A Trump/Pence yard sign appeared the other day in my neighbor’s yard across the street. We’ve never met, although they’ve lived there for about a year, maybe more. It shocked me, even though it shouldn’t. It’s not as if I don’t know we live in Indiana. Pence is our governor, after all. It’s not as if I don’t know we’re in the minority here.
It shocked me anyway, because even though I know all that, it doesn’t feel quite real. The Trump supporters are mostly people I don’t know and never have a reason to talk to, except maybe to make small talk in the check-out line at the JayC (“Pretty busy today, huh?” “Yeah, it’s been like this all day.” “Well, hang in there.”) or over the counter at the Shell-CircleK (“Nice and cool in here.” “Yeah, not too bad.” “It’s a scorcher out there.” “That’s what everbody’s been sayin’ – have a nice day.” “You too.”). The Trump supporters aren’t the people I talk politics with. They’re not the people I work with; they’re not the members of my church; they’re not my friends on Facebook; they’re not my “us.”
So I don’t really understand, and I know it. And I’m starting to see this inability to understand, and what feels like an insurmountable, or almost insurmountable, social separation that gives rise to it, as the even bigger problem. From where I live, Donald Trump as president would be a disaster, and I hope we will dodge that bullet. But then the people for whom Hillary Clinton as president feels like a disaster will all still be here, and I will still not understand them, and they will not understand me or rest of the “we” that are breathing a giant collective sigh of relief. How can we even begin to work through the conflict(s) that this appalling election process is revealing if we cannot even contemplate being in the same room with one another, or speaking to one another about the things that matter to us, without breaking out into a cold sweat?