The Morning After that Election

Author’s Note: this article was originally published as a Facebook note on my newsfeed the day after the 2016 election.

This morning I dropped off my sons at preschool and Kindergarten. My youngest son’s preschool is located in a church. The pastor is a gracious middle aged Asian-American woman and the congregation is a diverse mix of whites, hispanics, blacks and asians. The administrator for our daycare is a kindly older woman from eastern-europe while the preschool is staffed with caring team of care providers again from a variety of backgrounds.

Immediately next door and in fact sharing a parking lot to the preschool is a mosque also with an adjoining preschool. Just about a month ago, the parking lot and street was packed as folks from the mosque came out to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

My older son’s kindergarten in the public school is a similar mosaic of diversity — east and south asian, white, black and latinos. Here my son plays with his friends of all stripes, speculating on the relative power of Captain America, Spiderman and Batman and trading Pokemon cards with his friends, playing soccer and basketball.

The principal is white as is and my older son’s kindergarten teacher who recently got married. But the kindergarten teachers are also diverse — we share a classroom with a hispanic teacher, a south asian leads the Kindergarten program while another teacher wears a hijab and leads another classroom — she particularly stood out to me today.

The head volunteer crossing guard is middle-aged asian woman who grew up in the community as were many of the teachers and administrators of our school. On Saturday, the public school also serves as a Chinese school for the community.

While I appreciate the diversity of our community, it was never top of mind for me until perhaps today — in a sense we were just like any other community in the US, a group of people working together to raise our children, make a living and get through the long days and the crappy commutes. Some of us are immigrants trying to make good on the promise of America, others have been here one or more generations and want to stay and contribute to the community.

On the other hand, we are a community that works and more than anything I carry a quiet pride to be living in the epitome of the promise and greatness of America — that regardless of our background and place or origin we can come together to build a community that works. More so, that if we could build a working community that was as diverse and different than so could the rest of the country.

This morning as I was dropping my kids off I couldn’t help but notice a more solemn look in all the adults’ faces — parents and teachers alike. This morning, the day after the country elected an individual of dubious personal character harnessing the destructive energies of bigotry, misogyny and nativism for selfish purposes, I felt like the country had repudiated our entire community.

America the Idea has been truly diminished today and we are all worse off for it.

It’s rare that one sees cherished ideals that form the foundation of a country so publicly disavowed by its people but that is how I truly feel this morning. Maybe the American ideal of inclusion and openness for all has always been a cynical propaganda line used to placate the mass of poor new immigrants to work hard to contribute to enrich those at the top. But now that the idea has been publicly rejected by its populace what now?

These coming years will be trial for the country. We will see whether American’s institutions and sense of community and indeed self can stand up to this streak of nativism and economic despair that has infected the world.

My personal takeaway is that we need to come together even more. Instead of merely acknowledging our different neighbors we need to actively work to build bridges to bring us together. Yesterday a not-quite-majority of voters in this country tried to tear us apart; they said we don’t count; that we’re not a truly American community. I’m calling BS to that. We don’t need anybody’s validation. We don’t need the President to be the example to follow for the country (though that would have been nice). We’ll be our own example. #bethechange