In Bed With A Trump Supporter
By LA Jamison
Recently, I had my first surgery ever—the removal of my gallbladder. I faced one of my biggest fears, which was going under and not coming out of it. The hospital felt like a resort and not so much a hospital. One has to eventually get up to walk around to release air trapped in the stomach from gallbladder surgery, and in that time I could see people in their beds. Many looked terribly unhappy and yanking out chords in attempts to escape. Not me. I liked the service, the “amenities” like doting visitors, the windows revealing nature in all its glory, all the food I could eat (despite that it had to be liquids), the morphine per request, the great staff and even down to the wood paneled floors. I was in no hurry to leave. I was looking for reasons to stay.
I was, nevertheless, in a good deal of pain and discomfort. Still, I couldn’t complain. The elderly man next to me, Carl, had his leg cut off due to complications from diabetes. He was another one who was constantly trying to find ways to escape (often forgetting he had only one leg). Carl was my bed fellow. He was a big talker. A loud talker. He kept me up at night until the nurses had pity on me and got me ear plugs. He just wouldn’t stop talking. During the night, he would try to leave his bed setting off alarms, and when he wasn’t trying to escape, he was hollering out in medical induced delusions. Still, I grew kind of fond of Carl and initiated several small chats so he knew he wasn’t alone. We were both men separated only by a curtain. Men behind a curtain, which ironically served to also represent a physical expression of what would surface as our differences the longer we were together. We were strange bed fellows; totally different surgeries, vast age difference, he was straight and I was gay, he was brash and I was quiet. Still, I often got a chuckle out of his inappropriate to the pretty nurses or the reasoning behind his “escape” attempts as though he suddenly was a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Carl was older and had been through a lot. I could respect that and had a great deal of compassion for his age group having worked with the elderly in nursing homes.
Day two was a bit of shock. Even as our conversations got more friendly and more frequent, Carl started greeting people with “Thank God for President Trump! God bless our president!” in a very loud manner. I was pretty sure it was to illicit a response from me or the person entering the room. As people politely dodged his exhortations, I wondered what my response was going to be. I didn’t want to be asked my view, but I knew it was coming. I could feel it in my bones. He wouldn’t let me escape it. I was here to recover, and while I had worked to get us into chit-chat mode, now I found myself hoping we could go back to awkward silence. The differences between us felt highlighted again.
Still, Carl’s question came around evening time. He once again made his loud exhortation about Trump but no one was there—no one but little ole’ me with a morphine drenched brain. I knew what this meant. Even as the awkward silence tried to scam me into believing he wouldn’t ask for a response, I knew deep down what was really coming, and I still found no answer surfacing to my lips.
“So, Larry, what do you think of our President?”
The question didn’t anger me as I thought it would. I thought about this man with one leg, who was as needy as I was. He wasn’t the president himself. Who knew why he voted for him? The experts say that some people had voted for Trump mainly because they felt disenfranchised. Others were tired of the corrupt status quo. While still others thought he may bring back more manufacturing jobs or be a genius at the economy.
“I don’t like him probably as much as you do,” I replied sheepishly.
“Oh, I see,” he replied with a tone of voice that felt like his spirit had suddenly sunk into his chest.
“But you know,” I interjected grasping for a bridge, “we all are different. Everybody sees things differently and it’s important that we don’t hold those differences against each other.” I wasn’t sure where that came from but it felt like at least one plank to the start of a bridge.
“Really? Now that is something I can work with,” he said with relief in his voice, “and I will say this. I don’t believe in anyone being hurt. I don’t care who you are or what it is. Whether it is a person, animal or leaf. No one should hurt any person or thing ever.”
“Well, now I can work with that. I believe that too!”
“Very good!” Carl replied and then started to tell me his “good news” that his girlfriend had told him that they could now start seeing other people too. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that might not be so great news, but again, it is all a matter of perspective. He was choosing to see the positive.
Carl and I continued to having other conversations that made me smile. Politics never came up again. I think we have to be careful about getting into too much hate and negativity around this administration that we let it spill over into how we communicate and see other people—as if they are Trump (or on the other side Nancy Pelosi) themselves. I learned a lesson from my time in bed next to a Trump supporter. It was this: people don’t necessarily sign up for the whole package deal when they vote for someone. You don’t always know what you are truly going to get once the campaign is over. For example, it was clear Carl didn’t agree with anything the president was doing that would harm other people. Carl’s intention around emphasizing that could be debated, but you have to wonder why he emphasized that as his form of making a bridge. The bigger question is this though: Would I have gotten to know what Carl believed about his value of all life if I had become argumentative, hostile and defensive? I doubt it.
No matter what, we can’t become this nation of angry, divided people who hate each other. This is what our enemies want. There is a phrase that goes “divide and conquer”. If we let both of those happen, then our enemies against democracy win, and they are circling like vultures as we speak.