For the month of June, we asked all of our writers to include a video in their piece.
MVI_4850 (Driving in Portugal)
In case you have your volume turned down, here’s the dialogue for this clip:
Me: Get the fuck over.
Michael: Frick—well, this is our life now. Of course we get four cars just as it becomes a pseudo-one lane.
This was a typical fifteen seconds of driving in Portugal. Those pseudo-one lane roads with hellish switchbacks and limited visibility were a staple of our trip. I loved and hated them. I love the tension of a drive up a mountain slope: winding upward, wondering when the view you’re working for will appear.
I hated those roads because they are a testament my tendency toward wrath, fearfulness, and, defensiveness. I can hear the aggression in my demand that the cars on the other side of the road get farther away from me. My entitlement rings out: “These are my four feet of road. You are an intruder, an interloper, an outsider. Get the fuck out of my space.”
Perhaps the hardest to hear is how Michael and I so quickly dehumanize those who are “other.” I swear—instinctually and self-righteously—at them. I am blaming them for my own fear and ineptitude. Why is my first response an angry denunciation? Why not rejoice in our similarities? “Look!” I might have said. “They don’t know how to line their passenger side tires up with the edge of the road either! High five, stranger!”
Instead, we make them ours: our obstacle during our drive, our cross to bear, our trial. They have no meaning apart from us.
If time had been slower, we would have laughed at our instincts. We would have made fun of my swearing at people I came into contact with for less than five seconds. We would have giggled at how dramatic Michael’s statement was. We did laugh, when we replayed the video, but for me, it was a horrified laughter. Despite our education, despite our commitment to dealing with others gracefully, despite our convictions that evil spawns, festers, and multiplies without love and forgiveness, despite it all our first instinct was defensiveness.
It became so clear in that moment on the switchback as I swore at a group of people I’d never met, blamed them for my fear and my inadequacy, and lamented their entrance into my life—what would have been a perfect life if not for “those people”—it became clear:
I am—we are—Donald Trump.
Entitled. Selfish. Hostile. Angry. Fearful.
I know my American Protestant brothers and sisters like to believe in individual accountability, and who wouldn’t? I am not going to vote for Donald Trump unless I am drugged, drunk, and dead; I would like to blame those who will vote for him for making America hostile again. Entitled, angry, and selfish again.
I would like to hold those individuals accountable for this political phenomenon we’re facing, but when I listen to myself in that video, I can’t.
The zeitgeist that spawned the success of the Trump campaign started with me and, most likely, it started with you, too. Zeitgeist (bless you!) cannot be linked to individual sins. But it can be changed—albeit slowly—if we trade our entitlement for humility, our selfishness for sacrifice, and our hostility for vulnerability. Fifteen seconds at a time.
Elaine Schnabel (’11) spent her twenties traveling, blogging, and earning various master’s degrees. Now earning her PhD at the University of North Carolina in organizational communication, Elaine researches and writes at the intersection of religion and communication. You can find her blogging at Religious (Not Crazy).