How does a Mexican immigrant stay friends with a Trump supporter? In jest, I want to answer this by saying “very carefully” but, all kidding aside, I have stayed friends with many Trump supporters. Yep. You’re reading right. I am a Mexican immigrant who is a friend of many Trump supporters. I know the question that comes to most anti-Trump people’s minds is, “How...when these people supported a man who was bent on kicking you out of the country? How can you be friends with people who supported policies that would tear apart your family?"
Well, I was able to stay friends with Trump supporters because I realized that hating people who want me gone, or at the very least supported a man’s policies that wished me ill, was not going to prevent those policies from hurting me. Yes, I can protest; yes, I can go to the courts; yes, I can go through the legal system in the United States and defend my rights. But if I don’t change people’s minds about me, then how will I stop people from supporting policies that are hurting me? If I declare them my enemy, then I basically take my place in an eternal war against them.
The very first thing I had to do to stay friends with people was remain connected to them. It’s kind of like networking. I’ve never heard anybody say, “You will find a job or an opportunity by isolating people from whom you are trying to receive said opportunity.” Obviously, I’m not looking for a job. I’m looking for people to recognize that I have rights and should be able to stay in the United States with my family. Yet, I can’t convince those who support policies that hurt me and vote accordingly if they are isolated from me. Someone else will be able to own the narrative of who I am and present what an immigrant is like. If I unfriend all my Trump-supporter friends, I sever all connections with them. What other immigrant, who will be my voice, who else is going to show them how their politics impact me?
You might say that there are plenty of advocates and public figures raising the voice on immigration reform. That’s all well and good, but how many of those immigrant advocates are my Trump-supporting friends listening to or even know personally? I needed to stay connected to my friends, and because I stayed connected, many of them either changed their minds about Trump’s immigration policies or, at the very least, were less enthusiastic about his policies because they knew how it impacted me, their friend, rather than an unknown member of a caravan that they saw on the news.
I was recently in a conversation with a very conservative friend, and we exchanged various points of view, and he explained to me his concerns about immigration and our current system. His concerns were along the lines of border security and national identity. The more we talked, the more we realized that both of us wanted border security, and we also realized that the national identity of the United States benefited by having immigrants in our country. Now, I would not have been able to have that conversation with him had I unfriended him the moment he said he was a Trump supporter. Why is that important? Because when it comes time to vote for a presidential nominee for the Republican Party my friend will, hopefully, remember me, our discussion about immigration, and remember how the election will impact my family and me. Is that a guarantee? No. But it’s a lot better of a chance had I not kept being friends with him.
You can’t convince someone to see what you’re seeing if they’re not even looking at what you’re looking at. You cannot even start to talk to people about what you’re seeing if you’re not even talking to each other.
The second thing I had to do to remain friends with Trump supporters was forgive. I’m not perfect at this, and I don’t pretend to be the perfect role model, but I’ve found that it works. There are two reasons why it is important to forgive. The first is that you can’t think straight if you’re angry and full of hate. If you can’t think straight, then you’re not going to make a very persuasive argument or give a convincing point of view because you’re going to let your emotions get the best of you. The second reason is because it gives the person on the opposing side an element of grace that they won’t expect.
Our current political environment is full of vitriol and hate. When one side says something, the other responds in kind. When we forgive, it breaks that cycle. Now, I’m not advocating for abuse and mistreatment of people to be excused. What I’m talking about is in the past four years many friends and family members have said very hurtful things on both sides of the political spectrum. We can’t carry that with us. We cannot begin to change people’s hearts if our own hearts are not willing to forgive people’s mistakes or flaws.
If you’re a Trump supporter and you’re reading this, this message goes for you as much as it goes for my liberal friends. We can’t keep hating each other and survive the challenges that are here and are yet to come. In case any of y’all haven’t noticed, if you want to be able to protect the values, rights, and interests that you have, you’re going to need Democrats. You’re going to need liberals. To my liberal friends, in order to have proper immigration policies, fair wages, proper attitudes on climate change, you will need Republicans’ support.
The third thing I needed to do to stay friends with those on the opposing side is realize that we need to stop thinking we can do everything by ourselves. How did that help me stay friends with Trump supporters? Well, it helped me understand that in order for me to be able to talk to people about immigration policies, I needed to understand their fears and why they opposed immigration reform and have conversations about those fears so that I could show them why they didn’t need to be afraid or maybe address their fear with a policy that would resolve the void between us. There is no benefit for me or for my Trump supporting friend to remain in fear of each other and hope that our policies don’t end up hurting one another.
To all my Star Wars friends Rey wouldn’t have been able to defeat Snoke without Kylo Ren, or even better, Luke Skywalker would not have been able to defeat the Emperor without Darth Vader. Who is the emperor in our story? All the issues, all the problems we are facing as a country are our emperor. Imagine if Luke had never decided to give Darth Vader a chance to redeem himself. How would that story have ended? How will our story end?
The choice before us is do we forgive one another and learn to love one another? Do we work together, or do we fail? Failure cannot be the end of this story. So, let’s please, remain connected, forgive each other, and take into account each other’s fears, worries, concerns, dreams, hopes, and work together to achieve those goals.