dogs trump division: making canine peace with friends that support trump
by nikki meredith
There’s a woman at my gym I like. A lot. We do weight training in small groups and I like bitching with her about how heavy the weights, how awkward the positions or how sore we’ll be the next day. I like gossiping with her about the gym manager’s love affairs. I like laughing with her. We laugh a lot and we laugh at the same things. I like the way she looks. She has intense azure eyes and an off-kilter smile. She has an abundance of warmth and…let me stop there because I’m describing chemistry and everyone reading this will know what I’m talking about. I’m attracted to her in that ineffable way people are attracted to each other and usually prefer not to analyze because there’s an element of magic to it… but I’ve been forced to think about it because of Donald Trump.
About a year ago, she and I were pedaling side by side on elliptical machines and watching CNN. Trump’s face appeared on the screen and she said:
“I get a kick out of him.”
“Trump?” I asked, astonished.
“Yes,” she said smiling. “He makes me laugh.”
Trump never makes me laugh.
”But…but…” I sputtered, “You wouldn’t vote for him. Would you?”
“I might,” she said pleasantly.
In the few seconds that followed her “I might” these thoughts crawled through my brain: maybe she’s forgotten about the birther thing; maybe she didn’t hear what he said about women; maybe she didn’t hear what he said about Mexicans, Muslims, McCain or the military; maybe she didn’t hear anything he’s said and she’s dazzled by Trump Tower. (I hate to admit it but when I first saw the blindingly gaudy Trump tower I was dazzled. It represented a certain kind of wretched excess that hadn’t yet overwhelmed Manhattan and it was a small aspect of the contrasts that I loved about the city.) Or, maybe she’s simply a fan of ridiculous reality shows. That last thought was disturbing too but perhaps a little more forgivable than everything else, that is, if she hadn’t heard everything else.
“And, ” she said, still looking at the screen, “maybe he’ll do something about anchor babies.”
How could someone with whom I felt so emotionally compatible respond to that man in any way other than revulsion? I am so mystified by the fact that anyone is attracted to him, it makes me miss the days when I was a cub reporter and did a lot of vox populi interviews. When Trump is bloviating at a rally and the camera is panning the crowd behind him I look at those people hoping to discern something in their faces that would explain their attraction. The night he talked about a second amendment “solution” to Hillary Clinton, there was an older couple in the background who looked at each other knowingly. In my desperation to find common ground with people with whom I share a country, I wanted to think the knowingness signaled: WHOA we didn’t sign on for this! But in my heart, I knew that their knowing looks might have suggested they were going to march right out of that rally, go home and suit-up with their open carry weapons to prepare for the solution.
I remain mystified by all of those people but especially my friend.
One year later we still work out at the same time. We still complain about how hard the work out is, occasionally compliment each other on a new haircut or commiserate about muscle strain. We still laugh. We don’t talk about the manager’s love affairs because she quit. We do not talk about Trump. In fact, we seem to have an unspoken agreement not to talk about politics at all. For me, that means avoiding almost every topic. She took a cruise through the inland passage in Alaska. When she returned she didn’t mention the melting ice floes and I didn’t ask her. Some people might have seen that as an opening — I saw it as a red flag. I didn’t want to risk hearing her say what Trump has said about global warming: It’s a Chinese hoax. When all those young people were killed in the Orlando mass shooting, my heart would have broken if she’d repeated anything the NRA or Trump said about guns.
There will be people who believe I should take advantage of our friendship and try to influence her. Before Trump, that was my usual modus operandi. (Eight years ago I helped persuade my Hummer-driving neighbor who had always voted Republican to vote for Obama.) For some reason, this time it’s different. I was determined to ignore differences and look for common ground. And, finally, I have.
Dogs. She loves hers and I love mine. I bring mine to the gym and even my dog is attracted to her. It pleases me to watch them interact and it gives me a tiny bit of hope for the future. Hope I can’t possibly explain, even to myself.
You might think there’s not much to talk about but I’m finding that the topics are endless: dog nutrition; dog medicine; dog training; dog grooming; fox tails; dog teeth cleaning and I could go on, and usually do three times a week at the gym.
This has proven to be such a successful a common denominator, I’ve decided it’s the way I will now relate to all Republicans I encounter. In the era of Trump, however, if they are voting for him and they do not have a dog or at least love dogs enough to talk about them, I will have nothing, nada, nyet, to discuss and I will move on.
The dog world is not without controversy but in this instance, I’m the one who is politically incorrect. She has a rescue. I have a designer pooch. She’s made it clear that she doesn’t approve of my choice but is willing to overlook it. Is it possible we’re on to something? Our ability to communicate about dogs won’t reverse global warming or prevent mass shootings, it won’t even shut Trump up, but once this crazy, God Damn election is over, who knows, maybe dogs, with their generosity of spirit and their 300 million olfactory receptors can find a path that will take us across the aisle.