Anyone who knows me is well aware that I am not a fan of President Trump. But as my husband keeps reminding me, he is my President, regardless of whether or not he has my support.
I attended the recent Morrisey/Trump rally at Wesbanco Arena as a peaceful protestor — it was the first time in my solidly-middle-aged life that I felt compelled to participate in such a demonstration. I’ve been asked by several people what exactly I was protesting at the rally, so please allow me to explain.
What I most object to are what I see as character flaws and poor behaviors from a man who is arguably the most important person in the world. I blame my feelings on my father — my Dad raised me to expect that all the people in my life — particularly those in positions of power — show me respect and compassion. And as a woman, I feel neither of these things from President Trump. Initially, I was hopeful when he announced his intention to run for President. I thought perhaps a successful businessman with no prior political aspirations would bring a fresh perspective to the White House. But even before the polls opened that November, I had already abandoned that hope.
With that being said, I will also tell you that I am a proud West Virginian, born and raised in the hollers and hills of this wild, wonderful state. If you grew up here as I did, your life is forever entwined one way or another with the coal industry, as West Virginia and coal mining are synonymous “round these parts.” The same can be said of the steel industry. Therefore, I would love to see coal and steel make the “yuge!”’ comeback that Trump has promised our miners and steelworkers, and I appreciate the actions he’s taken toward that end. Like many others, I’m also enjoying the extra cash in my paycheck due to President Trump’s historic tax cuts — it helps to fund my DiCarlo’s cravings and thus support my beloved hometown.
But a first-rate leader must do more than simply sign bills, even meaningful ones. A true leader puts self aside and works for the greater good of all Americans while showing compassion for others and demonstrating honesty, integrity, decorum and trustworthiness. And therein lies the problem for me — there seems to be none of that at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. presently. Reduced taxes and unemployment are terrific accomplishments, but in my mind, they alone aren’t worth the divisiveness this administration is causing. I cannot and will not support misogyny, racism, or the mocking of people with disabilities or differences. These are the things that I will continue to protest about this Presidency for as long as it might last.
However, I was also taught as a youngster to look for the positive things in every situation. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” — I’ll blame my Mom for that gem. So while at the protest, I found myself thinking of the lessons I’ve learned since Trump became President.
Here’s what I’ve discovered …
As a writer, I understand and use the power of words to evoke emotions both good and bad. Words carry no physical weight but can scar as deeply as any other weapon. They should be chosen carefully by our leaders and used to help our country’s citizens, not harm them.
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KINDNESS IS IMPORTANT
You cannot expect to speak ill of various groups of people and still command their respect. Kindness is something that our country showed much of in the months following the tragedy of 9/11. We had each others’ backs late in 2001; we weren’t looking to sink a knife into the stranger’s next to us. We need that unifying element more now than ever. Divided we fall — and we are certainly more divided today than we’ve been at any time in recent memory. I’m as big a patriot as any of those folks in the red MAGA hats — I do not want to see my country gutted by political differences.
EVERYONE HAS A LESSON TO TEACH US
Even if I disagree with you, or maybe especially if I disagree with you, I want to try to understand why you hold the beliefs you embrace. We all have different backgrounds and life experiences that influence and dictate our opinions and beliefs. Each of us should try to walk a mile in shoes we’ve never worn and try to comprehend why others believe the things they do. Empathy and compassion will never seep into a closed mind. Thoughtful discussion and an open heart just might allow you to see things through a new set of eyes, and doing so might just pave the way to peaceful coexistence.
THERE’S A LOT OF HATRED OUT THERE, BUT WE HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THAT
At the rally, I witnessed a disheartening amount of hatred between two deeply-polarized groups. No one seemed interested in hearing what the other had to say; most people were only concerned with spewing insults and verbal venom at one another. This troubled nearly everyone on either side who I spoke with that day, as it well should. We must stop hatred from becoming the “new normal”; we cannot allow ourselves to become immune to it.
Before we become numb to its effects on the human race, we should do our best to create a wave of change in our country’s atmosphere. Each one of us has the power to diffuse, deflect and dismiss hatred every time we see it rear its ugly head. Start where you are — in your own living room and at your own kitchen table. At your office, school or church. On your street and in your neighborhood. Listen and learn. Be compassionate and kind to those who disagree with you. The smallest smile is a step in the right direction — even if it’s aimed at the Trump supporter calling you an “unemployed crybaby.” I found that the smile is even better if you follow it up by blowing a kiss.
• A lifelong Wheeling resident, Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School and the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she works for an international law firm; by night, (and often on her lunch breaks and weekends) she enjoys moonlighting as a part-time writer. Please note that the views expressed in her writing are solely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, including her full-time employer. Through her writing, Ellen aims to enlighten others on causes close to her heart, particularly addiction, recovery and equal rights. She and her husband Doug reside in Warwood with their clowder of rescued cats, each of whom is a direct consequence of his job as the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their family includes four adult children, their spouses and several grandkids.