We should thank Ruth Mayer for her op-ed in the Charlotte Observer and the psychological lesson that it offers for all of us, across the political spectrum. After having driven to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., with her daughter in order to find people who commiserated with them in their rage, Mayer had a spot of car trouble on her way back to Charlotte, and a random act of car-repair kindness from a passing “redneck” set her anger to spinning sadness and something she takes to be self revelation:
Our encounter changed the day for me. While I tried to dive back into my liberal podcast, my mind kept being pulled back to the gas station. I couldn’t stop thinking about the man who called himself a “redneck” who came to our rescue. I sized him up as a Trump voter, just as he likely drew inferences from my Prius and RESIST sticker. But for a moment, we were just two people and the exchange was kindness (his) and gratitude (mine).
As I drove home, I felt the full extent to which Trump has actually diminished my own desire to be kind. He is keeping me so outraged that I hold ill will toward others on a daily basis. Trump is not just ruining our nation, he is ruining me. By the end of the drive, I felt heartbroken.
Note the thoroughgoing passivity. She hasn’t allowed herself to become the sort of person with a coffee mug reading, “I hate to wake up when Donald Trump is President.” Trump made her that kind of person. Although he has no idea who she is, the problem isn’t that she’s feeding off of rage at him, in some sense enjoying it, but that he’s actively “keeping [her] so outraged.” She wants to commune with her helper, but she puts Trump in the way.
And notice that she doesn’t ask why the helpful man could (presumably) support Trump. What might she be missing that would enable a person to be both charitable and willing to support the object of her hatred?