I went to bed last night demoralized, my faith in democracy challenged in a way I never believed was possible.
It was late, after the acceptance speech by President-elect Donald Trump. I was exhausted. I slept very little.
I awoke this morning in a state of confusion, a daze that still lingers over me. My fear of half the nation’s voters, more than 50 million of my fellow citizens, brings grief and anxiety to my every thought. Can our ideas about what defines the United States of America be that different? Yes, they can.
I’ve worked a lot of campaigns as a volunteer. This one was different. This one was unprecedented in its vitriol and disgust. This one was personal. This one was moral. The fog of war created cover for absurdist antics and human abuse. This behavior was not taught as acceptable when I learned as a child to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
I have been physically threatened on multiple occasions for my writing about the election, almost entirely by anonymous sources online, for expressing my views, activating my right to free speech. I have experienced anti-Semitism. I have been asked to leave the nation to which my family immigrated generations ago. It is always strange to see words like this in print because I do not experience them at all in real world life, yet those words are always out there masked in cowardice. They never go away. Hate may sit in the background, but it is always with us.
I won’t stop writing. I won’t stop talking. You may have won an election but you haven’t won the bullying match. Don’t believe me, just watch.
I received an email early in the day from a dear friend asking for my advice on how to address his community this morning in the face of shock. I told him I was still forming my thoughts, but here was a start:
I would say human beings are fallible and the wrong answer has always been the risk of our democracy. Majority rule is by nature imperfect, but we haven’t identified a better system.
I would remind people we are now almost perfectly divided, that Trump prevailed by geography and demographics, not by intellectual mandate. Clinton won the popular vote, albeit by less than 1%, which tells us how few minds have to change for sanity to return.
I would make the point empirically that education is the basis of democracy, and while a precious few students enjoy the highest privilege on earth, that is not the norm in this nation by a long shot and if we don’t fix that divide we will destroy the American dream. With intelligence must come humility or Progressives will continue to be seen as elite and detached. Regardless and without apology, reading beats YouTube and a tweet is not a policy statement. Rigorous thought matters over the long haul, no matter how many trivialities consume our hours.
I would tell them to stand by their beliefs, that courage is only real when you oppose the tyranny of the majority and risk losing something for what others can have later. History is written in the future, not the present. Fight hate, fight oppression, have empathy for your opponent or you can’t win them over, have compassion for the hungry, never betray your morality for material gain, and prepare now to fix this error four years from now.
He’s the President, not the King. We bond together now to keep him from having more authority than our Constitution will allow. False prophets are always exposed. This one will betray his following like all others have and then our good work can continue.
Teach your children well.
Shortly after I sent that I watched the live concession speech of Hillary Clinton and felt pressure crushing my heart. Then I watched the live remarks of Barack Obama committing his team to the peaceful transition of power. Following that I spent a few hours reading numerous posts from friends, strangers, journalists, and pundits either trumpeting the success of their candidate or, like me, attempting to find a path to wrestling with wrong. Only now I am I beginning to come to a point of view on where to look next:
Clinton supporters vastly underestimated the power of disaffection and blame.
Trump supporters are even more vastly underestimating our commitment to our values and hard-won gains.
We are separated by the thinnest of all margins. We tip the scales by standing our ground. In the letdown of our opposition, which I believe is inevitable, a few will join us and then we’ll right the ship.
Don’t underestimate a committed cause. It cuts both ways, but reality will expose delusion.
Stand your ground, speak your voice, recommit to goodness.
I don’t have it all figured it out anymore than you do. There is still a brick on my heart and it won’t be lifted anytime soon. I will learn to live with that, and fight harder because I feel the perpetual discomfort. We will not teach the next generation that our ultimate experiment in democracy is won or lost on who is the most effective liar and stirrer of hate. That is too cynical a pill to swallow.
We also won’t cave under the auspices of, “It’s time to come together and heal.” I have no business with the alt-right. I have no interest in excusing racist, misogynist, bigoted hate speech. You want to build an idiotic wall? We will oppose it. You want to round-up millions of people you don’t want here? We will stand in front of their homes. You want to take away medical care from 20 million Americans? Not without the fight of your life.
Blind faith that your super-hero Trump can bring back jobs that are no longer economically viable is ill-founded. People who bet on a whim will discover that quickly. The notion that random change for the sake of change will improve lives is equally empty. People who embraced rhetoric absent a fact-based plan will also discover that quickly. It is illogical to reject globalization and automation. You don’t have to like it, but you can’t make it go away. If you try to put up walls, you will have wars, and they are way more costly. The change you think you want to embrace cannot occur without mass loss.
This reality will take place in record time. Remember some of the disillusionment that followed President Obama’s first few years in office? The exponential disillusionment coming your way will make that seem like a full slate of promises kept. If you were disaffected before, watch assets as they shift at lightning pace to the 1% when they go on sale. Then you will realize that you have been duped by a con man, and when a very few cross back over the line to sanity, we will get back to work moving forward.
We wrestle with wrong by exposing it. That path began this morning. The sooner we recommit to course correction, the sooner this injustice is corrected.
Yes, we can.
Thank you for always standing behind your values and the ethical choice that respects humanity, and for continually speaking out about it. Your words are helpful today as I wander around my house in shock and grief. I was moved to tears by the strength, the grace, and the message of Hilary Clinton’s concession speech this morning. I’m finding as the fog of shock is lifting, I am even more galvanized in my commitment to humanity, kindness, respect, curiosity, compassion, inclusion and intelligent discourse. My Father was French and worked for the resistance during World War II. I’m grateful for his modeling and that he came to this country after the war to create a better life for himself and his family, because he believed in freedom, hard work and American values. I continue to believe in all he stood for. I am grateful that he stands behind me and that I am part of a community that includes you.
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