Wait, what? Did she just say that?
Stick with me to the end, and perhaps you will find some solace alongside me.
I am not going to say he is good for the country, his behavior is acceptable, or his followers are understandable–or even credible.
But I do think his resurgence into the public eye in a political realm is telling, and perhaps even a good sign.
First, who is the “we,” because as I tell my students, pronouns are dangerous.
The antecedent pool for the “we” in my title is large: teachers that have made their classrooms safe for all students, students that work every day to ensure campuses are inclusive, people that fill their newsfeeds with stories of change, progressives that politic for the good of all, and the list goes on.
Trump signals to me that “we” are making a difference, that our work over the past twenty years matters (I use that amount of time as a marker since I have been in classrooms for two decades) .
And it is working.
My primary evidence for this assertion is Trump’s badgering about the wall between borders.
As James Carraghan, one of KU’s grad students, notes at the end of the interview he did with me in Fall 2015,
James: You often write about how binary thinking is dangerous. How is writing an effective mode of changing these ways of thinking and these assumptions?
His question came from reading the majority of my academic and public work, and his summation is spot on: I write and teach about the danger of binary thinking on a daily basis.
What better way to consider binary thinking than a wall–a literal wall–placed on an arbitrary border, because as we all know–thanks to Benedict Anderson–borders are imaginary?
How can this obscene assertion be a good sign?
Binaries rely on the slash.
A slash is a sharp division. A clear line. A solid demarcation. Something that divides those two ideas in the grey box above.
Consider how the sharp line between such identity markers–and many, many more–has eroded. The line delineating between “male” and “female,” for example, has blurred. Now, that line has always been blurry. But our society has become more affirming and inclusive in its language, policies, and laws when it comes to the blurring of that slash.
Not the erasure of the slash–that is for another time coming, I hope–but a blurring of that sharp line. Do not for a minute read me saying the work is done. What I am saying is the work “we” are doing is working.
And Trump’s insistence on this wall and other markers of division is a visible example of the anxiety such blurring of “the slashes” causes. When folks feel anxious about a border eroding, they want to make that border stronger.
Solve for x.
My clumsy math equation explained:
The anxiety was already present before Trump stepped in. The desire for a wall was already present thanks to the work “we” have been doing to show the world that identities matter and we cannot simply put people on one side of a slash. Identity formation isn’t that simple anymore in mainstream culture. Thank god.
The country just needed an x. They are solving for it right now by putting Trump into the equation. Trump isn’t the problem.
In fact, I don’t see a problem. I see a nation coming to terms with the erasure of binaries in the last gasp of its tenuous hold on patriarchal, homophobic, xenophobic, other -phobic ideals.
I did not say everything is better. I know someone is going to put those words in my mouth. So I will say it again: I am arguing Trump is a sign that the end is nigh for the above list.
I see Trump as a sign of hope. A sign that the last vestiges of binary thinking could tip to the side for which “we” have been fighting for decades.
Of course, if he wins, my idea will be cold comfort. If he wins, it will mean that “we” have so much more work to do than we ever even realized. But “we” will do it because we have for decades and decades to get to this point, a point at which a wall literally symbolizes the slash that separates in a world that doesn’t want to buy into such separation anymore.
We need to stay vigilant. We need to vote. We need to come together. We need to keep up the work. We need to celebrate the proof that our work is working.