No, it’s not a wacky ironic statement typical of a Gen X-er like me. Despite this blog’s focus on technology and social change, I will state for the record: Donald Trump, in his political activities, has taught me the power of friendship.
Maybe it all started just a year ago when I was deciding to move into Mom’s place while she was sick. Back then, I needed help…and ended up crowdfunding for financial support. When the time came to move, several friends came out…and they weren’t the friends I was expecting. I’m not complaining, mind you, and quite honestly, I am grateful for the help. But it seemed…odd, in a weird way.
But as I transitioned into my new life, I began noticing that many friends who were Trump supporters…never saw the dichotomy between railing against “snowflakes” (for example) and offering their “thoughts and prayers” in support of Mom. In fact, many of my Trump-supporting friends and colleagues offered the typical mantra of “We’re tired of carrying your lame ass.”
(NOTE: – I was looking for full time and freelance work. Two freelance assignments ended, and the one that remained qualified me as being “underemployed.” I’m not complaining; I’m making a statement of fact).
But what began happening on the other end is that I found myself growing closer to other friends…and taking more personal risks. Nothing major or life changing, mind you, but small changes that were more than just casual hi-how-are-you conversation. For example, an impromptu meeting with an old colleague resulted in more personal revelations about difficult issues we were enduring. Helping another friend move fostered stronger bonds with someone who was once merely a “professional colleague.” And most recently, I realized that my opinion of another colleague has changed in recent months from disinterest to shared principles and values.
For a man who is extremely divisive and dysfunctional, Donald Trump reminds me of the overall power of community. You know, that C word that the GOP Administration and other followers of Ayn Rand consider profane? It’s the idea that collectively, we have a responsibility towards one another. It’s the belief that not only can we not do it alone, but that selfishness is a corrosive value, eating away at our individual – and common – humanity. It’s the belief that we not only have inherent value, but that value only comes through relating to others.
And thanks to Donald Trump, I’ve had a greater opportunity to build and strengthen my friendships. Not just through common values – after all, thanks to Donald Trump I attended my first vigil – but also with my past. My tendency has been either to privately romanticize my “golden age” in St. Louis (which I have to admit, in another context, such a golden age never existed) or bemoan the fact that “nobody understands me” and feel like I must live like a hermit, with my head held down in shame…
But when I hold my head down, I can’t look around and see the people who care about me.
It’s one of the reasons why we build our communities, our networks…because we understand that it’s through our relationships that we grow. I’m fortunate enough that I have like-minded people on my side, whether they’re creative people, socially-minded individuals, or professionals looking to make a difference. It means allies when fighting the kind of mentality that Donald Trump promotes, whether it is support for racism and white supremacy, economic injustice, and suppression of free speech. (Thanks to the support from old and new friends…yes, Net Neutrality is the hill I’m willing to die on because I honestly believe it’s not just a free speech issue but it’s also about digital access, human rights, and social justice).
Would I have learned these lessons on Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? Possibly…but Donald Trump’s activities are driving conversation and activity. And I’m grateful (and slightly sickened) to admit that Donald Trump is teaching me some powerful lessons in friendship and community.
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And as always, thanks for reading!