Mr. Rasmussen, my favorite math teacher in high school, once said to our class, “If you assume, it makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.” I felt that he was looking right at me as he said that, but it was probably more likely that I just felt convicted.
As a teenager I made a lot of assumptions about people and life. My world was pretty small at the time and I felt that I had everyone and everything in it figured out. The people in my small community seemed painfully predictable to me and made it easy for me to make assumptions. I spent the entire class time dissecting my teacher’s profound statement. Grammatically, it made no sense, but I found myself obsessing over his message and eventually embracing it. As a self-conscious teen I did not want to knowingly do anything that made me seem like an ass.
Throughout my life, I’ve applied my algebra teacher’s advice countless times as I met new people and situations. Not making assumptions has allowed me to better hear what people are saying to me, and it makes it easier to understand them when I abandon preconceived notions. I, unfortunately, failed to heed Mr. Rasmussen’s advice during the last presidential campaign. I assumed from the time Donald Trump announced he was running until November 8th that he could never become president. Despite conversations I was overhearing in the grocery store and seeing on Facebook that expressed support for Trump, I frequently assumed there could never be enough people in my country to elect someone like him. Obviously, I made a bad assumption – as did Hillary’s people, the media, the pollsters, and everyone who failed to vote on Election Day.
I was a passionate Bernie supporter, but on election morning I drove to the small town hall in my rural township to cast my vote for Team Hillary. I noted that I passed a few Trump signs and no Hillary signs during my two-mile drive. I parked and smiled as I noticed that my Hyundai Elantra stood out as a minority among the other vehicles, which were all Ford and Chevy pick-ups – many advertising that they wanted America to be Great Again. It was clear that I was in the minority at that moment, despite the fact that I was voting in Minnesota, a traditionally Democrat-leaning state. I tried to keep my Independent demeanor and Bern-ing desire for universal healthcare in check as I went inside to cast my vote among my Trump-loving neighbors. I had never seen any of those people before, especially not on any previous Election Days. As I waited to fill out my ballot, I couldn’t help but wonder where all those people emerged from – and why they chose to emerge that day.
After voting, on my drive home I wanted to continue assuming that Donald Trump couldn’t possibly win. But I kept hearing Mr. Rasmussen’s voice warning me not to assume. I carried him in my ear all day, along with a sick feeling in my stomach over the possibility that what I had experienced in my town hall was happening all over my country.
Clinging to Mr. Rasmussen’s wise advice helped buffer the shocking results on election night. I was still severely disturbed, though – and convicted. I had assumed during Donald Trump’s entire campaign that the Republican Party would find a way to not allow a blatantly unqualified narcissist to become its endorsed nominee. After the Republican National Convention, I assumed the Democratic Party would effectively use its spin doctors to convince enough people in America that Hillary was the best choice for president. When that didn’t happen, I thanked God for the Access Hollywood footage that went public and assumed that surely women would never vote for a creepy misogynist who brags about grabbing women’s body parts . . . I assumed, assumed, assumed . . . I now feel like such an ass.
Had I not been so busy assuming after Donald Trump announced his candidacy, I would have been actively launching my own campaign against him and would have recruited as many people as possible to vote for Hillary. Despite his cringe-worthy ineptness, Donald Trump has been very successful. He succeeded at making an ass of the Republican Party for assuming that he wouldn’t be their nominee. He succeeded at making an ass of the Democratic Party for assuming that Hillary would automatically beat him and for not bothering to inspire people in the right places to vote for her. He successfully made an ass out of me – and U-S-of-A.
Donald Trump is president because too many of us in this country made assumptions, and now we have an Ass-in-Chief who makes all of us in America look like asses to the rest of the civilized world because we allowed him to be elected as our leader. After the trauma I’ve endured watching Mr. Trump’s presidency over the past six months, I promise that I will never assume anything again. I hope the Republican and Democratic Parties have been clearly stating the same thing and that we will never again have to walk down this horrifying political path – but I will not assume that.
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© 2017 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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