The shirt read “THE PUSSY GRABS BACK,” accompanied by a drawing of a kitten attacking Donald Trump’s face. My mother stared at it in horror. “Where did you get this?” she asked, and I answered, “Uh. Just, I don’t know, they were selling them to support a nonprofit and I figured I’d help. I don’t wear it outside.” That was a partial lie; I wore mine around campus. “I’m throwing this out. It’s disgusting,” she said and dropped it in the kitchen trash can.
I thought the comment wasn’t justified — why was it alright for Trump to say pussy in private to his peers, but it wasn’t alright for me to wear around campus? In my eyes, the shirt was perfectly valid, tongue-in-cheek protest in reaction to a disgusting comment that Trump had made.
Like many other Penn students, I am in the unenviable position of having significant political differences with members of my family. I am what, at Penn, would be considered center-left and outside of Penn would be very decidedly left; I am a contributor to the great media machine, and I participate in protests.
My mom is a conservative who supports many of Donald Trump’s policies and claims that “the media is misrepresenting him, and he’s actually a good man.” She has un-ironically told me that “your generation is being brainwashed by the liberal media,” which tells you everything that you need to know about her political worldview.
In a weird sort of way, it is a blessing to have alternate viewpoints in the family. For all that the media is meant to function as an unbiased vehicle, there is always an angle and a story to every article. In the newspapers, Trump supporters like my mother do not fit the narrative of the disenfranchised white working class.
And, as much as I am loathe to agree with my mom about politics these days, I do agree that it is a problem that neither side seems able to listen to each other, and that people on both sides feel disempowered to speak up.
It’s a problem that I am unable to voice my concerns and viewpoints to those on the right without being dismissed as young, “brainwashed” and overly sensitive because of modern “PC culture.” At the same time, those on the left dismissing Trump supporters or other alternative viewpoints as purely stemming from racism, xenophobia and such are premature. For many of his supporters, I suspect that these are in fact the main reasons to support Trump. But for many, this might not be the case, or perhaps these attitudes stem from larger concerns that these supporters do not feel are not being addressed, such as the fear of the changing world we live in. I’d argue that perhaps not listening to these concerns, even when they seem ill-founded, might be more detrimental than castigating them immediately.
The counterargument to that statement is that listening to Trump supporters is the same as condoning the more racist and sexist viewpoints that some supporters hold, which is ethically incorrect. And perhaps it is. But it is also ethically questionable to wear fast-fashion clothing and to purchase Apple products, and if I know anything about Penn students — and college-aged Americans as a whole — it is that we do both these things extensively.
The easily-perceived take away from my argument is that I think “supporting Trump is okay and great”; however, that is not what I am saying. I offer a far more basic hypothesis: that perhaps getting caught in the morality or ethics of a situation and your personal ethical views on a decision blinds you to the myriad reasons that people have for making choices. For instance, if one assumes that everything the mass media says about a candidate is untrue, then perhaps it makes perfect sense from that perspective to support that candidate.
In the end, I suppose I am just making a comment about perspective, and how narrow it can be on both sides of the political divide. Moralizing might feel good; it might feel right and justified in the moment.
But at the end of the day, we have to live with those who have differing opinions than ours. We may as well try and understand them.
ISABEL KIM is a College junior from Warren, NJ, studying English and Fine Arts. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “It Keeps Happening” usually appears every other Thursday.
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