By: Bradley Kneeland
I love politics. Politics is not just a source of enjoyment for me, nor is it just a hobby. Politics is a part of my identity. For as long as I can remember, I have been invested in the political process and the rough and tough arena of conventions, debates, campaigning and elections.
One of my earliest memories is watching the 1996 Presidential Debate with my dad. I was six years old and I wanted Bob Dole to win because I thought he looked like my grandpa.
In 2000, I was ten years old and I wanted Senator Bill Bradley to get the Democratic Nomination because we shared the same name and I was enthralled with the idea of there being a “President Bradley”.
In 2004, I was fourteen and riding high on the Kerry/Edwards ticket because I didn’t agree with the Iraq War or Bush's proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
In 2008, I was eighteen and an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton. When she lost the nomination to Barack Obama, I was disappointed but, like any good Democrat, I fell in line and supported the Obama/Biden ticket. I was inspired by his message, I was inspired by his vision and I was inspired by his values, his promise and the hope he brought to millions of Americans. I volunteered on his campaign, I made calls, I knocked doors and I will forever remember on Election Day, 2008, casting my first vote for President of the United States and the overwhelming sense of pride and excitement I felt that night, watching our nation’s first African American nominee become President-Elect of the United States of America.
I come from a family of staunch Republicans, some more moderate than others. My dad is more moderate; more Libertarian but not the delusional Ron Paul kind. My mother and I are the two Democrats in the family, and I will never forget texting her the night Hillary Clinton claimed the Democratic Nomination- both of us giddy with excitement, bursting with pride and overcome with emotion at the thought of a woman finally shattering the highest glass ceiling.
I knew from a young age that I did not agree with Republican policies or ideology. As a gay, feminist, pro-choice man who is in favor of gun control IN same-sex marriages, I really don’t have much in common with Republican platform or my conservative, religious, pro 2nd Amendment family members. To be honest, I think the NRA should be classified as an organization that sponsors domestic terrorism and don’t get me started on “All Lives Matter.” So, no, I have little to no common ground with the Republican Party or 99% of family members who are probably shopping on the NRA web store as I type.
My parents encouraged me to have my own beliefs and encouraged me to engage in discourse, but that I should always be educated on the issues and that I should always be respectful of dissent. Growing up in rural Montana, my views and beliefs were generally in the minority. I know what it is like to not have people agree with your beliefs and I know what is like to not have people share your ideology. But I also know how important differing views are to our democracy. I appreciate how competing ideology challenges us and helps us grow. I have many Republican friends. Hell, most of the men I’ve dated are Republican. And until recently, I have been able to appreciate their points of view. But this election is different. The stakes have never been higher and the rhetoric has never been as sharp. For the first time in our nation’s modern history, we have a legitimate, dangerous demagogue running for the Presidency of the United States. We have, in Donald Trump, a candidate who is openly racist, homophobic, sexist and violent- all of which aren’t even the main reasons that he is unqualified to be President (the first being that he is a hotelier with a history of bankruptcy, which doesn’t make him qualified to make my drink at Starbucks, let alone have the nuclear codes.) For the first time in my life, I find myself unable to be respectful of the dissent and differing views. And for the first time in my life, I have found it necessary to remove friends and family from my life who support Donald Trump. It is not enough for me to stand silently by while they support his views. It is not enough for me to engage in discourse with them. It has become necessary for me to remove them and this dangerous rhetoric from my life entirely.
As I’ve gotten older and as the rhetoric of this campaign has intensified, I find that that I am no longer able to be respectful of Trump supporter’s views because his views are in conflict with common decency. This is a man who thinks women should be punished for having abortions. This is a man who has pledged to appoint Supreme Court Justices who would want to reverse marriage equality. This is a man who has called Hispanics drug dealers, rapists and thugs. This is a man who has only ever looked out for himself and his brand, with no regard for the livelihood and well being of anyone else. This is a man who supports the NRA, incites violence at his campaign events and essentially put a hit on Hillary Clinton by calling on gun owners to take matter into their own hands. I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of temperament in a child, let alone a 70-year old man running for President. There is no room for common ground; there is no room for compromise. To support Donald Trump is to support his rhetoric and policies- it is to foster division and hatred. It has been baffling for me to watch friends and family support Donald Trump. But it has also been eye opening to see who in my life supports this ideology and these beliefs. If I can’t tolerate this in a candidate, how can I tolerate these beliefs in my friends and family?
When I was growing up in Montana and same-sex marriage was still up for debate, I remember all of the people who were against it for religious reasons. They would look at me, a homosexual sinner, smile at me the way you smile at the annoying toddler that your friends brought along to brunch, and reassure me that they still loved me, but that they couldn’t support marriage equality because it went against the Bible. “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” For the longest time, I tolerated that bullshit out of respect for differences. Maybe it is me turning 26 and maybe it is just changing times, but I’m done respecting their views. They’re wrong. They support discrimination, they support prejudice and they support division. It finally clicked with me one day that I don’t have to respect differing ideology when it is wrong. Trump’s ideology and the beliefs of his supporters is no different.
How can I respect and tolerate racism? How can I respect and tolerate sexism, homophobia, and violent rhetoric? I can’t. In a world where we should be building bridges, this man wants to build walls. I can’t support those politics and I cannot respect and tolerate individuals who share those beliefs. And so I have had to say goodbye to friends and even family members who support this man. It hasn’t been an easy thing to do. It has actually been incredibly difficult, because it isn’t as simple as hiding them on Facebook and reconnecting after the election. To do so would be like to watch someone shoot your dog, only to invite them over for dinner. The rhetoric is unacceptable and, frankly, unforgiveable. “Sorry I supported a man who wants to ban all Muslims from entering our country- are we still on for drinks?” That’s a no for me, dog.
And while I have lost many hours because of stress over this election and the decision to cleanse my life of Trump supporters, what has comforted me in the long run is this hypothetical: Even if Donald Trump wasn’t running for President, even if the election ended perfectly and all was well in the world, would I still want to be friends with people who support his ideology and beliefs? Could I look my children in the eyes, knowing that I compromised on my beliefs by being a passive bystander to this hatred and intolerance? Would I be ok with myself appeasing modern fascism? I can sleep well at night knowing that the answer to that is a resounding “fuck no.” To anyone who doesn’t support Trump, you’re invited to the party. The dress code is cocktail party appropriate, hors d'oeurves are at seven and parking is down the street. And to all the Trump supporters, unfriend, unfollow, auf wiedershen, aideu. You are the weakest links, goodbye.