Before I begin, let me say up front that nothing I say today unsays anything I have said about Donald Trump in prior posts. Namely, that he should never in a million years be allowed within a million miles of the nuclear codes, and those who have foisted him upon us as the champion of conservative values are guilty of a most egregious, perhaps unforgivable error (Wayne Grudem, your phone is ringing).
But part of being an adult and thinking like an adult is recognizing that many issues are complex and multi-layered and cannot be resolved with a simple, black-or-white, yes-or-no answer. In many instances there are competing, conflicting, and even apparently contradictory truths in play which cannot be resolved and must instead be held in tension with each other. For example, your crazy uncle Bill whom you only ever see at Thanksgiving. You love him to death because he’s family, yet you wouldn’t want him alone with your kids. Both of the above are true, though they are apparently conflicting truths. You must hold both these truths in tension with each other.
So it is with Donald Trump. As noted above, I believe he is monumentally unqualified for the office of president. Yet at the same time, as I read this analysis from McKay Coppins at Buzzfeed, I see that Donald Trump is in some ways a kindred spirit.
In a lengthy Buzzfeed article, Coppins lays out the history leading up to Donald Trump’s presidential run and how he thinks an article he wrote back in 2014 may have goaded Trump into the race. But along the way Coppins offers this insight into Trump’s motivations:
What had most struck me during my two days with Trump [prior to writing the 2014 article] was his sad struggle to extract even an ounce of respect from a political establishment that plainly viewed him as a sideshow. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that he’d felt this way for virtually his entire life — face pressed up against the window, longing for an invitation, burning with resentment, plotting his revenge.
I can relate to this, to a certain extent at least. Though I have never paraded mistresses all over the New York tabloids in an attempt to gain the attention and respect of the New York establishment as Donald Trump did when he was first trying to break into the Manhattan scene–the closest I have come to that is parading my imaginary wife and 2.6 imaginary kids all over Facebook–and though I will probably never resort to Donald Trump tactics to get revenge, I can still relate to the feeling of being an outsider, face pressed up against the window and longing for an invitation.
This is because my ability to form meaningful attachments (especially with the opposite sex), and experience connection and belonging is impaired. Yet I deeply desire these things, I am a human being after all. But instead of the resentment and desire for revenge that Trump feels, what I feel is a deep-seated and pervasive longing for something which can probably never be mine.
Now I am part of a church community where I know I belong and I have many friends who know me well and love and accept me, and I know this. Yet it has taken a long time to get to this point. And though I know all this in my head, it is very difficult for me to feel it in my heart. Why? Because I am different. In each of the social environments of which I am a part (church, work, small group, Thursday night running group, etc.), there is some part of me which others do not share. Also, in each of the social environments of which I am a part, it seems as if the others have a shared life together–shared experiences, shared memories, etc.–of which I am not a part. I hear them talk about it in their conversations and inwardly I fill with regret and envy because I want so badly to be part of that shared life, to have a part in all those shared stories and shared memories.
So I can empathize, on some level at least, with Donald Trump’s long, sad struggle to gain even an ounce of respect from a political establishment that views him as nothing more than a buffoonish outsider. Doesn’t mean that I think him any more qualified to be president or worthy of my vote. I don’t. But part of adult life is learning to live with unresolved tension, in this case the tension between knowing that Trump should never in a million years be allowed within a million miles of the nuclear codes, and yet also being able to empathize with him on some level at least.