To Build A Bridge Or Burn It?


Last week, two of my favorite podcasts–Angry Black Rant and The Thinking Atheist–did episodes about whether or not conversations with Trump voters are worth it. I won’t rehash everything they said, but it’s a question I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now: When is it appropriate to build a bridge, and when is it better to burn one?

Unfortunately I’m still figuring it out, but from my experience, it depends on the situation.

For example, it’s way too easy to write off everyone who voted for Trump as an alt-right neo-Nazi bigot, but that’s not always true. As Seth Andrews pointed out in last week’s episode of The Thinking Atheist, a lot of people voted for Trump because they were afraid Clinton would raise taxes and spend government money recklessly. I think they’re wrong, of course, and so does Seth, but I have met Republicans who say that’s why they voted for Trump. So in these situations, I prefer talking to them about it rather than preaching. In fact, the day after the election I briefly mentioned to my co-workers that as a queer trans person, I’m worried about the future of my rights. Surprisingly they understood, since my Republican co-workers are, for the most part, fairly LGB-friendly (I deliberately left off the T because they still need some work in that area).

The same goes for religious people. I know it’s a cliche, but I do have some religious friends, and they’re actually pretty cool. In fact, I recently made friends with a local barista who spent a year doing The World Race, and her mother is the pastor of the local Methodist church. We meet to chat about once a month, and I can tell she’s the kind of Christian who puts people before dogma. I still disagree with her on the whole God thing, but we agree on a lot of other things, like how so many evangelicals look past the Trump Tape. This is another situation where I ask her about her story, she asks about mine, and we better understand each other.

Now we get to the fun part: When to burn bridges!

While it’s true that not everyone who voted for Trump is a neo-Nazi, neo-Nazi Trump supporters do exist, and it’s impossible to reason with them. Believe me, I tried! They’re so poisoned by White Nationalist Kool-Aid that they’ve become to immune to the antidote of reason (wow, how poetic!). When I try to use Street Epistemology and ask them why they believe they’re right, they hurl insults and YouTube talking points. They’re obviously not interested in having a discussion; they just want to be right.

It’s the same for religious people. I tried to reason with fundamentalists, but to no avail. Like the alt-right, religious fundamentalists cry “Free speech!” when you try to explain to them why they are wrong. And just like the alt-right, religious fundamentalists literally make a living off of using scare tactics to make their audiences afraid of The Other, whether it’s LGBTQ people, Muslims, atheists, people of color, feminists, liberals, or anyone else they don’t like. I literally have no patience for these people.

This is why I hate that meme of the rainbow pride person hugging the Confederate flag person. It’s not that I don’t believe in forgiveness; it’s that I hate the idea of breaking bread with someone who thinks I should be punished for being queer and trans. When I was involved with the Emergent Church, I heard so many “progressive” pastors say homophobes and LGBTQ need to sit at the communion altar together for the sake of church unity. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to play nice to someone who is actively trying to take away my rights! I tried breaking bread with people who think my humanity is invalid, but I only ended up with table scraps. Call me an SJW, but I’d rather break bread with Meghan Phelps-Roper than her mom Shirley.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at right now. Like I said, I’m still trying to figure it out.

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