Election Dejection: The Week After

So, it’s been a week. I’ve done all the processing of our election I’m going to do in the short term. I thought it might be cathartic to put pen to paper, and clear some of the log jam in my brain.

This is not about Hillary, or about the Electoral College. Those topics have little to do with what I’m feeling.

This is not about the worry I have that we just hired someone ill equipped and under-qualified to do the job, although I could write volumes about that.

This is about the profound and heart breaking disappointment I feel, learning that I am surrounded by so much anger, so much misguided hate.

This was a campaign awash with bile, with insults and threats leveled at just about everyone: Muslims, Mexicans, women, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Almost no one was left unscathed. And we, as a nation, just voted to validate this. We said, “Yes, this is how we feel, too.” We said, “This is ok.” We said, “These are acceptable casualties in the war to ‘Make America Great Again.’”

The protests you’re seeing right now, this backlash from Democrats, Independents, the “liberal elite,” whatever you want to call us, this isn’t because we’re whining crybabies, sore that we lost. These are protests against the validation that Mexicans are criminals, that immigrants are bad, that Muslims are terrorists, that the pussy-grabbing thing…hey, that’s just what guys do.

The protests are, in part, messages. They say, “We are here. We are watching. And everyone is accountable.”

I was doing a lot of thinking on why, during this long election cycle, it has seemed like the tension of the Civil Rights Era was still here, bubbling beneath the surface. Why did it feel like we were having conversations about things that should have been settled decades ago? Were people really still that ignorant, that racist, that intolerant? And then it was clear, embarrassingly late. For many people, none of those struggles had ever retreated enough to bubble beneath the surface. The hatred for the “others” has been here all along. I had just been floating along, witnessing acts of racism and discrimination from afar, through the milky walls of my protective white bubble. I thought they were the exception, not the rule.

I’ve faced challenges of my own as a woman. I thought I knew what it meant to be treated as “other.” Man, was I naive. I’ve been leered at, groped, insulted, belittled and demeaned, just because I am a woman. But never in my most difficult experiences have I been exposed to the vileness, to the ugly hate, of what it truly means to be “other.” I am starting to see it now, and it is horrifying.

So, why? Are people ignorant? Do they just not know better? Are they misinformed? Yes and yes and yes, in part. But, I’ve come to this conclusion: I think more than anything it’s because our bubbles have gotten too damn small. Some of us live, work, and die in the same town. There’s nothing wrong with that, I’m here to tell you. I love my small town. But, whether it’s from a lack of opportunity or a lack of desire, many of us never venture far from the confines of our comfortable bubbles. But we need to. Boy, do we need to. The world looms large, while we stay small. It’s never been easier to explore or learn about the rest of the world. Infinite information is at our fingertips. But many of us never access it, and our minds stay as closed as our doors.

We need to travel, whether it’s to the new neighbor’s house or the other side of the world. We need to read, to learn, to think, to sympathize, to empathize, to make conversation with strangers, to be challenged, to step outside our bubbles, to talk to someone who is not like us.

I am sad for us. Sad that there is so much pain and fear and anger that we think it’s ok to spray paint swastikas, to hang a black baby in effigy, to scream at strangers in parking lots.

But I am here to tell you that it is not ok. None of it is ok. And I will not let you act like it is. I have family, friends, and neighbors who voted for this outcome, people I love and respect who rejoice at this result. A couple of them are straight up racist jerks. But most of them aren’t. Most of them are good people. And I see their fear of an uncertain future. I see their pain at being “left behind.” These are hard working people, who continue to work more but seem to make less, or who feel they are somehow being forgotten. And in some ways, I can’t blame them for what just happened in this election. They have been sold a bill of goods by a snake oil tycoon, promising them better days than the ones they’ve known. And I can see them so desperately wanting to feel like someone thinks they matter, like not everyone has forgotten them.

But, if you’re one of those who said, “Yeah, I know he’s racist/sexist/bigoted/xenophobic/fill-in-the-blank, BUT I voted for him for other reasons, because…” you have to know that whatever came after the “BUT” in that sentence does not invalidate the words that came before it.

I will not “just get over it” while hate crimes continue to spike. I will not “relax” while he fills his administration with people who promote this behavior. I will not normalize this treatment of our fellow human beings, and I will not give you a pass on it either.

If you feel like I feel, please do some thinking. You might have to make yourself uncomfortable. You might have to do something, to say something. You might have to grow your bubble, even if you think it’s pretty big already.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope the conversations we’re having as a nation right now are going to make those who hate the “others” so viciously stop and think. I hope we really will come together as a nation. But. If I’m wrong…I am here. I am informed. I am not alone. And I am ready.