Column: Trump’s win makes respectful listening more important than ever

Respecting people doesn’t mean liking or agreeing with them, and listening to those you disagree with doesn’t mean endorsing their behavior.

Tess Vrbin is a sophomore journalism student at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about national politics for The Maneater.

It’s been a week since the election, and the initial shock of Donald Trump’s upset victory has worn off, but the painful repercussions haven’t stopped and won’t anytime soon.

I will admit up front that this has been very difficult to write. Besides sorting through my own feelings, I’ve made an effort to listen to everyone, Trump voters and non-Trump voters alike, and acknowledge that their emotions are real. I’ve struggled to find a way to recognize everyone’s humanity after some people’s votes left other people understandably traumatized.

In the end, I keep coming back to my first column of the semester, which can be understood in a sentence: “In order to make social progress, we need to calm down and listen to each other.”

After Nov. 8, I feel the need to amend that statement. Sexual assault survivors, Muslims, people of color and all other groups that Trump’s presidency threatens are in no way obligated to “calm down.” Telling them to do so would undermine and dismiss their pain. Listening is now more important than ever.

Listening to those you disagree with does not mean endorsing their behavior, and refusing to listen will only deepen divisions. A column from The Guardian says that understanding is different from indulgence, which is important for the anti-Trump camp to remember.

Most of the criticism Trump voters are receiving is not the vilification they are interpreting. As I said in my earlier column, “some might take it that way regardless of how it’s presented.” The emotional intensity is likely the most opposition that some Trump voters have ever felt, but that doesn’t make it oppression.

There’s a huge difference between condemning a person and condemning what someone does. The line between those two things is extremely blurry because Trump’s win legitimizes prejudice. However, the line is still there. To quote Peter Beinart of The Atlantic: "Trump’s critics don’t call his supporters bigoted at all. They call their views bigoted."

It’s vital to emphasize that not all Trump voters have bigoted views. Some voted for him because they oppose abortion, want to ensure the appointment of conservative Supreme Court justices or don’t trust Hillary Clinton. Others just did it out of loyalty to the Republican Party. Those are not bad reasons to vote for a candidate, but regardless of the character or motivations of Trump supporters, their votes have serious implications. Blogger Celyra Workman explained an integral part of the problem better than I can: “(People) are upset because, by process of deduction, they’ve concluded that you do not find anything disqualifying about a lot of the objectively terrible things that (Trump has) said and done.” Similarly, in a viral Facebook post that had received over 42,000 shares as of Monday, Phillip Howell told Trump voters, “You may not have racist, misogynist, xenophobic intent, but you have had racist, misogynist, xenophobic impact.” There have been a slew of hateful acts throughout the nation since Nov. 9, proving that marginalized identities’ fears for their safety are valid.

I ask Trump voters to please have the humility to see the role they played in facilitating hatred. It will never be comfortable admitting that, but millions of people are uncomfortable existing in a Trump-led America. Voting for Trump is a choice. Having an identity that he has disparaged is not.

Trump’s grandiose promises for change outweighed his inflammatory rhetoric for some working-class Americans in economic despair. According to a RAND Corporation survey from almost a year ago, people who felt they had no political voice were more likely than any other group to support Trump. His “Make America Great Again” message appealed to people who felt ignored. If politicians, both Republican and Democrat, had acknowledged those voters earlier, Trump would probably not have had the appeal that he did. When he became a candidate, Democrats, liberals and other anti-Trump voters were quick to make character judgments about his supporters when they should have listened to people’s reasons for supporting Trump. If they had, perhaps they could have drawn people away from Trump with logic.

We don’t have to like or agree with each other in order to treat each other with respect. We just have to listen in order to peacefully coexist with those different from us in our divided nation. To further drive the point home, I’m going to quote the same Trump supporter I did in August: We need to have “a dialogue, where ideas are put to the test, where people have the opportunity to hear and reject truly disastrous ideologies.” There has never been a more appropriate and important time in modern American history to do just that. At the end of the day, no one is greater or lesser than anyone else, no matter what they look like, how they pray, who they love or for whom they voted.

Here’s how I ended my column in August: “We can’t assume that all people in a specific group — men, women, Christians, Muslims, Trump supporters, non-Trump supporters — are good or bad. There’s good and bad in everyone, and it’s up to us which side we put on display.”

Millions of Americans chose to display the bad side on Election Day. The most reasonable thing to do now is choose the opposite. That’s the silver lining in the jet-black cloud of the incoming Trump presidency. Let’s be kind, empathetic and transparent to one another as we move forward, and together we will learn to live with the harsh realities that Trump’s win exposed.

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