Like too many urban college students, I have never been in person with a large group of President Donald Trump’s supporters – I’ve really only seen them on TV. Seeing people at rallies or in interviews on TV used to seem like a fair way to form an opinion of the people who voted for Trump, but eventually I realized that it didn’t let me hear individual voices within the large group.
I took what I saw as a one-in-a-lifetime chance to attend a presidential inauguration to experience and meet Trump supporters. Inauguration Day, I found that some people fit my assumptions, and others were completely different. I was reminded that on both ends of the political spectrum, there are some people who want to have conversations and compromise.
Throughout the presidential election, I felt uncomfortable with what I perceived Trump supporters to be like. Policy aside, it was troublesome that Trump’s supporters continued to question former President Barack Obama’s nationality. And I didn’t think it was appropriate that Trump and his followers criticized former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s shrill voice, likely just because she was a woman. But after the election, I was set on forcing myself to go to the ceremony and understand these people who elected Trump.
That day, many Trump supporters confirmed some of my beliefs from the campaign: People would rather make crude comments about those they disagree with than talk constructively about policy differences. I briefly feared watching the man I didn’t vote for be sworn in would be just as bad as some of my liberal friends told me it would be. Yet, one man stood out amid the yelling, booing and cheering surrounding Trump’s swearing-in.
The man was wearing his red “Make America Great Again” hat and sharing in the joy of watching his preferred candidate become president. His exuberance initially fed my cynicism, until I started to listen to him. I heard him pleading with his friends not to boo the Obamas and insisted that everyone listen to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. when he spoke. When people made lewd comments about Democrats, this man told them that they weren’t attending a football game – that this day was serious. He repeatedly reminded those around him that politicians of all parties deserve “our love and respect, even if we disagree with them.”
It would have been easy to drown him out with the jeers surrounding me. If I had set my mind to it, I could have left the inauguration proclaiming that Trump’s supporters are close-minded. But then, I’d be a hypocrite. I’d fit into a different stereotype – that those who lost the election wanted to demonize the people who won. Sometimes, it takes a little bit of pride swallowing and a lot of listening to realize that not everyone is exactly how you think they are.
There’s also no need to sugar coat reality– the vitriolic nature of the rhetoric this campaign created made its presence felt on Inauguration Day. But people are unpredictable, and just because some have different politics than I do does not mean I should not respect their stances. The one man who I happened to stand near in the crowd gave me hope that even though I disagreed with most of the words Trump and his supporters said on Jan. 20, there are respectful people who care about democracy throughout our country.
Jose Torres, a sophomore double-majoring in political science and history, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.