Out of the Trump Closet

Out of the Trump Closet

What a day it has been, Biden has been declared the next President! Yeah!

Biden delivered a great speech tonight. I truly hope and pray that the ideas he laid out, and his vision for healing the country he outlined will actually happen.

Biden's Plan to Heal the Country

This is my favorite of Joe Biden's plans, and the best speech I've ever heard from him.

President-Elect Joe Biden (emphasis mine):

I pledge to be a President who seeks not to divide, but to unify.

Who doesn't see Red and Blue states, but a United States.

And who will work with all my heart to win the confidence of the whole people.

For that is what America is about: The people.
And to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight.

I've lost a couple times myself.

But now, let's give each other a chance.

It's time to put away the harsh rhetoric.

To lower the temperature.

To see each other again.

To listen to each other again.

To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy.

We are not enemies. We are Americans.
The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal.

This is the time to heal in America.

I sincerely hope these words become the political North Star for how we move forward. Well done Joe.

I Voted for Trump...  Twice

How much do you hate me now? Take a moment... collect yourself... I'll wait.

If your opinion of me just changed... and I have lost all respect and credibility in your eyes... I assure you I'm the same person I was five minutes ago. And my closely held opinions have been there a long time.

Before you throw bricks at me... read the previous section again about my favorite Joe Biden plan above. Come back when those words have really sunk in and you're ready to listen to a different perspective.

I'm not sure it's safe to leave the Trump closet yet. I'm hoping that now that Biden has won everyone is feeling a little better. I'm going to follow Joe's lead and take a step toward reconciliation, trusting that Joe has my back.

This is a risk I haven't been willing to take the last four years (Yes, I voted for Trump the first time too). I did not want to risk relationship damage due to politics.

Now that it's over, I think it's time to step out of the trenches. I'm going to extend a hand. Here goes nothing.

Seek First to Understand

We all need to feel understood. Understanding is a two-party affair. You cannot understand the other side without engaging in dialogue and listening before passing judgement or scoring points.

Stephen R. Covey says it much better than I can:

If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Agreement is not as important as understanding. Covey continues:

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

All I ask is for a chance to explain my thoughts, and I will try to  give you an opportunity to understand a point of view you may not agree with. I'm not asking for your agreement, or approval, just a touch of intellectual curiosity and an open mind.

How Could I Possibly Vote for Trump?

He's repugnant. Immoral. Chaotic. Racist. Sexist. A misogynist. An adulterer. Arrogant. Boisterous. Inflammatory. And annoying as hell. How could I vote for such a man?

Here's how: It's complicated.

I did not vote for racism. I did not vote for sexism. I did not vote for adultery. I did not vote for vulgarity.

I voted for a person who I thought would do the best job according to the criteria that matter to me.

It's Not Black & White

Voting is a blunt tool. You have 2 choices (let's put the flaws of the 2 party system aside for now).

Nobody agrees 100% with any person. No person is perfect. No person is pure evil. Everyone is somewhere in between. (Insert Sunday School lesson here).

Life is full of hundreds or maybe thousands of different issues. Each concern is given weight on the spectrum from "I don't care at all" all the way to "I would die for this".

If you thought about all these variables in terms of mathematics and constructed an n-dimensional space by giving each of these issues a single dimension, you start to see the complexity of the space we are dealing with. It is impossible to visualize this kind of n-dimensional space.

All this complexity gets boiled down to a single vote: A or B? Why do we judge people based on so little information? You judge me for a vote? My reputation and credibility boils down to a single bit of information? That is clearly an unfair and unreasonable way to deal with people. Let's be reasonable to each other.

A Blanket Endorsement?

A vote is not a blanket endorsement of everything that person does. How could it be?

A vote is not an affirmation that the candidate can "do no wrong". That's Kool-Aide drinking. And that's injecting a disturbingly religious instinct to a political context, a practice which needs to be actively resisted on all sides.

Question everything, dig deeper, and don't just blindly accept because you like the source. If you're not digging deeper, you're acting in the realm of faith. And be honest that this happens on all sides. Don't be a victim of manipulation by just accepting everything you hear from your preferred source. CNN and Fox News do not deliver the Word of God. Don't treat them as such.

Challenge Good vs Evil Thinking

We have to stop thinking in terms of black and white. Or good versus evil.

We have to start thinking about people as wonderfully complex, intelligent, and interesting. Give people the benefit of the doubt that they actually aren't trying to hurt you. This applies to all sides, we need to bring civility back.

People are complicated. They are a mixture of good and bad. People also change, they can be bad and then good. They can have mixed motives, be inconsistent, and equivocate in order to justify a position. Why are we unwilling to give people permission to be fallible? Do you hold yourself to the same standards you hold others?

Trump isn't evil. If you think he is, you might think his supporters are evil too. He's fallible and quintessentially human. He has good in him, I have seen it in his speeches and rallies. He cares about America, and has shown it more passionately and more deeply than any politician I can think of.

If you think he is evil, look in the mirror. Do you see perfection?

My Voting Function

I am pathologically analytical. I have a hard time making decisions based on gut or feel. I put processes in place, either physically or mentally to help me navigate the world.

I'm a software engineer, so I often view the world through the lens of code. Voting in my world is like a function written in code that has many inputs, and a single boolean(either True or False) output. Each person builds their own function and composes it of algorithms that are important to their existence. Inputs are weighted, but in the end you have to build a solution that outputs a single A or B answer.

I get to be the judge for once. It's my function. My implementation. And no, I'm not unbiased. My bias is shaped by my own personal experience, just like your experiences shape you. Your function and algorithms will be different from mine, but we can only select either A or B.

Our functions may not agree in terms of the result, but we should respect that another person's function is the best for their situation, for their set of inputs, biases, and concerns. No American is creating a function with the purpose to "destroy America and everything you know and love". Neither choice is as dire as the pundits proclaim.

Democracy is millions of individuals making this determination over and over in cycles. It's amazing how well this works over long periods of time. It's incredible that repeated through generations these decisions have approximated a truly amazing American solution. Maybe we're not just a bunch of idiots after all. When put into perspective, four years is a drop in the bucket.

Do the Ends Justify the Means?

Again, that's a complicated question. There absolutely is fallout from electing Trump as President. And fallout I don't like. He did things I wish he didn't. And yes, many facepalms and "why did he say that?" moments. The Grand Unifier he was not.

I'm not apologizing for voting for Trump. Nor do I think anyone needs to apologize for or be ashamed of who they voted for. No American needs to bend a knee to any other, we are free to be who we want to be.

What I Like About Trump

Though I cannot give a full throated character endorsement of Trump, I am ecstatic about the policies Trump's administration has furthered in general. I am a relatively principled conservative with libertarian streaks. But don't put me in a box. I like to think I'm open minded, reasonable and am capable of cherry-picking good ideas wherever I see them.

To satisfy your lust for political red meat to chew on, here are some highlights of areas where Trump has really delivered on many of his promises in my opinion: the economy, the judiciary, taxes, foreign wars, abortion, law and order, criminal justice reform, America First, and Middle East peace progress.

I like how Trump stood up for America on the world stage. It's not a dumpster fire. It's a great place. We can be better, but let's put the same expectations on other countries. They can be better too. China can pollute less, stop stealing our intellectual property, end modern day slavery and can play by the same rules we do. And yeah, NATO countries should all pay their fair share for security and defense.

Straight talk is refreshing. Trump is a real person. He's not the output of decades of focus groups. You're gonna get some verbal vomit. But it will be real, and you know where he stands. Can we please demand candor and clarity from our politicians?

So I have reasons. There are more, and definitely deeper reasons I don't have time to fully unpack here. But it should suffice to say I have some, and I think they are fine and rational reasons which demonstrate what I think the better path for the country is right now.

You may not agree on my conclusions, but that's fine, each of these topics are rabbit holes we can explore if we could only have a respectful conversation. Am I a bigot, racist, xenophobic, or irredeemable? Should I be punished, silenced or canceled for my views?

Why can't we have these kinds of conversations today?

Psychological Safety

This is a little bit of an aside, but I think it's a useful concept for this discussion.

In a work environment, it's important to me to create an environment of psychological safety. This is a topic that I'd encourage more study if it is new for you. If you manage or lead others, I would highly recommend reading about Google's Project Aristotle and implement this mindset in your team.

The core principles of psychological safety from my perspective are where:

  • Members feel safe to express and discuss important issues
  • Members feel respected and accepted
  • Members do not fear retaliation or judgement
  • Taking interpersonal risks is accepted
  • It's OK to be wrong, and make mistakes
  • It's OK to change your mind, and take a different, better path later

Further, in Amy Edmondson's TEDx talk which is an excellent introduction to the topic she presents the following practical ways to frame a discussion to create a safe environment:

  1. Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem.
  2. Acknowledge your own fallibility.
  3. Model curiosity and ask lots of questions.

We should extend this safety everywhere. If it works in the workplace on teams, it might just work on a larger scale. Could this create better "team" outcomes as a country?

Where Closet Trump Voters Came From

One of the worst things I have seen over the last four years is the extent to which people are stereotyped, judged, degraded, and canceled for a vote, an opinion, or an idea. This has to stop.

This is what has created the closet Trump voters. We didn't feel safe to share ideas or opinions. To be fair, this closeting didn't just happen to Trump voters, but I'd argue (and polling failures suggest) that it was much more widespread for Trump voters to conceal their leanings.

The hostility against Trump voters started with words like "basket of deplorables", rants on a bullhorn to "get in their face". It got more real with people getting fired, de-platformed, canceled, and censored based on opinions or even charitable contributions. The push for hostility with the ultimate goal of destruction presented too much to risk.

So we shut up. And voted. Trump was loud enough for all of us.

Bring Back Liberalism & Tolerance

Here's my plan for moving forward. And I think it's non-partisan and should be non-controversial.

It's time to get back to the original meaning of liberalism. Ideas that brought us to where we are today as a society: tolerance, openness, free speech, equal treatment, empathy, and compassion. Personally, I'm finding more of this on the modern right than I am on the modern left which is a really surprising switch.

If you are willing to withhold these liberal expressions from Trump voters, or Biden voters, whatever your position is, you need to spend time thinking about why. If your tolerance only extends to immutable characteristics of people(race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.), your tolerance is shallow. We must grow a deeper tolerance for ideas and beliefs to coexist. We live in a pluralistic society, where we need to not just coexist, but cooperate.

Why can't you tolerate someone speaking a bad idea? Why can't you tolerate someone speaking a lie? Why can't you tolerate ignorance? The solution is not to silence them. It is to speak out your own opinions. The marketplace of ideas is how we sort through the good and bad. We teach each other and allow ideas to bounce back and forth until we converge on the good ones.

Save Free Speech

One of the dumbest things I have heard is that "speech is violence". No. Violence is violence. Speech is speech. If it were violence, we should have laws against it. In a few narrow places, we actually do prohibit speech: inciting violence, plotting assassinations, yelling fire in a crowded room, and so on. Ideas that you don't like are not violence. Misinformation is not violence. Insults are not violence. Outright lies are not violence, otherwise we would have to lock a lot of people up.

Big tech is censoring conservative voices, ideas, thoughts, and news stories. There is little if any evidence of this happening for even extreme left views and misinformation. This might be convenient for short-term political gains, but one day it may not be conservatives on the receiving end. We need to wake up and protect free speech.

Kill cancel culture. Get out of echo chambers. Stop censoring, annotating, contextualizing, fact-checking, or otherwise altering someone else's speech. Let the speaker and the listener be free to think without a minder. Continuing down this road of enforcing total ideological conformity is dangerous. Like really dangerous. See: China or the History of the 1900s.

It's Not the President, It's You

At the end of the day, it isn't one person who breaks a country. It isn't one person who heals a country. It's everyone. We all have blood on our hands. And we all can play a part in fixing it.

But like Biden said, we have to make the choice:

I ran as a proud Democrat. I will now be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn't vote for me — as those who did.

Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end — here and now.

The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control.

It's a decision. It's a choice we make.

Amen, Brother Joe.

But these are just words. Now it's your turn. How will you act now? Will you retaliate or reconcile? Like Joe said, it's your choice.

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