Although the internet contains almost all the information known to man, there are some things that can’t be explained on any website. For one, people’s ideas and emotions are too complicated to fit into set categories. Also, even if we know someone very well, it’s almost impossible to always understand why they believe the way they do.
That occurred to me a few years ago as I was trying to understand how one of my oldest friends could support Donald Trump. When it comes to human qualities and values, she and the president couldn’t be more different.
Unlike other presidents, he’s shown no sign he’s close to the youngsters in his family. He displays no interest in his young grandchildren or his youngest son. I’ve never seen a photo of him playing or laughing with them or going to one of their school events. And although Trump has two sisters and a brother, we never see them at his side. He brags about his staff and appointees, but the second anyone displeases him, he throws them under a bus and childishly calls them names. You also can’t believe a word he says. The number of times he’s lied or misinformed since taking office is now more than 13,000.
My friend is the opposite. She’s honest, compassionate, funny, smart, and would do anything for her children and friends. For more than 40 years, we’ve been able to talk about any subject. That’s why, when I just wanted to understand her reasons for supporting Trump, I was surprised when she told me she didn’t want to discuss it.
I met her when we lived in northern Minnesota, after our husbands became friends at their jobs at a juvenile correctional facility. I liked her right away, mostly because she was one of the funniest people I’d ever met. It didn’t take us long to become close friends.
In a phone conversation with her one dark morning during one of the far north’s endless winters, I told her I was feeling blah. About an hour later, she appeared with gallons of paint and said we were painting my living room because that would make me feel better. That and the laughter we shared sure did.
One November, she and her husband bought one of our beef steers. The men quartered the carcass and hung it in her and her husband’s attic to age. A day later, both of our husbands left to take a group of boys from the facility for a week’s “survival trip” in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. A couple of days later, the temperature rose to more than 70 degrees.
When I picked up the phone early the next morning, she said, “That meat’s going to rot up there and I don’t know what to do.”
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I couldn’t leave because I had twice-daily farm chores to do, so I said, “Bring it over. We’ll cut it up so you can freeze it.”
With help from a neighbor, she loaded it in the back of her truck, bought boxes of freezer paper and tape and brought it to our farm. I had a hand saw for meat, sharp knives, and a Better Homes cookbook that had been my mother’s. In it was a diagram of beef quarters with the cuts shown within dotted lines. We were set.
We carried the first quarter into the house and plopped it on the kitchen table. While we sawed, sliced and trimmed, we adhered to the names and sizes indicated in the book. By the second quarter, it was afternoon and the cuts got bigger. By the third quarter, the labels on the packages got funnier and had no resemblance to the labels in the cookbook.
It was dark when we started on the last quarter and I can’t repeat what some of the labels on the packages said. When we finished, it was almost midnight and we could barely lift our arms to do a high-five.
Now we live far apart, but continue to share laughter and conversations about everything — except politics. That division is too wide.
Meanwhile, the president intentionally makes it wider. At his Oct. 17 rally in Dallas, he said, loudly, “The Democrats hate our country!” Even for him, that statement was shocking and something no other president has ever said about the opposing party.
Based on that and other things he’s said, nobody can truthfully claim he wants to unite us. On Sept 29, he even quoted Baptist minister Robert Jeffress, who proclaimed there’d be a civil war if he were impeached.
No, there won’t be. We’re all proud citizens of the United States and anyone who tries to widen the divisions won’t be, and shouldn’t be, in a leadership position very long. Can we all agree on that?