I planned to not look at Twitter the morning of November 9th.
I knew the end results of this election. I knew it even as I left my friend’s apartment the night before, my fiancé and I whispering to each other in the hallway as we made our way to the car, “How did this happen?”
My plan was to wake up and be still. I thought spending time with God would be best, whatever that meant, whether I was just sitting on the rug looking up at my dark morning window or trying to read an Oswald Chambers devotional in my kitchen.
But I didn’t do that. My curiosity got the better of me (as I knew it would) and whatever had now exploded all over social media was now going to wake and thrill me with its horrible, squabbling rush.
So I woke up, opened Twitter, and saw all the ugly that had been transpiring for the past 12 hours.
I tried to write something. I was late for work because I had tried to write out how I felt, but the words found their way to the page pretentious and belittling.
I was angry that I didn’t know how to convey my anger, and I kept getting caught up and thinking to myself, “Do you know what you’re even talking about? You’re just writing yet another political piece that will shout into the already deafening Internet void. You’re probably going to hurt people’s feelings with this post. Does it matter if you hurt people’s feelings?”
So I deleted it and instead went to work. I went back to normal for a few hours, even forgetting at times, but with an ever-present, small buzz inside reminding me something was off and weird.
The morning of November 9th, the Internet exploded with passionate and polarizing rhetoric as the world reacted to the election of Donald Trump.
For the record, I didn’t vote for the man who is now our president-elect.
But my father did.
Of the five most important people in the world to me, my father ranks high and gets bonus points for also being my friend.
My father is a man of profound integrity. He follows through, he owns up, he apologizes with grace and humility. When he speaks it is gentle, and he admits he doesn’t know everything. He is committed, wise, patient. He is not quick to blame and gives people sixth, seventh, eighth chances. My father is trustworthy, listens fully, and serves selflessly.
I don’t know why my father voted for Trump. But I have a guess.
My father lives an unpretentious life in a small western Montana town. He didn’t go to college for very long, and for most of his life he made a living installing flooring. He doesn’t often go online and when he does it is to shop for little things he loves.
He’s not a backwoods white supremacist. He’s not a loud, crude homophobic slapping women’s asses and missing a few teeth. He’s not an uptight male evangelical with an agenda. He doesn’t often speak up about political or cultural issues, but listens, engaged but still, when present for such conversations.
He is not the caricature of every person you and I imagine a white, male Trump supporter to be.
In 2014, my father and I took a trip to Thailand to stay and work at an elephant preserve. It was the first time my father had ever been out of the country, other than small trips to Mexico he had taken as a child growing up in San Diego.
During this trip, I watched as my father began to discover and witness the world in a way unlike before. Suddenly he was surrounded by fast-talking and smiling Thai people, trying to navigate his way through airports with signs and instructions in different languages, and interacting with other guests from Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia.
At this point, I had already been given the chance to explore and understand the world in a way my father had not.
I had gone to college (albeit a private, Presbyterian liberal arts school) where I had met people different from myself. I was exposed to individual stories and cultural struggles I had never seen growing up in Stevensville, Montana. I realized other Christians smoke pot and drink too much and have sex. I had traveled to New Zealand, New York City, rural Jamaica, and Europe. I had spent time among people from different backgrounds. My world, ever so slightly, had opened up.
For my father, everything was new. There were times during the trip where I felt embarrassed, anxious to have some time to myself, when he seemed to show so much open fascination with all he was taking in. It wasn’t insensitivity (though it may have felt that way at times) or malice, but rather unfiltered curiosity.
My father didn’t spend the last year on Twitter or Facebook. He started using his first smartphone a couple weeks ago. He probably doesn’t know about the Black Lives Matter movement, or Facebook Live, or that a young man is the new face of COVERGIRL.
His life and the lives of others is not seen through the lens of turbulent and instant information happening at light speed online, information and perspectives that those of us well-versed in the social media and digital sphere have privileged access to. My father has not had the opportunity to travel frequently or go to school in a way that would allow him to engage with people very different from himself.
My father isn’t a racist, a homophobe, or a xenophobe. He’s a man who, by nature of his own beautiful, humble life, didn’t know that to vote for Trump was to mark yourself a villain, an idiot, a bigot, or an ignorant white male, according to the Internet and those of us who voted differently.
Based on the general definition of “privileged,” my father is in fact privileged. But when it comes to the immense and easy opportunities most of us have had to understand our world and the worlds of others, my father has not been quite as privileged.
My father didn’t vote to be malicious, ambivalent, or to further the “evangelical” agenda.
I believe he voted in the way he did because to him such a vote made more sense than not.
I spoke with my father the Sunday after the election as I sat in the lobby of my church, avoiding the sermon that I wished had been about the events of the past week. I talked with him about the outpouring of response, mentioning all the recent articles that were now describing the immense failure of our country.
“You know, I contributed to that,” my father said into the phone. “I contributed to us failing ourselves.” He sounded confused, sad.
As I hung up the phone, I listened to the sounds of worship songs now coming from the auditorium, signaling the end of the sermon. I knew there were people in there, lovely people, who I didn’t agree with. There were people in there who were now a little more confused by me, and who I was now a little more confused by.
I know my father. I know his heart. It is not confusing to love and respect my father, even in the midst of this week. My affection and connection to him is an irrevocable given.
I have found that when we actually know the depths of a person, their story and their intricacies, their fears, past wreckage, future longings, and context, it is almost impossible to truly hate them (with serial killers and the like probably being an exception).
To know someone, and to want to know someone, is to already open yourself to the possibility of their humanly goodness.
To accept that we do not know it all is an act of grace.
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