I used to be That Guy. I always voted Republican. I watched Fox News. I read clickbait articles on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I echoed these slanted talking points when I was a Radio show guest prior to the 2016 Presidential General Election. In one sense, I was just your average, conservative, pro-Israel Jewish American. Yet, I was also a full-fledged, unapologetic, red-hat wearing Trumper.
When the General Election came and it was between Trump and Clinton, my choice was easy. I did not even think to research any of Clinton’s accomplishments as First Lady, Senator, or Secretary of State — like most conservatives, I just focused on her seemingly never ending “scandals.” I was part of the “LOCK HER UP” chorus, even though she was thoroughly investigated and cleared by the FBI. I did, and perhaps still do, feel Clinton’s leadership was lacking during and after the Benghazi attack, but many among the MAGA crowd blamed her personally for the resultant deaths, and I joined in. Trump, on the other hand, was hailed as a friend of Israel and the Jewish people. Yet, unlike with Clinton, I looked only at Trump’s accomplishments, ignored his failures and defended or even celebrated his bad behavior. Consequently, I put all my efforts into helping elect him.
While aboard the “Trump Train,” I met many Trump supporters who felt stigmatized or ignored on Twitter. They introduced me to specific Direct Message (DM) groups where they felt their voice could be heard without judgement from “RINOs” or “Liberals.” These DM groups also served as a sort of amplifier, where one would submit their tweets to get many followers and retweets. A top MAGA Twitter account would quote someone they didn’t like, Trump supporters would then swarm in and malign that individual for dissenting thought. At the time, I didn’t think about how vile many of these tweets were, even while sending them out myself. I felt at home, as these Twitter accounts were supposedly conservative, pro-God, pro-guns, pro-flag, and pro-secure borders. For those foolish enough to critique any of those values, there was a Twitter mob eagerly waiting to attack. I was part of that mob.
Then came the moment that changed my life in politics and social media. I accused Sarah Silverman and liberals as a whole (since conservative pundits and media do this) of caring more about Illegals than American Veterans. To my surprise, Sarah Silverman replied, and the resulting dialogue was respectful. Months went by and we interacted more on Twitter on issues like gun reform, DACA, and abortion. Not only did I learn from her, but I learned from her followers who showed me why they fight for these rights. I discovered sources with journalistic integrity which debunked the lies and generalizations that conservative media often report. I slowly began reevaluating my principles.
During this process, a few high-profile Twitter Trump supporters saw me communicating with (as opposed to bashing) Silverman and other liberals like Andy Lassner and Chelsea Clinton. The Trump train mob turned their vileness toward me, just for talking respectfully to those they thought of as the enemy. I, a U.S. Army war Veteran of 13 years, was being called a traitor to the country. I never realized how hateful this group was until I became the subject of their abuse (which doesn’t make me feel very good). From then on, my eyes were open to the kind of person Trump was — an amoral bully like his base that supported and elected him. There was the MAGA way or the wrong way, and Trump and his followers would use Twitter to bully those who thought differently. Trump’s tweets were both divisive and dishonest, and everything had to be about him personally. I decided to no longer be part of the Trump Train or MAGA team and ended my blind loyal support.
Now that I was my own person on my own timeline, I began to reach out to well-known liberals. By doing so, I learned the majority of DACA recipients are not actually MS13 gang members as conservative media would have you believe — indeed, many are veterans themselves. I learned more about gun reform, and that a majority just want common sense laws in an effort to reduce mass shootings, especially in schools. Even as progressive as Silverman is, she is against gun confiscation.
I now recognize that white privilege exists. I acknowledge there is racism in America that Fox never talks about. I understand why the football players kneel during the anthem, and I support it because it’s their free speech. I am beginning to understand the main values of liberalism, human rights, acceptance and equality for all.
And the more I learn, the more these values are sinking into my heart. For the first time in my life, I will be looking to vote blue this election cycle, and I will continue to fight for what’s right… now that I finally know what right is.