So it occurred to me today that I live in un-Trump Tower. And I pretty much have lived in un-Trump Tower for the past 12 years. Every time I hear our toxic, illegitimate, racist president spout off on the evening news or spew xenophobia on Twitter, talking about all the different types of people who in his eyes aren’t really legitimate Americans, I know he’s talking about my neighbors and me.
Or anyone who isn’t a white, heterosexual, preferably evangelical Christian. Clearly he doesn’t think anyone who doesn’t fit that bill is worthy of respect, much less worthy of rights as American citizens or legal residents. What a narrow, hermetically sealed, backwards, religiously extremist picture that is of America. As if we have ever only been one thing. (Which, if he had the capacity to crack a book and learn, he would know we have never been.O
Clearly he doesn’t get out much, at least not beyond his own hotels and golf resorts. I know I’ve never lived anywhere that looks like Trump’s wispy WASPy America. Not in New York. Not in New Jersey. Not in Illinois. Even (my partner, not Paul) Ryan’s little tiny, largely conservative rural hometown is more diverse than that.
So is every Chicago high-rise I’ve lived in for the past 12 years, from Marina City on. Especially my current one. We live in the north end of Far-North-Side Edgewater Beach. A short walk from the African immigrant enclave on Granville. The enormous Desi community on Devon. Chicago’s secondary LGBTQ neighborhood in Andersonville. The middle-class bedroom neighborhood of Lakewood-Balmoral. The working-class four-plus-ones of Winthrop and Kenmore. The incredibly mixed-everything Catholic university of Loyola, just up Sheridan Road. The fading, midcentury high-rise Jewish enclave of Sheridan Road, itself, directly out our front door.
And all of those communities are represented in our building. Our racist POTUS would probably be horrified to walk in (as if he would ever visit a neighborhood like mine) and meet the gay-Jewish-urban, half-Hispanic couple that is Ryan and me. Or the southeast Asian families with children that live across the hall and downstairs from us. The divorced African-American guy who has his kids on the weekend and smokes weed during the week directly next door. Or the older couple next door to him who owns in this building (a building in which we rent)–not the nicest building in the neighborhood, but at this point in their lives it’s all they (and we) can afford.
The retired single Korean woman and elderly white couple on the other end of our floor, who live here because they enjoy the diversity of the neighborhood. The young Russian guy who’s always yelling at the washing machines. Or the poor African-immigrant family that’s always breaking the washing machines because they can’t afford not to overload them.
The Colombian guy who dumped his cheating lover and moved into the building for a fresh start. Or the myriad white, black, Asian, Christian, Muslim, Hispanic, you-name-it Loyola undergrads who live here for cheap rent and an easy walk to school.
Sometimes I bitch about them. They can be loud, and obnoxious, and annoying. They can sometimes act like they have no respect for the neighbors with whom they live in such close proximity. I’m pretty damn sure sometimes they bitch about Ryan and me for the same reasons. No matter how dearly Trump and his supporters might desire to dream it into reality, none of that has to do with the diversity of us here in this United Nations of buildings. Neither the races, nor the colors, nor the creeds. Quite the opposite, in fact.
We can be loud and obnoxious and annoying and sometimes act like we have no respect for the neighbors with whom we live in close proximity because we are all exactly the same. We’re human. And unless you’re completely blind to the capabilities of humanity, we can also be the complete opposite, too. The love, and joy, and compassion, and friendliness, and cooperation, and looking-out-for-each-other that also exist in this building come from the same common denominator.
Trump doesn’t just willfully ignore the incredible diversity of America in 2017. He also willfully ignores the incredible basic human unity of Americans, as well. The truth is, the two things aren’t separable. One is based in the other, two sides of the same wonderful human community. I get to experience that Community every time I come home to my Chicago, my neighborhood, my building. Wherever you live, I bet in some way large or small, you come home to it, too.
Maybe if Trump didn’t spend his life hermetically sealed inside the bitchy bubble-consciousness of a bullying five-year-old girl on a golf course (where, you aren’t surprised to learn, he cheats), he might finally have an inkling of understanding about the country he thinks he’s leading. But acknowledging and embracing people for who they are is a dangerously powerful political thing. More powerful than Citizens United corporate money in Congressional campaigns, or evangelical Christians demanding to be in charge of the nation’s vaginas and uteruses, or “Mike Pence says hang all the gays, hahaha.”
More powerful because, when truly embraced by our political leaders, it is the antidote to all of that. Widen your gaze, friends. Make sure you acknowledge everyone who we are as a nation in your vision of your country, your state, your city, your community, your neighborhood, your friends, your family. You don’t need to like them all. But you do need to respect them all if you want them to respect you back.
And when you do that, you will be more powerful than any president.