We’re three weeks away from the 2020 election and I’m having a horrible sense of deja vu. Four years ago I was certain Hillary would win. In retrospect, I missed a clear sign pointing to a Trump upset. On Election Day 2016, an angry horde of bees circled our polling place, dive-bombing voters as they neared the front of the line. In the hour I waited to vote, two people were stung. Both were Clinton supporters.
Life under Trump has been Bizarro World. According to our esteemed leader, Sean Hannity is Walter Cronkite, Vladimir Putin is Winston Churchill and The New York Times is the National Enquirer. In my own circle of family and friends, Trump’s hammer blows wreaked havoc. My dental hygienist, a woman from Iran, was unable to visit her dying father in Teheran for fear she may not be let back into the States. My mom’s caregiver, a lovely lady from Belize, moved to Nigeria feeling it was more stable than America. My aging mother is fearful that her Medicare and Medicaid are about to unravel. She is certain another four years of Trump would mean the end of Social Security.
I recognize I live in a Los Angeles bubble and my views are out of touch with the country. But I’ve been troubled by the number of friends and family who emerged as Trump supporters. I’ve felt I’m in a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers where alien walk-ins have possessed those around me and no one is who they seem.
My grandfather always advised me to view the world “from someone else’s shoes.” After the 2016 election, I wanted to heed his words. I opted to leave the shores of the familiar and take a journey to Trumpland. My goal was to learn how people can view Trump as a desirable leader through these difficult times. I realized the voyage might be confusing. I didn’t realize it would be terrifying. With utmost humility, I waved a white flag and asked the Trump supporters in my life to please help me understand their outlook.
First on my list was my favorite cousin Dave. We met at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Pacific Palisades. Dave is a real-estate investor with properties all over town. He owns a beautiful home overlooking the Pacific Ocean and has two lovely daughters and an amazing wife. In the eight years under Obama, he did well financially, but he was happy to see Obama go. When I asked why, his answer was simple. Israel.
“Obama was an enemy to Israel. He opposed new settlements and refused to veto the UN resolution against Israel. He went out of his way to insult Netanyahu and made a stupid deal with Iran, Israel’s greatest enemy. Trump supports Israel and understands that a two-state solution is impossible. He realizes Israel is our only true ally in the Middle East. He knows you can’t negotiate with terrorists and you have to rule with strength.”
I asked Dave why half the Israeli population supports a two-state solution if it’s impossible.
“Because they’re stupid and weak. Too many Jews are self-hating. We live in an anti-Semitic world and if you don’t see this you’re blind. Only the strong survive. And Trump is strong.” I asked his opinion about Trump’s anti-Semitic statements over the years. “Trump doesn’t hate Jews. He hates Muslims. Don’t let the liberal media brainwash you.”
Next on my list was Andrew, a basketball buddy who works as an Emergency Medical Technician. Andrew’s saved more lives than all my friends combined. He’s a strapping man from Ohio with a great sense of humor and a deep baritone voice. When I asked why he supports Trump, he morphed into Archie Bunker.
“Gangs. I’m tired of seeing the Mexicans and blacks kill each other. In the 14 years I’ve driven an ambulance in Los Angeles, I’ve seen almost a thousand gunshot victims. You know how many were white? Less than 10. I’m sick of it. Black Lives Matters is a terrorist organization. Now we have monsters hunting cops and illegals living off welfare. We need tighter borders. We need to keep out the illegals and put the gang members in jail. Trump’s the only guy who has the balls to make this happen.”
I asked his thoughts on “the Wall.”
“If we keep out the Mexicans we won’t have to support them anymore. We can take that money and use it on border security. It might be a wall, it might be a fence… listen to what Trump means, not what he says.”
I parted ways with Andrew and met Lynn, an accountant from Orange Country. Lynn is a devout Christian in her 60s who works for a software company. We met at a record company in the early 2000s. Despite our differing backgrounds, we became friends. Lynn’s support for Trump is based on her stance toward abortion.
“I’ve always been pro-life. Trump is giving us a conservative court who will finally overturn Roe v. Wade. I don’t like his attitude toward women but Hillary was pro-abortion. There’s no way I could have voted for her. Voting for Trump was the only way I could live with myself.”
Jeremy was an artist I met at a local coffee house. He creates wall-sized assemblage paintings incorporating items found in junkyards. Given his aesthetic leanings, I assumed he was liberal. Then I visited his studio and saw a painting featuring an image of Obama morphing into a demon. I asked him to explain the imagery.
“The devil is the father of all lies. He’s clever, handsome and charming. His smile melts our hearts and we let our guard down, unaware of his guile. This is how the false prophet gains control of the world. And this is how ‘Osama Obama’ allowed his minions into America. Trump saw what was happening. He called a spade a spade. We needed someone rough and tumble to purify our nation. Trump was our only hope.”
I parted from Jeremy feeling rattled. The final person on my list was the most jarring. Thomas was my old literary agent. We grew up in Studio City together and he shepherded me through the early 80’s as I struggled to make a living as a screenwriter. We remained friends as he became an estate attorney and I became an art teacher.
I called him in May wanting to see how he and his wife we’re doing since they lived near the Hancock Park Black Lives Matters protests.
“I’ll be doing great once they put these monkeys back in their cages,” he said.
I thought he was joking. I never imagined Thomas to be a Trump supporter. He went on to excoriate the protesters as “rioters” and said, “They’re all takers. Either they take from the government or they take from private businesses. Anyone caught looting should be shot on the spot.”
I confronted him with obvious rebuttals: looting was rare, protest was necessary, police brutality against black people was out of control. He used his lawyer training to pedantically dismember my arguments point by point. I asked him why he was more upset about looting then about the police killing innocent people?
“Innocent? Every criminal who was shot got exactly what they deserved. If they cooperated with the police, they’d still be alive.”
Our conversation escalated until we were screaming at each other. I asked him if he believed Trump was diffusing the protests or pouring gas on the fire.
“When you’re dealing with wild animals you need a whip,” he said.
I hung up the phone at that point.
My Trump loving peers had me spinning. I contemplated whether I’d learned anything.
All the Trump-supporters in my life were white, over the age of 50 and homeowners. They all believed Trump was doing a great job. The Trump-loving men I spoke with were quick to anger. They all accused me of complicity and ignorance. My cousin called me a self-hating Jew. My paramedic friend advised me to “listen to what Trump means, not what he says.” My artist friend suggested Obama might be the Anti-Christ.
My journey into Trumpland was a failure. I extended olive branches and they set the branches ablaze. There was only one thing to do. Like an alcoholic who cuts off his old drinking buddies, I decided to eliminate Trump supporters from my life. Trump and his minions are simply too toxic for me.