Conversations with some everyday American people

VIRGINIA

 

By Pradip Rodrigues

I spent a weekend at a campground near Ithaca, in picturesque upstate New York. It so happened that we were not only the only Canadians at this private campground but the only brown family there.

It was the day after the riot at the Alt-right nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where protesters were mowed down by one horrible nationalist.

The campground was packed to capacity with American families all enjoying some family time together. Over the course of two days, I got talking to my temporary neighbors and quickly discovered through a series of questions that more than half of them were Republican supporters, more specifically Trump supporters. We talked about politics, religion and their thoughts about the direction their country was heading.

I spoke to a professorial-looking middle-aged man who happened to be an academia, he was unsurprisingly a staunch Democrat from Ohio. There were other democrats I spoke with who detested President Trump and all he stood for.

Here are my observations about the five Trump supporters and the three Democrats I spoke with over the weekend.

Contrary to popular perception, most Trump supporters aren’t seething with hatred toward immigrants and people of color. Many of them have come up the hard way and are blue-collared workers who work hard for whatever they have got materially. Take the 56-year-old retired US Navy vet for example, after ten years in the navy he worked at a factory and confessed I was the first ‘Indian person’ he’d ever spoken to in his life. That I suspected right at the start. His grandson who performs at small country and western bars and salons deep in Pennsylvania’s Bible-belt and gun country regaled us with classic country classics from legends like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and the late Glen Campbell. Needless to say, the Trump supporter was intrigued that someone who was born and raised in India would know anything at all about country music. Minutes into our conversation he asked quite cluelessly, “So you are from India, are you Muslim?” I almost choked on my cold craft beer, I looked at him incredulously and realized he obviously believed India was a Muslim country. So I decided to switch from music and turn the conversation toward geography and history for a bit. I was in a way horrified to think that there were quite possibly millions of Americans who quite possibly believed that all brown and swarthy immigrants were either Mexican or Muslim.

Now let me at this point cut to my conversation with the professorial Democrat who was reticent by nature and I had to draw him into a conversation during which I discovered he was an avid hiker who had just completed a four-day hike along a stretch of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. He had over the years hiked all over in the US and Canada, notably the gorgeous Glacier National Park in Montana and the Smokey Mountain Trail in Tennessee. He did most of the talking as hiking and camping were his passions, I asked questions and realized that despite being an immigrant and refugee loving Democrat he had no interest in knowing anything about me, that could have to do with the fact that being such an educated person he knew everything he needed to know by just by looking at me. Unlike the Trump supporters who cracked open beer for me and invited me to have dinner with them, the Democrat who valued his privacy had dinner with his family and didn’t once call me over to join them.

So here’s my takeaway.

I actually found Trump supporters friendly, warm and happy to share a meal with them. They were unpretentious, real and tended to speak their minds and even reveal their own ignorance. Sure they knew little about me and my background, they asked questions and were fascinated to know Hindus were a majority in India and that 2 percent of the population was Christian and that millions of Indians speak English and are fans of western music, books and films.

The Democrats I have found tend to be more educated, wealthier and sophisticated, they know plenty about the world because they have traveled around, but their social circles are just as white as the Republicans. Logically Democrats should have been the ones to call me to hang out with them not the Trump supporters that have been painted as hate-filled human beings should have been hostile or standoffish.

All the Trump supporters were gun owners who said it was for reasons of safety they kept and carried weapons.

So as things stand, Trump supporters are concerned about the demographic changes that are transforming their nation and culture. They know little about the outside world and all around them they see evidence of a world they cannot understand. I think I did my bit in bridging a bit of that knowledge gap.

The educated and urbane democrat isn’t concerned about demographic changes because I am quite certain he will find his own white social circle. I have after all found that many white Liberals in Canada and Democrats in the US who are the biggest champions of multiculturalism and immigration tend to live in neighborhoods that are more reflective of the 50s. Their social circle hasn’t expanded to include people of color. I would have more respect for them if they actually reached out to make friends with the kind of immigrants they want in their country, the situation is the same here in Canada and I wish it would change. – CINEWS

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