If you’ve lost your bearings in Trump’s America, your conservative friend can help you find them.
Since the shocking presidential election result, many people have approached me with quizzical expressions, some with tears in their eyes. I live among the adorables, but I think like a deplorable. To them I am that most exotic creature—a conservative Republican—and they really seem to want to understand the mind-set of those who voted for Donald Trump (or, like me, weren’t heartbroken when he won). Some have felt the need to hug me as if to embrace that half of America from which they feel estranged.
I realize that as the excuses pile up for Hillary Clinton’s loss this curiosity might be fleeting, so I try my best to teach my curious grasshoppers. And since we conservatives are the biggest givers, I want to share with other adorable readers what may motivate the actions of a deplorable. Even though we may not have met, I’m happy to be that token guy you can call “my conservative friend Lou.”
You might begin by considering the effect of your nomenclature. Calling people racists, homophobes, bigots and other such labels doesn’t endear the name caller to the recipient. Try descriptors like traditional and hardworking. Better. It’s amazing, I know, but people don’t like being reduced to a negative cultural stereotype.
Now we are ready for a field trip. Rather than going on that “fact finding” trip to Cuba or Venezuela, how about a trip to Iowa or Nebraska? Too remote? Might I suggest Pittsburgh, my beloved hometown, where a five-minute drive in any direction from city limits puts you in Trump country? You can take a day trip out and return to your comfy high-rise hotel bed by evening. We even have hipster redoubts populated with Brooklyn expats. The beards, the flannel shirts and the abundance of heritage pork dishes will make you feel like you are in Appalachia even before you leave the city.
Try to find some subjects that you might discuss should you ever meet a Trump voter. Familiarize yourself with Big 12 football. You have a buddy who went to Wisconsin and a couple of friends from Michigan, so knowing the Big Ten is no big deal, but knowing that Oklahoma State is the home of the Cowboys will earn you major points. When you travel, attend a church service at least one denomination to the right of your regular church. Maybe watch or rewatch “American Sniper” rather than your usual mumblecore or IFC fare. Also don’t expect people you meet to commiserate over “Hamilton” ticket prices or know what cisgender means.
You may not know this, but deplorables are all around you—they might even be working in your own home. Deplorables know how to fix things. See that guy over there working on your leaky faucet? Ask him about his politics. The nurse in your doctor’s office? Ask her, too. Many of the people who make your life so exquisite probably disagree with you, so unless you are handy with a double-box wrench, don’t be too quick to label them Neanderthals. They know your liberal politics by the material posted on your fridge but are way too tolerant to confront you on the topic. They are also too polite to walk out on you. Car trouble? Don’t even go there.
Also: No more boycotts. Have you ever tried Chick-fil-A? Delicious! When I go to the hospital I don’t ask whether my room is on a wing donated by George Soros or David Koch. I once had a liberal customer who so abhorred my views on Israel that he passed on the excellent value that I was offering on a wool Berber broadloom carpet. He went elsewhere for a hideous synthetic knockoff.
Deplorables are people too. Their kids make them proud and drive them crazy. They eat kielbasa and even kale. Some laugh at “Seinfeld” and some like opera. Some are atheists and some go to church. Please understand that—just like you—deplorables lead lives that are mysterious and wonderful, tragic and joyful, and invariably complex.
Sometimes they have different ideas about how to solve the problems that afflict our society, but that doesn’t make them evil. As the signs at the rallies said: Love conquers hate. So show a little love to your deplorable sisters and brothers and remember that in the Midwest, while love can conquer hate, the Steelers almost always conquer the Browns.