I could never run for public office.

I have thought about it many times over the past several years. Many, many times. But I can’t. I am an absolute coward.

I cannot stand, you see, the thought of somebody disliking me, even if I dislike what they say. I can’t tolerate it. I fret and worry and try to deconstruct conversations and replay and revisit until I make myself dizzy.

It is a profound weakness.

Case in point: A Facebook acquaintance wrote on her timeline: “I’m having a hard time following why people see Donald Trump as an anti-semite while his daughter Ivanka (obviously his pride and joy) is a conservative Jew and keeps Shabbos holy. For that matter, has Obama been such a great friend to Israel? Netanyahu? Or has this Iran deal brough them closer to a nuclear weapon? It seems AIPAC in Detroit was very clear about the outcome of an Iranian deal.”

I wanted to write, and in fact I drafted the words, “I don’t think he’s an anti-semite, but his campaign muse Steve Bannon most certainly is. And what does the Iran deal have to do with the alt-right movement in the United States?”

But I did not. I did not engage.

I made the mistake of posting a running list of hate-exposing tweets, imploring everybody to speak out against such malice so as not to have any voter bear the burden of those espousing hate in president-elect’s name. A woman responded by sharing a Snopes-debunked video of a group of people beating up some guy because he supported Trump. (It was a traffic incdient, no mention of Trump in the police report.) Her argument essentially: Both sides do it.

And what did I do, in the interest of keeping the peace with a fellow parent whose son attends my son’s school? I said of course, it’s wrong no matter what. I simply agreed with another  woman who said that it’s wrong to say all Trump voters are racists, rather than saying what I wanted to say, which was: “Correct, they are not racist. But they voted for a person who has said racist things, espouses racist policies, and has a racist / anti-Semite (Steve Bannon) giving him advice.”

See, people don’t like to be made uncomfortable. People don’t like confronting externalities, like the fact that one might want change and one might hate Hillary, but if you want it that badly, you might just elect a buffoon who absorbs hate if it happens to be near him.

People don’t want to learn that my opinion of them erodes, falls to near nothing, if they can compartmentalize ugliness.

If they can say to me essentially, “but it’s not affecting you personally, so what does it matter?” It changes how I see them. Forever.

People don’t want to learn that. People want to be comfortable. I could make them uncomfortable. But I am weak, I stay silent and diplomatic, I hope that the world can see me as fair-minded.

It is my source of shame.

Should I feel badly for Donald Trump?

A colleague’s former student, as my colleague writes, “suggests that we pray for Donald–not to win the election, but to be freed of the demons that seem to possess him. Not sure it would help him, but it might make us feel better.”

I think it might. We might even feel a whole lot better if we take it a few million steps further. Here’s what I mean. Read the former student’s blog post on the matter, called “Election Disconnection.” This resonated:

What about me and my desire to disengage during this election cycle? Will turning inward put me on a path to narcissism and a lack of connection? Could my very heart and soul be impacted? Yes, I think so. Already on a number of occasions I have found myself writing off in my mind every Trump support[er]…until I remember that members of my family who I love and respect are most likely voting for him… I may not be able to avoid the pervasive, negative election coverage, but perhaps I can make it through with more grace by changing my perspective. Perhaps by moving from anger to compassion I will feel expanded rather than shriveled. Perhaps instead of disengaging from everyone who thinks differently than me, seeking bridges to understanding will lead to a powerful connection. Perhaps instead of hating Donald Trump, I can…pray for him.

Perhaps.

When I see Donald Trump, I see smallness, and an all-consuming need for validation and adoration. It must be terrifying, to be so desperate for love. He looks that way to me: Desperate for love. Starved of it.

When I see his supporters, however, I see anger at perceived injustice. Sometimes that manifests as racism, sexism, xenophobia, or willful ignorance. Mostly it manifests as confusion, desperation, exhaustion, and nihilism.

What I see in his supporters–whether online on social media, or on television  through coverage of Trump’s rallies or his surrogates… it brings out the worst in me. I draw conclusions and I make judgments and I convince myself that I am righteous.

But righteousness–if indeed I am–is not enough.  I have two children and a dog. They can tell when kindness drives me. They can tell when it does not.

So I will pray for Trump and his supporters. I will find compassion and be kind. I am not sure I will find bridges to understanding or forge any new connections, but I will open myself to the possibility.

I will feel better.

There is no other alternative. As EJ Dionne writes today:

The left is in trouble precisely because it has not responded adequately to this fear or managed to tame the forces that produced it. This is not just a political mistake but also a moral failing…

Progressives regularly preach empathy and insist that the best way to solve a problem is to deal with its underlying causes. These principles apply as much to the struggles of our political opponents as they do to the problems faced by our allies. Defeating Trump is the first step. Giving an ear and a heart to the legitimate concerns of his supporters is the next.

Liberal elitism will never pave the way for liberal egalitarianism

Nobody’s asking you to dance.

I read this article and The New Yorker interview upon which it’s based. The gist: People should stop asking women about work/life balance. Specifically, author Lauren Groff says:

…the questions I get most at readings or in interviews are about being a mother and writer, when I’m expected to do this this sort of tap dance of humility that I have no desire or ability to dance. I think people are mostly kind and don’t know that, when they ask these questions of women, they are asking us to perform a kind of ceremonial subjection—that we’re not allowed our achievements without first denigrating ourselves or saying, with a sigh, “Yes, that’s correct, I’m a writer and a mother, and it’s so hard, and, no, I don’t do it well.”

To which I say: What? Why, or how did she determine the manner in which she was supposed to answer? Where is this call for a “tap dance of humility?”

Imagine a woman answering like this: “Yes, that’s correct, I’m a writer and a mother. I have a really good gig, and I worked hard for it. You see, I am competent. Profoundly competent, actually. Sure, I’d love more sleep–who wouldn’t? And yeah, I think our domestic policies and our country’s large and small employers don’t yet do enough to support families. All families are different, but they all need support. But me? In my home right now? We’re doing our best and it’s pretty damn good. I wish everybody could do what we do.”

Ask me about work/life balance. I promise I won’t dance.