Don't Ask Me to Forgive Trump Voters
You're asking too much while they're doing too little.
We had a short discussion on Twitter today about forgiving Republican voters in hopes of convincing them to come over to our side. I said no. I won’t do it. Rather than writing a slew of comments to explain why I won’t, I dragged out this piece I wrote on Medium in December, 2020.
When I went looking for it, I found to my surprise I’d never posted it here. I said when I first began this newsletter that much of what I published would be pieces I’d published before and hoped would still be interesting and relevant. This seemed relevant today, so here it is.
As always, comments are welcome. So are hearts. And sharing is good, too. But mainly, friends, I’m glad you’re here.
First published at Medium, December, 2020
On the day my father died I was involved in a fender-bender. A boy, a brand-new driver, pulled out of a Hot and Now, so unexpectedly I didn’t even have time to apply my brakes. I was rushing to get through a light about to change and I slammed into his left fender. Literally a fender-bender.
I was beside myself. The nurse who called to tell me it was time said I had better hurry. And now this hotshot kid trying to get out ahead of traffic to make a left-turn out of a drive-in screwed up big time and I was stuck.
There we were, waiting for the police, the minutes ticking by. I wanted to strangle that kid but instead I ended up hugging him, trying to comfort him, waiting with him for his father to come so I could ease the situation, since the kid had taken the car without permission.
My father, I’m sure of it, waited for me to get there before he died. We had a few moments together, giving me a chance to thank him for being such a great dad and to tell him I loved him. Suddenly, he struggled to see down the empty hallway, as if he saw someone or something he recognized, then settled back and closed his eyes. Mere minutes. And he was gone.
It was the kid’s fault I didn’t have more time with my dad that last day, and it made me sad, but I couldn’t hate him for it. Why not? Because he understood what he had done and he took the blame for it. He apologized to me, apologized to his father, and told the police it was all on him. HE caused me to smash into the side of the car, an action that would ordinarily, automatically be my fault since the law says I should have had better control. I should have been watching for those accidents waiting to happen. But this kid would have none of it. HE lurched out there when he shouldn’t have. HE saw me coming and thought he could outrace me. He was sobbing. Before it was over I was begging him to stop.
A fender-bender isn’t nearly on the scale of the damage Donald Trump and his sycophants have done, but I remembered that incident the other day when I read in more than one place that it was up to the Democrats to be big enough now to forgive every Republican, including and especially the voters, and work to unify the country. I thought about what it takes for me to forgive, and I know, in my case anyway, that it takes some remorse, some awareness of the damage done, some form of apology and the desire to make it better. Otherwise I’m giving them something they don’t deserve and will never appreciate.
None of the horror of the past four years would have happened without Trump voters, but I don’t expect them to ever admit they’re wrong. They’ll never prostrate themselves before those of us they’ve hurt, no matter how much time goes by. Instead, their rage at their leader’s loss — at the slowdown of the movement to keep their own kind in power — will stay fueled and ready to ignite whenever they feel slighted. I don’t see a time when they will ever see the real picture. And I don’t see a time when I’ll ever feel comfortable with them, let alone forgive them.
I believe in forgiveness with all my heart, but I believe, too, that forgiveness is a choice and not a requirement.
I bring up the accident and my father’s death because it reminded me of who I am and how I look at things. My father was going to die that day, no matter what, but if I hadn’t been rushing to see him the accident might not have happened at all. So, in that sense, I’m partially to blame. That’s how I tend to see the world. Big picture. What could I have done differently? How can I fix this? I could forgive the boy and even reluctantly take some of the blame because the boy felt everything I would be feeling if I had done something that foolish. It became personal. Almost as if we were in it together.
And because that’s who I am, I’m baffled by people who aren’t that way. Admitting and rectifying mistakes makes us human. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness. It’s why I can still admire that boy who so long ago made a mistake and demanded he be allowed to own up to it. He would be 30 years older now and when I think of him I see a good citizen working toward the common good. Empathetic and kind. The opposite of Donald Trump, his enablers, and his voters.
I’ll never get over those 73 million Americans voting to give Donald Trump another four years after the disasters he caused over the past four. And I can say without a single doubt (and without worrying what you may think of me) that I can’t see myself ever forgiving it.
It’s not my place to do that, no matter how many pleas I hear now to unite, to get over it, to get along. For the good of the country.
Trump’s supporters will have to figure out how they can live with what they’ve done and what they must do to make America healthy, viable, and vibrant again. It’s not on me, it’s on them.
The harm they’ve done was no accident. It was deliberate destruction, and on November 3, by voting for Trump, knowing what they knew, they told us their only agenda is the further destruction of our government, of our very way of life. They’ve let us know they’re not done yet. Even after hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, the tearing apart of children from their parents, the millions of unemployed, the systematic reduction of our proper place in the world, the cons, the lies, the corruption, they would continue on this path.
When that boy’s father told his son after that long-ago accident that there would be consequences, he did it as a loving parent trying to teach a valuable lesson. He said nothing about forgiveness and the boy didn’t ask. The boy knew, I’m sure, that he would have to prove himself first.
Forgiveness is a gift. It’s not a reward. It’s not an entitlement. It’s not open to demand. It comes freely from our hearts for reasons only we get to decide. And if there’s one constant, it’s that we still get to decide.
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