There are a few moments in my life where I feel like I have truly grown as a person. Usually when I learn something profound and it sinks in immediately, and it's like a lightbulb has lit up over my head. I can think of at least two such moments that happened when I re-watched The West Wing early this year.
The first of which, and the one I want to talk about today, happened as I watched Episode 7 of Season 2, "The Portland Trip." I've embedded a random copy of it that I found online below. You could watch the entire episode, but if you want to jump straight to the part that I'm thinking of, it starts at about the 27 minute mark.
(The West Wing is available on Netflix and I can't recommend it enough, regardless of your personal politics. You can also rent it on YouTube.)
And here's a transcript from WestWingTranscripts.com:
SKINNER: Ask me the question.
JOSH: He compared homosexuality to kleptomania and sex addition, Matt.
JOSH: The Majority Leader. The leader of your own party.
SKINNER: He was wrong and I told him so.
JOSH: For cryin' out loud!
SKINNER: Ask me the question, Josh!
JOSH: How can you be a member of this party?!?
SKINNER: You've been holding that in for way too long, man.
JOSH: This party who says that who you are is against the law.
SKINNER: You know, I never understand why you gun control people don't all join the N.R.A. They've got two million members. You bring three million to the next meeting... call a vote... All those in favor of tossing guns - [Snaps fingers] - Bam! Move on.
JOSH: That's a heck of a strategy, Matt. I'll bring that up in a meeting.
Josh sighs heavily as he collapses into his chair.
SKINNER: I agree with 95% of the Republican platform. I believe in local government. I'm in favor of individual rights rather than group rights. I believe free markets lead to free people and that the country needs a strong national defense. My life doesn't have to be about being a homosexual. It doesn't have to be entirely about that.
Josh looks at Skinner thoughtfully before deciding not to continue.
JOSH: Thanks for coming by.
With the benefit of hindsight I can say that on many occasions in my life I've thought about specific people as the embodiment of their position on a divisive issue: abortion, gun control, religious freedom, and yes, sexual equality.
When you are hyper focused on a single issue, especially when thinking about someone else, it becomes easy to forget about everything other than that issue; just as Josh Lyman did in the scene transcribed above. But we are all people. Human beings. With an infinite number of thoughts and emotions and desires and needs all struggling to find a place in our priorities. None of us does a perfect job of balancing those out; we all just do the best that we can with the information we've got at the time.
I look at Donald Trump and see a privileged, racist, xenophobic, small-minded, and short-sighted individual whom I am terrified still has a chance of holding our Executive Office. At face value it can be mind blowing.
But you (and I mean that to be directed at his supporters) are just people. You have your own priorities based on your own wants and needs and emotions. I mean, maybe you're an open white supremacist and you like him because he shares your views on immigration. Or maybe you truly believe that Hillary Clinton is going to do something that you view as evil and voting Trump is your way of fighting back. It's also possible that you strongly believe in small government and free markets but you're tired of career politicians who turn their back on you the minute they're sworn into office. These are all legitimate reasons to support Trump, and it is your right to do so.
It would be easy to alias "Trump Supporter" to "Racist Xenophobic Idiot" in my brain, and I admit I have once or twice had those thoughts when seeing some of the coverage of his campaign and supporters. But that is not being honest to what I know to be true.
We're all just people, and we aren't defined by who we support in an election.