly done everything I could to avoid the subject. I’ve sat through dinners, thinking, “Please don’t say anything. Please don’t say anything.” I am ashamed to admit my own reluctance to engage in challenging conversations on this subject. I don’t have to convince anyone of my point of view, but my silence might be taken as tacit agreement.

Well, today I got my comeuppance on that point from two different sources. The first was from Michelle Alexander, author, lawyer, professor and activist. In an interview she gave recently, she said, “We’ve become a nation of stone-throwers and it’s not enough to just drop your own stone.” I may not be holding a stone in my hand, but I certainly haven’t been active in convincing anyone else to put theirs down. Over the course of the next six months, I’m going to work on that, starting with this post.

My second source of inspiration and conviction came from an open letter, published on CalledtoResist.org , which was signed by over fifty members of the clergy across denominations. (I am more than a little sad that only one Catholic priest signed the document.) The title is “Called to Resist Bigotry – A Statement of Faithful Obedience.” In it, they make clear that while voting “differences must be respected in a democratic and civil society… Christians from across the political spectrum [must] come together around political realities that threaten the fundamental integrity of Christian faith and the well-being of society itself.” They are sympathetic to people who support Trump. Clearly, “the failures of both Washington and Wall Street have created legitimate citizen anger and alienation across the political spectrum, and many of us are empathetic to the many people who feel marginalized and unheard by economic, political, and media elites that don’t serve their needs,” but that doesn’t offer us an excuse to support a candidate who “promotes racial and religious bigotry, disrespects the dignity of women, harms civil public discourse, offends moral decency, and seeks to manipulate religion.” Please read the letter for yourself and see what you think. If you agree with them, consider sharing it on Facebook, or emailing to family and friends, those who will agree with it, as well as those who won’t.

This far into the primary season, we can no longer ask, “Who can trump Trump?” It seems that no one can. But we can still ask, “What will trump Trump?” because we just might have the answer to that one and it begins with the courage to speak up.

We have to put down our own stones and look around. Who of our family members, friends and neighbors are still holding one? How can we encourage them to put their stones down as well?  How could we listen to them with compassion and how could they best hear an alternative point of view?  Ultimately, we may not change anyone’s mind, but at least we will have engaged in civil discourse, instead of simply yelling at each other, or  avoiding the subject all together.





Leave a Comment

  1. I love your reflection and understanding. I have mostly avoided conversations and confrontation, partly due to my lack of complete understanding of views as well as the pit that grow in my stomach whenever I hear about something Trump has said or done. I get angry that he is instigating and promoting a hate driven us against them campaign, yet I know my quiet anger won’t help anything and I need to try to understand what’s driving this. Naively, I just want people to be kind and get along.


  2. I agree with your observations and conclusions. I believe we shall overcome…. someday. Kitchy maybe but perseverance is what we have to engage in. Thanks for writing this. I posted the letter on FB.


  3. As a non American I applaud your self awareness but please, don’t use the term leader of the free world. You are not our leader. You are not free. Yes, in democratic terms, you are adolescents, if that. That’s why guns in your hands have been so dangerous. You have not learned the brutal lessons that we Europeans too had to learn. But you have all of our history to look to. You should.


    • I appreciate your concern about the use of the term, “Leader of the free world.” It was the best term to convey to my American audience the level of dignity and influence we expect from our president. We could certainly look to Europe for some lessons about post-colonial realities!


  4. Ali,

    Very nicely done. Hugh and I have chosen not to engage Trump supporters too. It is getting scary. Many of my students have come to me with fears that their parents will be deported if “that man” as they call him becomes president. I have to assure my 3rd graders that it will not happen, but in the unlikely event that it does, they can live with me. How is it ok to scare children for political points?

    Cheryl Shyba cshyba@comcast.net



    • I too could not understand Mr. Trump’s popularity. After a while I started to see why. Let me summarize a few areas I hear people in America worry about and why I think Mr. Trump keeps surprising some.
      USA’s debt at 7:25 PDT 5/2/16 is at $19,263,964,670,195, yes I said nineteen trillion, two hundred sixty three billion nine hundred sixty four million six hundred seventy thousand and one hundred ninety five dollars. The time I type the last sentence we added another $1,000,000. The national debt in 2008 was 10 trillion. Today we are at 19.5 trillion. Double in 8 years! Four years into Mr. Obama’s presidency the republicans told the America people if elected into congress they would stop the hemorrhaging. Came to find out the republicans did not even have an ACE bandage in there bag. So the bleeding continues. It does not matter if a republican or democrat is in office the both love to spend. Dems more than the republicans but they both love to spend. Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Kasich will do the same and the debt will double again in eight years. What options this election do people have, a non-life time politician or the same old same old life-time politician? We have a community organizer as president now, how much worse could a business man do on the economy?
      Radical Islam. Yes, Mr. President, I said it, and so should you. Most people understand there is a very large group of people that if you do not believe in their God and follow their religion you are an infidel and all infidels must die. Europe especially and America somewhat are threatened from this type of thinking. From 1990 to present number of America deadly radical Islam attacks, 53. The number of Americans dead because of radical Islam attacks in America, 3080. Radical Islam executes thousands of people. Why? Because they are Christian. Because they are gay. Because of Race. This group is so evil they film and televise the beheading or the burning alive a human being while celebrating. Why our government cannot admit there is evil in this world and stand up to this evil is beyond me and many others. Would any of the presidential front runners stand up or even admit this evil exists? Mr. Trump admits this evil exists. Would Mr. Trump stand up to this evil? Who knows? By him acknowledging this evil exists does this make him a religious bigot?
      The government has promised a secure border for 20 years. Why do some Americans want a secure border? Glad you asked. Most all illegal drugs enter into America across the northern and southern borders. With most all coming across the southern border with Mexico (please note I did not say they are produced in Mexico, just enter the country across the southern border). America is hated by the radical Islam religion isis, isil, al qaeda (do I need to name more) and as these terrorist come to kill Americans they will come across the southern border with Mexico. Third reason, America has a problem with illegal aliens coming across the border. A country needs to know who is coming into the country. The Mexico drug cartel gang members’ etc. do you want them to come into America? Without a secure border there is nothing to stop them. Do you want your town to be the second Ciudad Juarez?
      The years with president Obama who was going to unite us all, USA with our self and the world. In my life time I have never seen this country so divided in religion, race, gender, economics, local, national and world politics. This is the opposite of what Mr. Obama promised us. The American government promises but never delivers. Will Mr. Trump deliver? Who knows? But I can tell you none of the other front runners will deliver anything but another 4 years of what we have now. There is more of what I understand why people keep going into the Mr. Trump corner but I have gone on way to long. Will I vote for Mr. Trump, I don’t know.
      I hope this post is not too aggressive. I am not trying to pick a fight; I will leave that to the Bernie supporters. I just wanted to give my idea why Mr. Trump seems to be getting the votes.


  5. Just 2 words says it for me .. This all stems from Fear and Greed… All of it… Do we choose fear or do we choose love?
    Do we choose generosity ( on all levels) or do we choose greed? No need to lecture me on the limits of this perspective… I already know..and it is that simple..and how do you choose to go through life?


    • So true! I always put it that we choose fear or Love, but you are right, generosity or greed work just as well as Ultimate choices. I think Trump supporters are convinced that there is not enough to go around – not work, money, food, decency, respect, pride, etc. My teacher Richard Rohr said recently, “We have enough for everyone’s need, but will never have enough for everyone’s greed.” I think you summed that up perfectly!


  6. A fair and moving piece, Ali. Thanks for all the work you must have put into it. X janetmarie

    On Sat, Apr 30, 2016 at 1:43 PM, #Signs of Love wrote:

    > alison kirkpatrick posted: ” I’ve been wanting/dreading to write about the > Donald Trump phenomenon for months now, but I kept delaying, hoping it > wouldn’t be necessary, that I wouldn’t actually have to face what it says > about us as a country that he may win the Republican nominatio” >


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