“He’s not a Republican is he?” My father asked in response to my news that I was dating a plumber named Justin. Seriously, that was the first thing he said.
“I don’t know,” I said. “We don’t talk about politics.”
That was October 2015. Before Donald Trump became a politician.
By October 2016, everything was different. Justin and I weren’t just dating. We were in love.
Then, Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States.
In October 2017, I wrote:
We went to the Regina Spektor concert last night. I’ve loved her ever since she used to soothe my long bus rides up and down the Jersey Turnpike commuting between finishing my masters at NYU and sleeping at my parents house in South Jersey (where I was forced to live after being laid off from my city job thus losing the cornerstone of my autonomy, money). Listening to Regina’s piano riffs and wacky words, provided proof that my parents were wrong— there is too space (and an audience) for outspoken, quirky girls.
I loved every moment of the concert, sitting in the 6th row orchestra of the Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego.
“Yeah, it was pretty good,” said Justin as we walked back to the car after the show. “Except for when she started talking shit.”
The allege shit talking went something like this, “This next song I’ve been playing out of anger…” Regina said. “I am so angry… I was lucky to come to America from Moscow at a young age as a refugee… being here tonight reminds me that there are good people out there who don’t want to be represented by a creepy, crazy old man who villainies groups of people.” Clearly she was talking about Trump and his demonizing of immigrants.
Thirty minutes later, Regina left the stage and the house lights and exit music came on. The late, great Tom Petty’s Refugee played as people filed out of the theater. Justin knew all the words. He sang along, taking my hand and pulling me in to dance. As we moved to the music, I wondered if the song was related to her earlier statement. But I kept that thought to myself because I didn’t want to ruin the romantic moment. When the song was over, we left.
While Justin walked back to the parking garage, I floated, carried by the tinkering of piano keys.
“That was bullshit.” Justin said out of nowhere, interrupting my float. “I don’t want to hear her political opinion.”
“It was like two minutes of the show. Just ignore it if it bothered you. Kind of like how I’m going to ignore you now because you’re bothering me.“
He was smirking. Or at least I imagined he was. I kept my line of vision straight ahead, wishing to get away from the conversation as fast as possible. Before Justin could ruin the musical magic of the evening by reminding me that my boyfriend did not hate Trump.
But he continued, “I was going to ‘boo’ her. But I didn’t because I was with you.”
“Are you joking?” He wasn’t.
“Oh yeah, ‘booing,’ that’s real mature”
“Well I didn’t like what she said. It was bullshit and she’s an idiot.”
By then, we’d left the parking garage. My final “Fuck you” came one stoplight before merging onto the 5 North. We sat in silence for several exits. Until Justin reached across the console and started talking.
I continued to pick fights with Justin throughout Trump’s entire first year in office. I was angry at him for being one of them. For a long time, I questioned our relationship: How could I love someone who didn’t hate Trump?
After months of hour-long debates and new-to-me perspectives, I considered the facts:
1. Justin is the most open-hearted, hard-working, grateful, and generous people I have ever met.
2. Justin is not stupid.
3. Justin is not a racist.
And so there I was, with the red pill of logic in my hand. If I believed that Justin was not a bad person, then it was possible to be a Conservative or Republican and not be a bad person. Which meant that everything the media was telling me was biased at best, and fake news at worst.
I took a swig of courage, and swallowed.