An Email From My Dad, Who Voted For George W. Bush Twice

Dear Dana,

I have always considered myself a political independent, conservative on economic issues and liberal on social ones. I’ve been as likely to vote Republican as Democrat and, in fact, I voted for both Bushes for president.

But since Donald Trump clinched the nomination I’ve known I would not be voting Republican this year.

When your Uncle Bob sent me a link to the New York Times’ first article on Adolf Hitler, from 1922, I was struck by the parallels between then and now.

Hitler depended on the German people’s sense that they were under attack, being mocked, a laughingstock, being taken advantage of. It’s a citizen with that psychological profile that a “strongman” leader appeals to, a citizen who professes to feel threatened and fearful outwardly, and who, inwardly, feels powerless and impotent. Someone like Trump empowers them; no one is going to kick sand in their face now!

An old friend of mine has “survivalist” tendencies and is also a fervent Trump supporter. The two may be related, calling for the same gloomy outlook. But this is a person who, even if those “damn Democrats” double the tax rate, would still have more than enough money to take him to the finish line. He’s not aggrieved, he’s not actually under threat from any real outside force, and I always viewed his interest in “survival” as more like a hobby than anything else, as harmless fun. I even assume that his thinking that he really DOES need to be worried about this stuff is part of the hobby.

But in contrast to my friend, there are truly hateful, frightened, powerless, uneducated people who want to shake up the whole system, a system that really HAS been unkind to them because of the way they have ended up — without the skills or knowledge to be part of the new economy. They’re hurt, and the way their lives have interacted with the changing world itself — not with any particular people or political party — really has NOT been so good to them, so they’re going to lash out at their perceived enemies, be they immigrants, or any “other.”

But I want to tell my friend: that’s not him, that if he stops to really look at his situation, life (and other people) are really NOT out to get him. Life has been incredibly good to him; he’s been one of the fortunate ones. He may always think he needs to stockpile, but in reality, he doesn’t. He’s always had, and will always have, for real, more than he’ll ever need.

“Ideas are a much better means of ensuring our safety than are guns and walls.”

So for you, me, my friend, and anyone who in any objective sense, when they accurately examine their situation, should not feel put upon by life: Don’t align yourself with those filled with hatred, the truly impotent and aggrieved. It’s sad they feel put upon and threatened, and in their case, their kind really IS a bit threatened. The non-white, non-American world is growing, and that trend will continue.

As Jews, you and I — and my Trump-supporting friend! — have always relied on the enlightened tolerance of governments and principled ideas for survival. Those are our real survival tools, our life raft, not cans of past-their-expiration-date baked beans. And now, as the population changes it may well be us as a white, shrinking minority that may continue to need to rely on the world accepting the ideas of freedom and tolerance and respect for the “other,” for minorities. Ideas are a much better means of ensuring our safety than are guns and walls.

Sweetheart, we need to always embody the ideas that we ourselves would want to live under.

Love you.