I recently learned that I have something in common with a close relative of a friend of mine: a love for cats.
My friend's relative has inherited cats from other people, and he considers his companionship with a cat (or any pet) to be a lifetime commitment. So have I, and so do I. He, at one point, went into hock to pay the astronomical medical expenses of a sick cat for whom he felt responsible. So did I. He has carried out reverent funeral rituals for his cats and their wild sentient grace. So have I.
But there is also something we do not have in common. He is a fervent and committed supporter of President Donald Trump. I am a fervent and committed opponent of President Donald Trump.
He, as an active Trump proponent, is exactly the kind of person I want to demonize for his energetic support of an amoral and demented tyrant. I want to see him as a traitor to all that it means to be lovingly human. To me, he is in fact such a traitor: he is helping to prop up a regime that continuously tells flagrant lies, foments untold repression and suffering, and hastens the extinction of humans on earth.
I want to see him, this eager Trump enabler, as being that and only that. But I can’t. Because he is also a person who, more deeply than many of my passionately-Trump-fighting progressive friends, is in touch with a bottomless awareness of shared life and kindness that I revere.
This, for me, is the hardest work of our politics right now in America: not simply the work of opposing and defeating evil, but the much harder work of honoring and nurturing and even recruiting the good that confoundingly coexists with our understanding of evil in ourselves and others.
If we, as progressives, are brutally and selflessly honest, we will see that the “enemy” in the Trump phenomenon among our co-Americans is not the simple homogeneous mass of dog-pack supremacism that we are tempted to see, but is instead a motley mess of mourned privilege and betrayed hope. It includes those of us who wanted better but who settled for worse; those of us who believe, naturally, the bigoted lies we are taught by our families and inspirers; those of us, meaning all of us, who simultaneously do kind and cruel things; those of us who have trouble seeing the ways we all fit together; those of us who would all be on the same side of this battle if we were not being bombarded by our inherited hunger for manufactured necessities like being brown and powerful versus being white and secure.
Even as the Trump regime rolls its dice on the raw audacity of making itself the one and only police, our job as citizens is to know when we are being played: whether as hungry ex-slavemasters, as hungry ex-slaves, or as two mutually estranged protectors of cats who, sooner or later, will need to start protecting each other against a maniac who loves no one.