You are your race, your ethnicity, your gender, your orientation. You own these attributes, soul-deep.
Harder to change, of course, is your religious or non-religious belief. Yet, everyday, there are people who still feel moved to make such a switch.
Your appearance? Well, you can change the optics through surgery, makeup, and physical effort. Money and genetics will still have a powerful say-so on the matter, though. Physical and intellectual being, on the other hand, might be impossible to alter, due to a broken spine, disease, congenital impairment, or a host of other factors.
Your national allegiance can be switched by leaving one country and being accepted for eventual membership in a new one. It’s quite simple, really. That is, if you happen to come from a favored nation and have the means to ease your way.
One of the hardest things to change, though, is the status assigned by income level and social class. Whether you rise or fall in the rankings depends much on the elements mentioned above.
You may well be white, middle-class, and Christian but still founder from a diagnosis of lupus that threatens to wipe out your savings and take you from the home – and the life – you thought secure. Even class and wealth, then, are no guarantee.
You, or perhaps someone like you, sees much in the country that is worrying. Social unrest involving shootings by or against police officers. Protests over low wages by people you think should probably just be trying harder to lift themselves up. Jobs going overseas. And a seemingly endless parade of do-nothing politicians.
Going to a Trump rally is, for you, a declaration that the country is going to hell in a handbasket. You are going to raise your voice proudly in favor of change.
Okay. Now let’s flip the script.
Instead of the white middle-class Christian, you are a person of color. Maybe you are of a minority religion. Perhaps gender non-conforming, or white non-conforming. Whatever the social ID, you’re not the target audience for Mr. Trump.
Protesting a Trump rally is, for you, a declaration that the country is going to hell in a handbasket. You are going to raise your voice proudly in favor of change.
Now let’s say these two meet on the floor of the rally.
You the supporter, roused by the multitude, curse the alien in your midst. You jostle her, possibly punch her, as Trump commands. You feel you are defending your country.
You the protester, surrounded by an angry multitude, stand politely or jostle back, then find yourself escorted or dragged out, as Trump commands. You feel you are defending your country.
Despite appearances, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that there could actually be a mutual dream of America animating both supporter and protester in this instance. Both dream, in their different way, of an America in which opportunity exists for all, and where people stand together in defense of what’s left of our freedom.
The connective tissue between them is unseen, however, because the ever growing micro-marketing of media and consumerism defines who we listen to and what we read. We all occupy a niche that is either served or disserved by our media environment.
For both supporter and protester, the dream is under attack by the same economic forces and divisive policies.
We may not see it that way though if no one is pointing out, for instance, how money marketers are still on the loose, despite the criminal acts which largely caused the Great Recession. If you absorb the Fox News mindset, for example, that what the country needs is far less government (except for the military and corporate giveaways), then your discomfort zone has prepared you for the raging id of a Donald Trump.
How could it be otherwise? Given a political climate that advantages the wealthy and grants media coverage to the loudly entertaining – in a country where our shared dream has turned toxic – Donald Trump is inevitable.
He is a symptom of our nation’s core problem of social and economic inequality. He is not the cure. Nor is he even the prime villain. Should the Republican Party fail to stop his rise, then both the Trump supporter and the Trump protester are faced with the same question.
Will they reach out to each other?
Sending a message to foes by supporting Trump really does the country no favor in the end. As for the one who is speaking out, justifiably, against Trump’s explicit bigotry, there might be the temptation to give up on the political process entirely.
But that means giving up on each other. The anger Trump elicits on all sides is real, and the causes of it are often the same, even though their impact lands differently.
Trump, the Great Disconnector, has no interest in the two – supporter and protester – finding common cause. Or in them realizing that they each care greatly for the health and future of an America that is my land, that is your land.
Find the connecting thread that runs so true, and don’t give up.
Photo: A protester holds up a ripped campaign sign for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before a rally on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, March 11. Trump cancelled his rally. Charles Rex Arbogast | AP