I never shared Tim’s fascination with the concept of parallel universes. That’s changed. It’s where we now live, but not the kind my husband has in mind. Although he never said so, I think he saw himself as married to a different sort of woman in the parallel universe, one who doesn’t write about him. Perhaps it’s better described as an alternative universe. In Tim’s mind: Here I’m married to Edith, who never cooks, and there I’m married to Jezebel, who looks great in an apron.
Humor aside …
It took me four years to understand that the people in my world, mostly white, educated, and well-off, belong in two very different worlds. One world is about the common good and forward-thinking. The other is the opposite. We learn more about the disposition of landmass after an earthquake. The heart-core values we hold are far apart, like the opposite shorelines of the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve always believed that I was the kind of person who could reach across all divides and reconcile differences. And then I was wrong.
I didn’t see eye-to-eye on every issue with every friend. That was normal. I recall arguing over cocktails about maximum building heights, where I insisted that mountain and ocean views should be left unobstructed for all people to enjoy. My friend believed it belonged to those who could pay for the beach houses and high rise apartments. A group of friends might not have agreed what percent of the state budget should go for road upkeep. As the size of the Michigan potholes widened, consensus got easier to reach. At the end of the night, we’d agree to disagree. No hard feelings. I looked forward to the next time of camaraderie and laughter.
After repeated assaults and hundreds of Trumps’ lies, I waited for my Tump friends to speak up. This time, I told myself, they will. They did. But not against him, but me. They said I didn’t understand what he was accomplishing for the country. After 300 people died of the Coronavirus, they said, “it’s no worse than the common flu” and “we will have vaccines by the end of March (2020).” Yet others reasoned, “He’s protecting our investments from the socialists.” They stuck by him and parroted his falsehoods.
A line in the sand…
I learned a lot about my friends in these years, but mostly about myself. I drew lines in the sand I could not cross, and we grew apart. When the exchange got too heated and tension too uncomfortable, we’d diffuse it by agreeing to disagree. It implied mutually valid opinions. But then came the moment when it was true no more.
Our priorities may misalign on addressing climate change, reducing the national debt, or Universal Basic Income. For sure, these are critical issues. But we could still engage in constructive conversation and listen to one another: mendable and debatable differences.
Agree or disagree was no longer about two opinions. It was about, “you’re wrong.” Agreeing with you denies who I am and what matters to me the most. We are not debating mismatched preferences, the natural sugar in fruit vs. added sugar, or whether women age themselves wearing long hair. For me to agree that your opinion has merit means turning my back on the people who endure the burdens of your political beliefs.
You voted for Trump in 2016 because he would bring change. For four years, you watched his behavior and the values he espoused, cozying up with dictators and making fun of a disabled reporter. If you see something wrong, speak up. You didn’t. We are fundamentally disconnected from what we see as morally acceptable. I rationalized your behavior, looked the other way until I couldn’t.
Voting for him again spoke of your disregard for the lives of people of color, about women’s rights, looking out for the common good, protection of the environment, and science. It also told me of your disregard for bedrock truths. Life is lived forward and understood backward. It became about moving on with my integrity intact, to walk my values.
Changing or ending relationships is not about who should do the dishes. It’s not about a single piece of legislation. Not even about political preferences. It’s a divorce because of how we see the world and our responsibility towards other human beings.
I no longer agree to disagree on matters that mean a continuation of power grabs and injustice. Our friendships matter greatly, but the collateral damage is too great. Your opinions are manifestations of maladies I can’t overlook. Your silence was consent—your defense of the indefensible a statement.
And then, it was January 6, 2021 …
A mob of Caucasian thugs, smashed windows and desecrated the halls of our Capitol building carrying flags: MAGA, Confederacy, Jesus, 6WNE. They waved the confederate flag, a symbol of darkness, pain, and division. Trump spoke to his thugs, like a general preparing them for battle, “And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” It was sickening. It was maddening. It was repulsive. But it was NOT surprising. Like slow-moving lava, it was the most predictable coup attempt in US history. We tried to tell you. You listened, but not to us, but him. Bit by bit, you became desensitized to his criminality. The violence we watched was Trump’s success normalizing lawlessness. Your support of him makes you complicit.
This is not who we are; you may now say. Wrong. It’s what 74 million voters are, a large part of the Republican Party. You represent the America of slavery, segregation, and the KKK. You defend an America that treats white thugs with kid gloves and blacks with bullets. It’s your outrage over the shooting of a white female mutineer breaking into our capitol building, but not a word about Breanna Taylor, an African-American woman fatally shot while sleeping. The leader of your movement is Mr. Trump. You were the oxygen that kept him afloat.
These are fundamental (heart) issues that will never be negotiable to me.
I feel some empathy for those who have been fed lies, drop-by-drop, spoon-by-spoon, month-by-year. The right-wing media and opinion writers who knowingly communicate lies for ratings are the true deplorables. What Trump’s actions brought to the surface are the undercurrents of what a large part of America has been since its inception, racist and biased.
The truth will set us free. The darkest hour comes just before dawn. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I choose to believe that better days are ahead.