So I’m a liberal. A rights-for-everyone, government-regulation-loving San Franciscan liberal.
And as a San Franciscan, pretty much everyone thinks like me. The real political conflicts are between people on the left and people so much further on the left that they’d be institutionalized if they were in Texas. San Francisco is a battle between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters
But one thing pretty much every San Franciscan agrees on is how terrible Donald Trump is, how terrible his supporters are, and how terrible Republicans and conservatives are in general. In San Francisco, conservatives are the butt of every joke; a group to be derided. We don’t usually think of them as people; rather, we think of them as heartless, disagreeable opponents.
So imagine my horror I found out that I was stuck on a raft for five days with no way out with Trump supporters.
But the thing is, when you spend a majority of five days with the same people, you start seeing them for what they really are–people.
The evangelical Christian who spent his down time reading the Bible was actually an optometrist who had spent time working in clinics in Africa. He was fighting cancer and was on this trip to spend time with his daughter. He even was in favor of regulating guns when that topic came up (his exact words were “I can’t believe I’m arguing for government regulation”). He was educated and compassionate and not at all the brutish, rude, uneducated religious extremist Republican San Franciscans usually think of.
Then there was a couple of people, both of whom supported Trump, who were actually really generous. The guy shared his beers with everyone, the wife shared her face cleaning products and shampoo–and when we started talking about LGBTQ issues, they told us how they no longer supported the Mormon church because their niece was gay and they wanted to support their niece.
And finally there was one woman who was possibly the biggest Trump supporter of the group. I was nervous about talking with her at first, but then I found out that she worked in social (or as she called it, conscious) capitalism (social capitalism is a brand of capitalism where people and the environment are put before making money). Not only that, but when I said I had a friend who wore a hijab, she told me that she went out of her way to be nice to women wearing hijabs because she felt bad about all the Islamophobia in the country.
And so this trip really helped me put things in perspective. Not only did I learn how the other half of the country thinks, but I was also able to re-humanize a group I had previously turned into monsters. In this election cycle, we’ve often forgotten that everyone is a human with feelings and stories, and from time to time, it’s really important to remember that.