When I worked at that rural hospital in what I affectionately call Pennsyltucky, I met a young nurse who worked in one of the wards there. She was very pretty and very smart. I liked having conversations with her, and — once or twice — I got caught talking to her on the phone while working. (I’m not perfect, remember?) However, she confused the heck out of me for several reasons.
First, she smiled when she was angry at people. Seriously, she would look at you and smile as she berated you for making a mistake… Like, say, reporting the correct result on the wrong patient, then correcting yourself but not until after a physician got up in a huff about an INR > 5. “You better get the f*ck out of here,” she told me once, big smile on her face. “I don’t want to see you anywhere near here the rest of the night.”
That instance, and similar once aimed at other people, confused me because she was very smart, very pretty, but her demeanor didn’t match the expression on her face. Later on, she would say and do other things that made her ugliness show. As my time at that hospital ended, we were not even on speaking terms. Not that I wanted to speak to her… She became a different person, a person I’d never befriend.
Last week, I got to know the father of one of my friends. We’ll call him “Bob.” Contrary to common sense, we started drinking and discussing politics. Well, my father-in-law and Bob started discussing politics. I just sat back and listened as a few ounces of whiskey coursed through my veins.
Bob explained his reasoning for voting for El Presidente Trump last November. “We need a businessman in office,” he said. That was the main thesis of his argument, followed up by anti-Hillary Clinton rhetoric and something about conservative values. After the discussion, we all gathered ’round and played a board game. We laughed, we continued to drink, and then we took a dive into a very cold lake.
Bob confuses me because he seems to be a great guy. He served in the military and his daughter is a phenomenal person. In the short time that I talked with him, he seems like someone I’d hang out with despite our age differences. Yet he voted for — and during the discussion defended — someone who has painted myself and people like me as rapists, criminals, a nuisance that needs to be packed up and shipped off. So I’m confused as to whether I’m okay enough to drink and laugh with, or I am a rapist who needs to be deported ASAP.
The confusion kind of subsides a little when you realize that most people are not one-issue voters. My vote last November for La Minístra Clinton was based on immigration (let’s not deport parents), the economy (let’s keep regulations that took us out of the Great Recession), and healthcare (let’s fix Obamacare and not repeal it outright). And then it was based on the hatred shown by El Presidente toward people of color in general and Mexicans in particular.
The flipside question to all of that is: Would I have voted for La Minístra if she was the one hating Mexicans? Would I have voted for El Presidente if he pushed for immigration reform, a stronger economy, and a healthcare fix but he continued to show racist tendencies? So I begin to wonder what matters most to me in terms of political issues, the racism or the things that affect me?
Then again, these issues are antithetical. You can’t be a bigot and want healthcare for all. You can’t honestly want economic progress and want to keep women out of the workforce. And you can’t have comprehensive immigration reform if you want to keep out Muslims and Mexicans. (Maybe it’s something about immigrants whole label starts with an M?)
So I’m back to being confused. If the issues are antithetical, how can someone who voted for El Presidente possibly see me as a human being? So we are left with several options, none of which make sense. So there’s more confusion.
Yeah, I know that people are not a monolith within their cultures, races, ethnicities, etc. For example, I know that police officers have a tough job and are always putting their lives on the line for miserable wages. But I also wonder why Black men are being disproportionately killed by police officers, and why we don’t seem to get any convictions on those cases. That confuses me.
I also know that I’ve been welcomed, quite warmly, by white Americans everywhere I go. Then I see white Americans engaging in some pretty crazy xenophobia, leading to more confusion. In the end, I realize that the world is not black and white but a gradient of different shades of the color spectrum. There are a-holes everywhere, I guess. I just wish there was more clarity.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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