by P.E. Garcia
My student apologized to me for voting for Donald Trump. He regretted it, he said, because he hurt me, and he never thought it would hurt someone like me.
The week before, he sat with me for almost an hour in my office, and we bonded over poverty. He told me how hard it was to be in college with rich friends, to be so different than them. He felt alone.
He’s talented, and I told him so. He’s funny, and aside from some trouble with comma splices, he’s a good writer. He told me that he’s majoring in business, but he wants to be a journalist. I encouraged him to do that.
He’s talented, and he’s sensitive, and he voted for Donald Trump.
Let me be clear: this isn’t an essay about bonding with someone who has opposing beliefs or about how people can defy stereotypes. My student is talented, and he’s sensitive, but he still voted for Donald Trump. My student hurt me, and he did it because he’s kind of stupid.
I don’t mean that in a cruel way. He’s stupid in that way that many 18-year-olds are, the way that I was stupid when I was 18. He’s full of good intentions, and he hopes for the best, even from the worst. He voted for Trump because he didn’t believe Trump really meant all those racist things. He hoped–and continues to hope–that Trump will be better than his disgusting rhetoric.
But he says that now he can see how Trump’s victory hurt me, and so many others, and, with that same hope, he hands me his apology.
And I hold this hopeful, well-intentioned apology, as I’ve held apologies before, and I just don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do with it.