Pick yourself up, dust yourself off

This election cycle took a whole hell of a lot out of me before the coup de grâs last night: an unapologetic bigot, racist, rapist was actually elected to the highest political station of our country. Finally, this horrible election is over, but I feel no relief. Instead, I have been looking forward to the future with increasing anxiety and fear, much like many of my friends and neighbors. 

I acknowledge, though, that my fear is largely a result of the unknown. I, as a white, cisgender, educated female, stand to lose very little personally if President Fuckface makes good on the promises upon which he founded his campaign. I might lose my healthcare, but my family could work that out if we needed to. I’m middle-class and self-employed, so my family might end up paying more taxes, but we could handle that, I think. The fact that my family has the ability to think around and plan for contingencies just illustrates our tremendous privilege. I hope that we can use that privilege for the good of others, but more on that in a minute. My point is this: yes, we all have skin in the game, but for some Americans, their very lives in this country are at stake. 

I might be afraid in an existential sense, but as I look over my Facebook and my Twitter feeds this morning, I realize that the majority of people in my social sphere; my friends, my chosen family, colleagues, neighbors; woke up this morning in a country that is no longer safe for them. Their ways of living are threatened because the people in power and the powers that be have asserted on a national level, without fear of reprisal or natural born shame, that their “differentness” is a threat. 

My step-dad was Jewish. We once had a long conversation about what it was like to face anti-Semitism in the modern era. He told me stories about his grandparents, victims of the Holocaust and eventual immigrants to the United States; how they came here for asylum but continued to face adversity. All because the powerful majority had ceased on the idea that Jews were a dangerous minority, a threat to the “common good”. My step-dad was the first adult to ever open my sweet, sheltered eyes to the reality that bigotry and discrimination never go away — it goes underground for a while until the popular opinion comes around in support of hate, and then the gross underbelly of humanity rears its ugly head. 

We have work to do.

Of course it isn’t that most people are “bad” or “evil”. Most people aren’t even bigoted, at least not in a conscious sense. We are products of a system of oppression that goes far beyond what our parents and teachers taught us about right and wrong. I agree with David Wong’s point in this article: the majority of people who voted for Trump are not racist or misogynistic. They are all feeling disadavantaged and frustrated and worried about their livelihoods and the safety of their families. They are thinking about their immediate social circle, their “monkey sphere”, and making decisions based on desperation. Our political machine thrives on fear and distrust — that’s what this election has clearly illustrated, and now we must all confront the consequences of our short-sightedness. 

So what now?

I’ve been looking for answers to that question since I woke up this morning at three o’clock, unable to sleep while my mind mulled over this new reality. I like the ideas discussed in this Huffington Post article. I think we owe it to one another to be a little kinder, a little gentler, because we are all raw in the aftermath of this election because no body really won. We need to love each other, because boastfulness, distrust, and blame will only take us farther away from the America that we want to see in the coming years. We can’t just turn away and shake our heads in disappointment — we have to keep going to work. Volunteer, donate, be an ally. Keep moving forward.

I’ll admit: I am having a hard time galvanizing myself for the fight. Last night at dinner, I overheard a woman at another table causally mention that she hopes to see Roe v. Wade overturned in the new year. Her words hit me like a threat of violence hurled across a battlefield: no one has the right to tell me or any other woman what to do with her body, and I am petrified that the minimal protections we have currently could be repealed. From that moment on, I felt myself looking at passers-by as though they were strangers, potentially dangerous threats to my safety, my daughters’ safety, and the safety of those I love. The outcome of this election has made me distrustful of my community, even living as I do in the liberal enclave of Hawaii. Fear will do that to a person, I suppose.

I see the anger and frustration of oppressed members of my community, and I feel helpless. Hopeless. And then I feel like a hopeless, over-privileged fuck because of course I am helpless. These communities have been suffering silently since forever, their experiences cheapened and mocked for the peace of mind of the majority. Michael Moore’s “morning after” to-do list points out that we must “Fire all pundits, predictors, pollsters and anyone else in the media … bloviators will now tell us we must “heal the divide” and “come together.” They will pull more hooey like that out of their ass in the days to come. Turn them off.” Because honestly, how can we possibly be expected to come together and heal when we have failed each other so grievously, time and time again?

I’m going to have to work long and hard to unpack that irrational fear and use it to build something constructive. As I mentioned, one of the most important things moving forward will be to lend increased support to marginalized and oppressed groups, to use my privilege to amplify their voices and concerns. Education and awareness are key, along with empathy. I will teach my daughters to love, to know, to will, and to be boisterous. I will teach them treat others with kindness, even if they look different, if they love differently, if they believe differently — even when those differences are diametrically opposed to every value you hold dear. I will teach them by word and by example to use their privilege constructively and without fear. 

I’m making a commitment to confront the next four years, and whatever else may come, with tenacity if not hope. It’s not enough to say “this is in God’s hands”, “trust that whatever comes is part of a divine plan”. We can’t rely on God to fix what we broke, but with any luck, we will eventually be able to rely on each other. We still have the opportunity to “continue working for change, continue standing up for what is right, continue facing hate with an unflinching gaze and steady hand — with action, with compassion, with standing on the side of all that is good in people.” So don’t panic

Okay, just, like try your best not to panic.