by Joanna Rutter
I know I’m not the only one looking at the statistics rolling in after each state primary, bracing myself against the next wave of red bar graphs, and wondering: Who are these people voting for Donald Trump?
The rest of us are disappointed. Some of us are angry. And we are all afraid. So we re-post, and “like” each other’s statuses, and re-tweet with depressed commentary.
But we’re shouting into a vacuum.
The thing about Trump supporters, to which non-Trump supporters are slowly catching on, is that none of these people are on our Facebook feeds. We purged them long ago. They are the Americans that progressive culture turned into a joke: the people who own arsenals of guns for self-defense, the fliers of Confederate flags, those whose manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to other countries, leaving small towns in ruin. Scorning them only seems to confirm what they believe about the current status of the country.
These supporters are anything but a joke now (and never should’ve been). But we may still have time before November to reverse their brainwashing with a format many of their demographic will understand: a mission trip.
A mission trip, in theory, is cross-cultural communication to offer assistance and share an ideology in the hopes of bettering lives, right? So why couldn’t we employ that kind of thought sharing where Trump’s support is thickest?
All we’d need is a 15-passenger van and enough PB&J for a long weekend. We could ship out from the Triad to crucial states like Ohio and Florida, or simply rural areas of North Carolina with large pockets of Trump support, to visit with people, listen to their fears and share facts.
The key element would be to have multiple ethnicities, religious traditions and sexual orientations represented on the team. Ralph Waldo Emerson put Trump’s platform into words 150 years ago: “Fear always springs from ignorance.” It’s harder to be afraid of something once you understand it better.
Imagine a Syrian college student speaking about his immigration experience to a rural classroom, or a gay couple giving an elderly hetero couple’s garage door a fresh coat of paint while chatting about how they fell in love.
And instead of holding church services, we could hold informational meetings about how a few Jihadist extremists are not equivalent to a billion or so other peaceful Muslims.
Trump’s supporters are just as afraid as we are of having their freedom taken away. Simply sharing knowledge and spreading cross-cultural understanding may be the missing key to dispelling that fear before November and beyond.