I Voted for Donald Trump (and three easy steps for saving the nation)

It has been a month since the U.S. presidential election and I have spent a great amount of time reading, thinking, and writing in my private journal. For the past few weeks, I have wanted to write this post but among my liberal friends, voting for Trump, regardless of his campaign promises, is an action deserving of great vitriol, social condemnation, and the destruction of relationships and dialogue.

What do you feel right now after reading the title of this article? Really, just let it sit with you. Do you feel … furious? Amused? Smug? Neutral? Never in my brief life have I seen such a divisive election. Never in my life have I seen the media grab ahold of the public consciousness and wring it so full of fear. But word on the street is: this isn't the first time this has happened. The media and its incentives - making money off ad dollars from corporations (many of which don't have a sense of social responsibility) - are broken and have been for a long time. And lately, little nuggets of untruths combined with the instantaneous nature of social media are causing people to react to problems that really don't exist while ignoring the necessity to dig deeper for facts.

The night of the election, I left the office where I work, assuring my liberal colleagues that this mess of a political cycle would be over in the morning and we would all be able to get back to our lives again soon. That night, I messaged our chat while I sat in a living room with my liberal friends and said that there was still time for the electoral votes to swing in Hillary Clinton's favor. And the next morning I gave hugs to some of our LGBT\* staff who were rightfully worried about having their rights taken away by an administration which believes in the policies of small government but simultaneously policing people's private lives. So no, I didn't *actually* vote for Trump. The unique circumstances of his professional past caused him to become other than just a political symbol for our democracy, as previous presidential candidates have been.

He has a reputation as someone who doesn't pay his employees, a history of sexually assaulting women, and is a New York city slicker who will likely showboat accomplishments that betray the American people. I sincerely hope that I am wrong and he serves the demographic of good, honest, hard-working people he claimed to appeal to, but no decent human being would say or do the things he has done, and sadly, the three alternatives we had - a lifetime politician with years of service (and baggage from big banks, whose interests are fundamentally against the citizenry because they profit off debt), a guy who didn't know what our foreign interests in Syria were and started using gaffes as a way of marketing himself on television after seeing that the same tactic was serving Trump well, and a doctor who serves the left but doesn't have the money or credibility - weren't much better. This is the state of American Democracy. We must improve our political leadership pipeline.

The day after the election, for the first time in my life, politics didn't stop. No - it amplified. Nearly everybody became an engaged citizen. From the protests at Standing Rock to the Ohio State killer, everybody had an opinion on something. The citizens of this nation weren't just threatened by left- or right-wing nutjobs, but by an unreasonably unethical demagogue who appealed to a demographic that was sick of the status quo in their own backyards. Despite the accusations of assault, swindling, and petty ego battles, Donald Trump won parts of America that are literally struggling to put food on the table and people who are sick of having their language policed by sensitive folks who arrest and suppress any attempt at dialogue while shouting angrily. In a nutshell, this is why I think Trump rose to power and why The People expressed a desire to "make America great again."

2016 Presidential Election by County - Purple View

After the election, Trump supporters and dissidents expressed their emotions online while the world kept moving, and I started using my ability to connect with people from mid-Missouri and all around the world in order to learn why folks voted the ways they did. Remarkably (and sometimes unfortunately), everybody is entitled to an opinion that they perceive to be valid. I spent an entire Sunday reading Nazi propaganda, and realized that white supremacists are scared of losing their cultural heritage. Laughably, they see themselves as an endangered species, victims of something called Cultural Marxism, which focuses on the taboo nature of the various aspects of class warfare and its incendiary consequences. For many members of the Nazi Party, by creating a society for white Europeans alone, we can bring about a harmonious, unified whites-only society that isn't separated by something as divisive as race. This logic, while … interesting, is flawed in its premise that assumes race, rather than class or personal vendettas, separates individuals from one another. My own perspective on how society should be organized is infinite diversity in infinite combinations, but that's neither here nor there.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle

We have a lot of problems in America that don't directly involve diversity or class warfare or intersectionality. The education and criminal justice systems in America are dysfunctional and archaic, people are unemployed, many are addicted to drugs, and we are also worried about equal rights for all people so that they can have the freedom to do what they want for themselves and society. The media spins this narrative in reduced, simple ways for people to digest day-to-day, stoking a pile of hope and fear, playing to our most basic instincts. But how do we solve these problems? How do we ask the right questions to get to the right answers? And how do we build consensus among people who can eventually enact this change so we won't be pushed around by any authority figures, whether they be psychopathic politicians or narcissistic demagogues?

"If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do." - Mahatma Gandhi

Here's a simple 3-step plan for saving America.

1. Get better.

Personally, professionally, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, we need to take care of ourselves. Like they say on airplanes: "Make sure that your own oxygen mask is on first before helping your children." We can't help others unless our own needs are met. There are systems of race, gender, and class privilege that affect every single individual on this planet, and we all come from different initial conditions in terms of wealth, knowledge, and other resources. Unless our basic needs are met - food, water, shelter, and a feeling of safety - it is unreasonable to help others.

For some who lack the resources (or desire, ambition, etc.), it is imperative that we create a better social safety net. As a technologist, I believe the best way to address this issue is a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for all people so that they can have their basic needs taken care of while human workers across the board are inevitably replaced by machines. There are studies being conducted on UBI, and many companies are investing in researching UBI for the future.

2. Make our communities better.

After serving their own needs, humans behave altruistically with their family and next-of-kin and engage in general reciprocity with "others" in their tribes. It isn't really reasonable to expect another person to actually care about someone they don't know, but a popular belief in liberal circles is that by pulling in allies who aren't a part of the marginalized group to call out oppressive statements or actions, we can make a more equal society.

"Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future." - Audre Lorde

On the surface, this reasoning appears to be flawed. Yes, it helps to have allies, but to many people who have never experienced explicit discrimination and don't know how it feels, these allies are viewed as non-credible politically correct police of societal norms.

A story:

My best friend of 16 years is like a brother to me, and last weekend we went skiing together. While he hit the slopes, I got a lesson from a rather gruff ex-football coach who, after I got off a ski lift successfully, said to me, "Good boy!" I saw another student in our group, a black male, flinch and reflexively ask, seemingly out of nowhere, if our instructor had seen some movie. I observed this exchange in the moment, smiled at my instructor, and we continued with our lesson. The connotation of the word "boy" is a remnant of slavery, a way white men exerted dominance over black men using a diminutive pejorative.

I got into an argument with my brother later that day because I asked him if he thought it was worse to call a black person "boy" than a white person. He recalled the diminutive, dominance-asserting way it was used with him (a white male) historically, and he couldn't establish an objective morality by which the word was worse for one group of people over another. I cited the historical context of slavery, and he told me my argument was flawed.

Reading these words now, it seems quite obvious that the context of slavery is quite important here, doesn't it? But I wasn't allowed to stand in as an ally for the African American community in my brother's eyes because I couldn't relay that experience well enough. This is the battle of achieving unity across cultural bridges - we must be gentle with each other and agree and amplify the perspectives of other people to get closer to the truth of a situation - as long as there are no hidden agendas or motives for profit. In hindsight, I wonder how many kids on his football team that instructor called "boy."

Some days I feel closer to the football-playing community than the black community, as I have played with pigskin but the pigment of my own skin falls lighter than many African Americans. The best thing we can do to further the causes of freedom, liberty, and equality are to have skin in the game and really lovingly talk to each other about our shared experiences. My best friend has two gay dads. Can you imagine how he feels about the Trump administration and Christian evangelicals pumping money into the Republican party? We must become citizens of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. We need to take the time to share ideas through volunteerism - whether it be once a week or once a month - and invest in causes we believe in with our hearts and, if possible, our wallets. We can only know others if we are engaged with them in something greater than ourselves.

3. Make our nation better.

With the little time we have after serving ourselves, our families, and communities, we must improve our world. Globalization is tricky. I think John Lennon (of The Beatles) and Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek) had the right idea - a secular, poverty-free nationless world where everybody has whatever they need to survive and thrive. Depending on who you are, this may sound like paradise or a living hell, but I believe this is where the world is headed - a post-scarcity society. Right now, though, we aren't just divided into races - we are a divided species, and Trump's rise to power has brought it into the light so we can't ignore it anymore. The days and weeks after the election have shown us this. How many families have conservative parents, mindful of the economic consequences of a globalized society, and liberal children, scared of experiencing violence because of their sexual orientation? Both of the groups in this example are concerned about their most basic needs: food, shelter, and safety. How do we help those people?

After I started talking to more and more people and hearing their stories, I came to understand them. I had a conversation with a startup CEO, who wasn't worried about racism, about how I have seen some people reflexively lock their cars if they walk past me in a parking lot. I had a conversation online with my childhood best friend, whom I haven't spoken to in 14 years, about his fear of the Russians and nuclear war. I had a conversation with an Uber driver about how she had to leave her hometown because there were no jobs after Bill Clinton signed NAFTA into law and those jobs went to Mexico. And I shared my story, over and over again, as a software engineer and the son of immigrants who moved here 30 years ago looking for a better life. I recognize that I come from a modest background and due to hard work, time invested and a lot of love, my immediate family went from living in the inner city in New Jersey to a cute neighborhood in the middle of Missouri. I'm a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n roll with some rap and drums 'n bass mixed in. It is only by coming together and finding common ground that we can improve the state of American Democracy and save this Republic. Unified, as citizens, we must also, given adequate resources, vote with our dollars to force our capitalist democracy back into serving the people. Only money speaks to the mindless mechanisms of corporate America.

While we take care of our kin and those we feel compassion for, we can address - together - issues such as gender parity, racial discrimination, and legal protections for the LGBT* community in the workplace. These problems have been around for a long time, and they won't go away unless we unite across the aisle. To my stubborn liberal friends who insist on not communicating with people they disagree with, I have to say this: Grow up. There are more important problems to address than your feelings before we go about saving the world. If you can't handle this, go back to step 1. Many of the people that voted for Trump aren't just working jobs they hate to buy things they don't need, but are actually homeless, starving, and/or addicted to drugs. As I said in the beginning of this post, the media has done this before. People are scared into submission by the mindless systems of corporations and profit generation, and this work won't be over for a long time. As a society, we need to improve our baseline, manage the rapidly-growing population, and agree to live with one another in peace given limited resources. It's a complicated world and can sometimes feel overwhelming, but the only way to face the future is together, as allies united toward a common goal. We need to hold our state Representatives and Senators accountable. Let's start by coming together and investing time in causes we believe in with the goals of putting food on the table at home here in what we will make the greatest nation on the planet.

Complacency and faith in a system that works for itself against the interests of the people brought us here. Engaging - with ourselves, our communities, and with the political world will get us out, above, and beyond it. If we don't rise up against and hold accountable the people who wield power over our lives, they will become corrupted by that power and we will have no one to blame but ourselves. It will be like we all voted for Trump and the divisive evil his administration stands for anyway.

Published December 09, 2016