Our country is becoming two separate families, and we don’t really like each other very much. Both families claim the same nation, but each has a very different understanding of why this country is here and, maybe more importantly, where it should be going.
My natural instinct, believe it or not, is to find common ground and seek ways to move forward together. I’m a peacemaker, not an ideologue. There’s ample room for compromise in almost every situation.
Built into that instinct is an assumption that every American’s basic goal is the same: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Lately, though, I find myself asking questions that challenge my instinct’s validity:
Would I have sought common ground to move forward with the National Socialists in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s?
Would I have tried to work with Joe McCarthy to find compromise while he arbitrarily destroyed people’s lives during the Red Scare?
Would I have worked together with the southern states to find a way to work things out, so they could keep their slavery and the States could stay United?
Or would I have taken a stand against objectively immoral, unethical, and evil behaviors?
To be fair, I have the benefit of hindsight to know how each of those “situations” ended. An average German citizen in 1938 might have not understood the full depravity of what was brewing in their names in 1938. Germany was facing a major economic problem, and a leader was promising a solution. He was, of course, leaving some major tenets (e.g. “Ja, I’m gonna kill every-von.”) out of his description of said solution.
Still, I like to think that I would have been firmly anti-Nazi from the beginning. As soon as someone said, “the reason the economy is in shambles is…wait for it…the Jews!” I like to think my “bullshit” alarm would have sounded.
Today, if you tell me the problem is “the Jews” (or the Mexicans, or immigrants, or the Muslims), my alarm is going to be SCREAMING. There’s zero chance that “the Jews” is the ever answer to your question, unless the question is “what do you call adherents of Judaism?” Or maybe, “what’s the number one ethnic and religious group eating Sunday brunch at Katz’s Deli.” But other than for those two questions, it’s rarely the answer.
Knowing all of that, I am starting to question why I am seeking common ground with Trump supporters: people whose actions and words call their morality, ethics, and status as “good people” into question.
Put differently, I wonder whether in 150 years, “compromising with Trumpians,” is going to sound as suspicious as “compromising with the Confederacy” sounds today.
“Compromising with the Confederacy” would be an indefensible position because, humanity now recognizes the Confederacy desired to maintain their economy through the use of human slavery. That’s kind of a non-starter, y’all. Even modern racist people tend to agree that “owning another human” is an all-around bad idea.
An aside: “Modern Racist” was the number one periodical in circulation in Virginia and North Carolina (pronounced, “noath cay-uh-LYE-nuh”) from 1850-1861. They stopped publishing once they needed to use all of their paper to print up useless currency.
But any compromise with the Confederate States that involved keeping slavery alive, viewed through 2017 eyes (or plenty of 1861 eyes, for that matter), would be viewed as complicity in their evil endeavor. If you touted compromise in 1861, your statue would surely be torn down in 2017. Or maybe in 2018. Okay, okay…2019 – we’re getting around to it. It’s complicated! Okay, it’s not, we’re just pussies who have a hard time standing up for what’s right when mean rednecks yell at us.
In 150 years, will humanity recognize the tenets of the Trump Doctrine and its leader, Der Twitler, to be inherently evil as well? Will the world look upon the past through futuristic (possibly cyborg, we can’t be sure) eyes and see any compromise with Trump as having been complicit in his evil endeavors?
In 2167, will we look back on Donald Trump’s incendiary blaming of Mexicans, immigrants, and Muslims, preying upon those weaker than us to rally votes during an election, as an early act of evil?
In 2167, will we view the President’s appointment of his own family members to key positions as an obvious circumventing of legal and governmental ethics? How unethical do you have to be before you’re being evil?
In 2167, will society view Trump’s decision to ban transgendered people from the military as a clear example of an evil man seeking out someone to scapegoat? By then, we will have the United Federation of Planets up and running. Let’s hope we’ve put it all to rest before we have intergalactic wars to fight.
In 2167, will humanity recognize Donald’s obfuscation of the investigation into collusion with Russia as proof-positive of his evil intent going into 2016?
In 2167, will the world understand that Donald Trump’s pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord was a selfish, pandering act that jeopardized humanity for the sake of getting a few cheers at a few rallies?
In 2167, will everyone be taught in school that the Trump administration’s “rolling admission” style of telling the truth only to the extent they are caught was a prime example of their immoral, evil behavior from Day 1?
My thought is that my underlying assumption is proving to be wrong, which is making my desire to compromise misplaced. Trump’s supporters don’t believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the same way I do.
I can tell by the way they act and the way they talk.
They don’t value your life. They value their lives, but they’re honestly indifferent to the lives of people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, refugees, liberals, and anyone else who doesn’t look or talk like them.
They don’t value your liberty. They value their liberty, like the liberty to own and carry weapons, to marry who they want, and to worship how they want. They don’t value your liberty to live in a safe country, where getting a weapon is as easy as getting a pizza. They don’t value your liberty to plan your own family. They don’t value your liberty to attend school or court free of the displayed bias in favor of the majority religion.
They don’t value your pursuit of happiness. They value their own pursuit of happiness. They honestly don’t care if you can’t get a mortgage, get into the school you’ve always wanted to attend, or marry whoever you want.
Compromise only works if you want the same basic thing. When you buy a car, you want a good deal and the salesman wants a good commission. There’s middle ground where you both walk away happy.
But what if you want a good deal, and the salesman wants you to be eradicated from the face of the earth, AND he’s willing to sacrifice his own commission for it?
Can I really step in and help you both negotiate? No, because your desires are incompatible. Compromise is, as such, not possible.
My instinctive desire to compromise with Trumpians is built on the false assumption that they want life, liberty, and happiness, just like I do. But they don’t. I want it for me AND them AND everyone on the planet. They want it just for themselves, and at everyone else’s expense. There’s simply no negotiating with someone whose stated goal is mutually exclusive to yours.
My desire to compromise has landed somewhere between “foolish” and “complicit in their evil.” And for that, I’m giving it up. No more trying to see their point. No more back and forth.
Bottom line: if you think Donald Trump and his antics are acceptable or good, I’m not going to compromise. I’m not going to look for middle ground. I’m not going to be complicit in his evil.
You and I are simply and objectively not on the same side of history.