People I know on the right tell me the way I continue to feel — unbalanced, lacking foundational equilibrium, wondering what shared values remain among our vast nation — that’s how they felt when Barack Obama was elected and now we get to experience the same emotion. I want to have empathy that acknowledges their reflection, but it’s hard for me to grasp the counterpoint.
When Obama was elected we had started an unjust war, crashed the real estate market on unregulated bank speculation, crashed the stock market causing desperate people to liquidate retirement holdings at half their value, and unemployment was spiraling. The night of his election supporters across the nation spontaneously danced in the streets. When Donald Trump was elected, many of the same people who danced for Obama marched in protest against Trump, but I saw no one dancing for Trump. Is repealing the burdens of the Obama administration a cause equally worth celebrating?
I’m not mourning politics. I’m trying to come to terms with shared values, norms of civility, and making sense of my entire education — classroom instruction, professional experience, and community engagement. We can’t all be right about the Trump agenda and approach. If I’m not in the majority, I’m misaligned with about half the people in the places I travel. This is about spiritual identity and wondering what it means to be American.
This is not sour grapes because my team lost and someone else’s won. I didn’t suffer isolation and questioning of self when the Dodgers lost the NLCS — and by the way, the victorious Cubs fans visiting Chavez Ravine were pretty cool. This is way beyond a team losing. It’s about losing the team I thought my great grandparents came here to join.
The strange part is, I am personally likely to benefit from Trump’s financial policies, as long as none of his fringe followers assault me for my heritage. I believe the people hungry this Thanksgiving who bought his story will still be hungry the next four Thanksgivings. They will discover they were conned and I will still have empathy for them and be fighting for their human and civil rights.
Yet if you tell me the way I feel on this Thanksgiving — spiritually empty — is how you felt when Obama won, I actually feel bad for you. This is a feeling no one should have, that maybe we don’t have enough in common to share the holiday Abraham Lincoln envisioned when he created it during the Civil War. I can’t get over what happened, what our nation just did and what we might do next. I wonder if Obama’s equally offended opponents will get past what they believe was the moral wrong in his election.