Why I regret writing about trying to understand Trump supporters

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how I was done trying to understand Trump supporters after having spent four years at it. While I try to only write things I am proud of, I occasionally write something that doesn't sit well with me after it's published. This is one of those times.

I have messages in my inbox from people thanking me for that piece, saying it helped them understand their loved ones better, so I know some people found some parts of it helpful. But ultimately, I would take it back if I could. Please bear with me while I try to explain why.

My goal as a writer is to put stories and ideas out into the world that will, in some small way, help humanity progress toward a better future. Sometimes that means writing something positive that lifts people's spirits and gives them hope. Sometimes it means writing about injustices and hardships that need to be brought into the light and better understood. Sometimes it means challenging the status quo and helping people see things in a different way.

It also means avoiding things that I think are ultimately counterproductive to progress. While I don't shy away from tackling issues, I avoid writing about partisan politics because I see our two-party system as inherently divisive. I try to avoid writing about specific politicians as well, unless they've done something praiseworthy. There are more than enough political pundits putting out hot takes these days, and I have no desire to add my voice to that fray.

These past four years, however, have tested my convictions on these fronts, both internally and externally.


Issues that should not be considered partisan or divisive have become so in the eyes of many, making it nearly impossible to have a conversation that doesn't devolve into labels and generalizations and assumptions. When I write about racism or climate change or human rights—even basic public health at this point—I'm automatically placed into a political box, despite having never aligned myself with any political party. Even if I write about objective reality and verifiable fact, I'm placed into a political box, despite that making no sense whatsoever.

Labeling and categorizing is a natural tendency that's easy to slip into, especially in our current climate. But all it does is create an "us vs. them" filter on everything we discuss. I think that's the point of most political rhetoric, actually. "Us vs. them" is the simplest way to gain political power. Demonizing and "othering" make it easy to maintain.

The sneaky thing is that once that tendency takes hold, it starts to feel not just right, but righteous to "other" the people we see as on the wrong side of history or democracy or justice. It can even feel necessary and truthful to put them in the "other" category. Then it starts to feel okay to state the truth about them more and more harshly. Then we throw some potshots in, because those people deserve it. It so easily escalates from "they're wrong" to "they're insane" to "they're evil."

That's literally how everyone justifies division, on every "side," in every political system. But where does that lead us in the long run?

Whenever divisions seem intractable, I like to zoom out and look at the big picture. It's not like we haven't seen what we're seeing now in various times and places throughout history, from toxic partisanship to populist demagoguery. So the real root of the problem isn't the individual people or politics we keep arguing and complaining about, but something more fundamental.

In my opinion, the root cause of nearly all of our issues is people's inability or unwillingness to recognize that we are all "us." The lack of recognition of our essential oneness as human beings is manifested in all kinds of "othering"—racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious prejudice, political party prejudices, and so on and so on. But no matter the form, the root of most human problems is the "othering" of a group of people. My group = good. Other group = bad. So simple, but so wrong, every time.

I talked in my Trump supporters post about people wanting problems and solutions to be simple, but I should have been clearer that none of us is immune to that pull. We are all tempted to jump down the "us vs. them" hole because problems are simpler down there. It's easier to think in dichotomous groups and "sides" than to wade through complex ideas and nuanced beliefs on an individual level. Everything in our political discourse is designed to draw us into that hole.

And I allowed myself to fall in when I wrote that piece. I made Trump supporters a "them," and by doing so, perpetuated the very thing I see as the root of the problem. I fed the beast I was fighting while trying to fight it.

In the big picture, the beast isn't one individual with power or one political party or the people who support both of those things, no matter how it may appear in this era. The beast is the human tendency towards prejudice—a tendency that we have to overcome in ourselves and convince others to overcome in themselves.

How to get people to understand this is the challenge. But I know that categorizing a group of people in a way that they feel belittles or insults them isn't going to get us where we need to go, no matter how justified it feels. It's just not.

Cynicism about the redeemability of our fellow Americans won't get us where we want to go, and writing off millions of human beings will just have us living in perpetual limbo. Lasting solutions to our problems aren't going to be found in political boxes, and they aren't going to be found down an "us vs. them" hole, either.

We all have to decide how we are going to use our voice and how we're going to contribute to humanity's progress. I'd rather focus on the universal truths at the heart of the issues we face and work toward solutions in that way, rather than analysis of the political labels and ideological "sides" that only serve to divide us further.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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