On the Road to DC—Bowling Green, KY (2): Trump had been in office one week when I met with several of the teaching staff—and one student—from Southcentral Kentucky Community College. None of them voted for Trump, but their backgrounds gave them insight into those who did.
How are you feeling about our country right now?
Bertina: I’m pissed off. I just thought we had more decency. I came to school after the election and I couldn’t quit crying and I had to stop class. And the students are like, ‘what’s wrong?’ And I said, ‘there’s a whole population that believes the exact opposite of everything I’ve been trying to teach you.’ I felt like everything I’ve done has just been a waste.
But I don’t think it’s so much everybody hates everybody as it’s fear…I think the fear is what’s messing with everybody so much. On both sides.
Knowing the people that voted for him, knowing people from my own family, I know it’s all fear. They’re afraid of things changing…they don’t like change. If it’s not their way, then it’s all wrong.
That’s what my mom and dad said. ‘This is the way, this is right, everything else is wrong and if you don’t like it, leave.’ And that’s why I don’t visit. It’s one religion, one belief, one idea, that’s it.
And when you start shaking people’s belief systems, it’s gonna cause fear. And it’s not necessarily that they want something bad to happen to somebody else, they just don’t want something bad to happen to their beliefs, it shakes them up so much.
Theresa: I’m helping raise a child in my home now, and he’s about six, and he goes to a conservative Christian private school here. He’s in the first grade, and we, his mother and I, were just shocked at what happened around election at his school.
They actually taught the students—and these are first graders—about the election, and he came home with a list of notes that he had taken about the two candidates.
And on one side it was all this glorious stuff about Donald Trump and the other side it was all this [negative stuff] about Hillary Clinton. And so then, to top that off, they held an election at this elementary school, the K through sixth graders, and Donald Trump won, and they put it on their Facebook page.
But I just couldn’t believe it that they would do this. And then one child apparently went home and asked his mom if Hillary Clinton killed babies.
Maggie: I guess, my biggest concern—I have so many—is about the environment. And that it’s very easy to wreck things, and it’s very hard to fix them. And with climate change and with things going on, we’re not listening to the science on it. It’s very frustrating because it’s like, ‘here’s what happening, here’s the research’, and there’s a lot of it and not only are they saying ‘that’s not true’ but they’re also saying ‘stop trying to figure it out.’ Which is just so harmful to a culture to be like ‘don’t even try to understand it.’
Why the resistance to science?
Bertina: Science is a liberal conspiracy, is what they think.
Jake: Yeah, and the truth that science tells isn’t the truth we want to hear. So we already have this reason not to trust it, and it just takes a little bit of propaganda a little bit of confirmation bias from your in group, and your views are stronger.
Theresa: Some of it is biblically based, and so I think that it’s sort of a threat to the faith, to Christianity. Like not believing in evolution.
What responsibility do we all share for what’s happening now?
Maggie: Maybe by making the issues super black and white, and like not being able to listen to other people. And saying my way is right, your way is wrong.
Diane: I think to a certain degree, probably complacency. I mean, I have to own up to this: the Women’s March was the first time I ever protested. I’m 48 years old. Why is that the first time I’ve ever done something active like that? So, I think, just the feeling somewhere in the back of my mind, that somebody else is gonna come in and save the day, and I’m busy, I have a job, I have my life….
Queen: Expectations. If I don’t go protest, someone else is going to do it. If I don’t go vote, someone else is going to go vote, and their opinion’s going to be heard and it’s going to reflect mine.
So as long as we’re expecting stuff of other people, we don’t have to be accountable for anything. That’s where I believe the world has went down so much, because instead of us taking ownership and doing stuff for ourselves, we’re expecting someone else to do it.
Jake: I think so much of it is our natural tendency to identify our in-groups, and when you identify your in-group, you automatically identify your out-groups, and when it comes down to it, no matter what, you always have more loyalty to that in-group. And I think that we should always be seeking to make our in-group bigger. ‘Pop the bubble.’ And not have these arbitrary lines that allow us to do bad things to other people, or identify them as an opposition to us, because we’re all way too similar. We all want so many of the same things.
How do we move forward?
Queen: We all have to understand each other. And we have to move forward as one, because if we continue to move forword in separate directions, we’re not going to get to where we need to be. We’re only going to spread out further and further.
Jake: One of the things that’s very important is having conversations with those people who we think are awful so that we can find our common ground and realize that we can still love each other even though we may have subtle differences in the way we feel about things.
Diane: Students do that. I have several students who wear Trump shirts to class, and other students ask them why, and they’ll sit there and have great conversations and have no problems. I just sit there and let them go. There was no screaming, there was no pointing fingers. It was just a good conversation.
Maggie: I think a good strategy is for it to be face to face as well. Because through the Internet, you know, you don’t see the person’s face and you can just kind of skim what they say and take what you want from it and you don’t actually have to listen to each other.
Lauren: It’s easier to be mean when you’re hiding behind a screen.
The teachers: Bertina (sociology); Theresa (psychology); Maggie (biology); Jake (biology); and Diane (english). Students: Queen (studying to be a medical technician); and Lauren (a grad student at Western Kentucky University).