I saw an article on Vox that disturbed me. It wasn’t what it said, disturbing as that was, it was the lead photo, captioned: “A group of high-school boys pose for a picture with a campaign sign for Republican presidential nominee Donald …” I wondered to myself, had I been born many decades later, could that have been me?
I was raised in a Republican home, in a Republican town, in a Republican county. I supported the Republican presidential nominee right up until I was in university. So, based on that, the odds are pretty good that if I were in high school now, I’d support the Republican nominee.
And yet, my parents weren’t fools. My dad sometimes openly expressed the casual prejudices of his class and background and times, but I have a tough time believing that he’d support the openly racist and misogynistic Donald. My mother, who seldom expressed her political opinions if they diverged from my father’s, nevertheless was, I’m quite sure, even less likely to have backed Donald. But, would they have supported Hillary Clinton instead? I have absolutely no idea.
But this isn’t about my parents—I can’t know for sure what would be in their thoughts or hearts under this scenario, because too many things would be too different. Indeed, they’d be so very different that I can’t be at all sure what I’d be thinking and feeling if I were a teenager now.
Still, I can guess what might have happened.
In high school, I was definitely Republican, but I was what part of a now extinct kind called “Liberal Republican”. Also, I was a Christian and took that seriously. Could I have overlooked Donald’s obvious racism, sexism, and general bigotry? I don’t think I could have—at least, I’d like to think I couldn’t have.
So, when I looked at the photo of those high school boys backing Donald, the very first thing I thought was, “that could have been me.” And, with more than a few rather big twists of fate, it might have been.
The reality is that so very many of Donald’s supporters back him because of reasons that aren’t necessarily rational, but that nevertheless matter: Family, faith, peer group, region, class, race—all these things matter far more than those of us who are to whatever degree Left of centre would like to admit. In fact, we can’t even understand it.
Those of us who were raised in a Right of centre environment cannot understand why those conservatives haven’t “evolved” to Left of centre like we did. But the very reason we evolved is the same reason they don’t change: It’s all about who we are, what we come from, what we aspire to be.
So, the reality is that had I been born more than four decades later than I actually was, I could very well have supported Donald and been adamant about it. Much as I’d like to think I was better than that, the truth is, I could have been lesser than I would hope.
However—and this is very important to me now—whatever I was (or might have been under very different circumstances) has definitely evolved: “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” That’s 1 Corinthians 13:11, of course (us preachers' kids can’t stop quoting the bible…). I now utterly reject the hatred and bigotry proudly espoused by Donald and his most fevered fans, and I have no problem saying so.
While I wish I could be sure that high school me would have rejected Donald just as strongly as adult me does now, the bigger point is that all of us who are now adults must reject Donald firmly and loudly. Children and young adults are watching and listening. It is our duty to make sure they know and understand that Donald’s bigotry and hate speech is never—ever—okay.