Walter Suza: Can we love those who voted for Trump?

Walter Suza
Iowa View contributor

Agape is love. It was described by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as “the love of God working in the minds of humans.”

Although my mind is still in disbelief that more than 70 million people voted for President Donald Trump, I’m slowly coming to terms with the reality that not everyone was displeased with his leadership. But I still wonder: Was he ever a president for all of us? Was he worth being seen as the defender of religious and spiritual values?

I have imagined speaking to those who voted for Trump and saying to them, “So you voted for Donald Trump, huh. That’s disappointing to me because I thought you saw him as I did: A leader who cared more about winning support of his base than the welfare of all Americans.”

Trump also told so many lies that this column wouldn’t have the space to list them all.

He lied that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. He lied that he did more for Black people than President Abraham Lincoln. And he lied that there were fine people on both sides after Neo-Nazis stormed a protest in Charlottesville.

But ultimately, Trump told one important truth. He said, “I’m the least racist person anybody is going to meet.” And I agree, he is a racist.

How could half of this country disregard his role in advocating the death penalty for the Central Park Five? How could half of this country disregard his call to shoot “looters” and “to fire those SOBs” protesting racial injustice? How could half of this country disregard his policy to separate and cage children at the southern border? How could anyone disregard his blanket statement that people from Mexico are drug dealers, criminals and rapists? How could anyone ignore his statement to “stand back and stand by?”

Yes, 75% of white evangelical Christians disregarded all his racist acts and voted for him, a mere 5% drop of their support for him in 2016.

I had hoped we would all unite to vote on issues that affect us collectively, yet those who voted for Trump — who were predominantly white — placed the economy before racial injustice and COVID-19. Ironically, the president will depart the White House with the economy worse off than when he took office in 2016.

This is why many in “red” states didn’t do better under his presidency. In Iowa, there’s been a 67% increase in food insecurity during the pandemic, and 40.7% of households with children are depending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), yet Trump has proposed ending SNAP.

As for the issue of healthcare, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) has benefited thousands of Iowans, yet in spite of the COVID-19 scourge, Trump exerted relentless effort to end Obamacare, which would leave tens of thousands in Iowa without health care.

Some on Trump’s side argue that those who live in poverty must work harder to attain the American dream. That’s their argument to make. However, they shouldn’t forget that systemic racism walls out people of color from participating and enjoying the American dream.

I consider myself someone who has worked hard to earn a college education and to serve our state and nation. Even though the people I meet in my professional life would recognize that I hold a Ph.D., the doctorate doesn't make me immune to racial profiling on the streets of America.

Being Black leads to being followed and watched in grocery stores, subjected to the n-word and experiencing microaggressions. My hard-earned education doesn’t show through my skin, and that sole reason, the color of my skin, can be used to judge my worth.

And how about Trump’s response to protests after the death of George Floyd? We saw his total disregard for the First Amendment by allowing excessive use of force to silence the protesters so he could have a photo op where he appeared holding the Bible.

He allowed the protesters to be hurt while holding the Bible, yet it’s written in the Bible that God is love (1 John 4:7-12 NIV).

Agape love is from God, and it freely permeates all skin tones, even when we don’t deserve it. This is why we must strive to love not just our friends but also those who don't want to befriend us. In the words of Dr. King, “We love people not because they are likable, not because they do things that attract us, but because God loves them.”

So yes, it’s possible to love those who supported Donald Trump. We must try to love them because we are all bound together in our humanness. At the core of every person, there is an innate desire to avoid pain and seek joy. You see, we’re all seeking the same thing: To be OK in life.

I hope we will gain the awareness that those we perceive as enemies are also children of the same loving God. In spirit, we are more united than divided.

Walter Suza of Ames has written columns on race and social justice for the Iowa State Daily. His essays have also appeared in the Des Moines Register and MSN News. He can be contacted at wsuza2020@gmail.com.