We have a president who not only purposefully excites a white supremacy base but won’t condemn the KKK and neo-Nazis who support him.
And even though I didn’t vote for Trump, I’m one of the people to blame.
I am the problem.
That’s not an easy thing to admit. Yet my situation is not uncommon. Like countless others before me, I did the quintessential cross-country move, trading my Midwest small-town upbringing for the fast-paced, dream-littered streets of New York City. It’s a story so trite it’s boring at this point. And when asked what prompted such a big change, I mechanically recite how I was a young recent graduate, and how I wanted to go into publishing, and how my prospects of finding a girlfriend and living openly in a same-sex relationship in rural America were depressing at best.
But the truth is – it was easier. It was easier than staying.
My first full day of living in New York City (June 7, 2010, for those interested), I nearly ran into Donald Trump. As I was walking down Fifth Avenue, a small crowd had formed outside Trump Tower. When I inquired further, I learned that Trump (the man himself!) was about to walk out of the building. Although I was still in the obnoxious tourist mindset – looking to stalk any C-list celebrity and frequenting Times Square willingly – I had little interest in seeing the real estate tycoon turned reality star. So I crossed the street.
But I should have stayed.
Not because I regret missing out on meeting the 45th president of the United States, but had I met the man in person, perhaps I would have known then and there that he was who he said he was. And I wouldn’t have been so wrong.
You see, I am the problem.
I am the person who said Donald Trump at least was better than Ted Cruz or Mike Pence.
I am the person who said Trump’s presidency would be harmful, but nothing we couldn’t survive in four years.
I am the person who makes clandestine donations to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and feels like that’s doing enough.
I am the person who says that even though I have family and friends from Trump-supporting states, at least they are the nice and non-racist kind, who vote for economic reasons and not social or cultural ones – whatever the hell that means, anymore.
I am the problem. I am the enabler.
I tell myself no one’s opinions are swayed on social media, so why bother trying.
I tell myself not to ruin holidays by bringing up touchy topics.
I point out that my home state isn’t the one holding racist rallies while knowing full well that many of its constituents won’t vocally speak out against them, not wanting to cause a stir.
I know this because I used to be one of them.
And in many ways, I still am. I am the problem.
Seven years ago, I took the easy way out by moving to New York City. I moved to a place that felt safe and comfortable. I moved to a place where I wouldn’t have my sexuality questioned or condemned. I moved to a place where I wouldn’t have to confront the casual remarks spoken by complete strangers who openly share their concerns about how “more Somalians are moving to Fargo.” And – while I didn’t know it then – I wouldn’t have to deal with the uncomfortable truth that there are Trump supporters I know and love.
While good friends of mine stayed back to fight for visibility, I took the coward’s approach. I left to embrace invisibility – in a crowded city, on Facebook and in every tense personal interaction.
Seven years after moving to New York City, I feel more anxious landing in the peaceful and quiet vastness of the Midwest than I do commuting on the crammed L train, screeching underneath the East River every morning.
Yet seven years later, Donald Trump is president. White supremacists are rallying. My girlfriend is black.
And I’m the problem.