Hope Doesn’t Need A Ballot
Since the elections, I’ve been inhabited by an inexplicable optimism and sparkled by renewed enthusiasm. I can’t put my finger on why quite yet, but I can see the beginning of an answer.
I believe this to be an unique opportunity for our society. If history teaches us anything it’s that change rarely happens unless it is forced upon us.
We get the future we fight for.
Late into the night of November 8th, we realized that we hadn’t fight with enough determination for the hard-earned progress we’ve gained over the past few years. We became complacent — and a tad dismissive too. Here’s my personal interpretation.
Winners vs. Losers
M. Trump ran a campaign painting a deeply divided nation with a bleak future. He relentlessly championed his apocalyptic view, one easy to embrace for his supporters since it it reflects their realities (perceived or otherwise). His message was crystal clear:
- The American Dream is dead. Or rather, it never was.
- In life, there are winners and losers. The idea we can all win is a fallacy.
- You’ve been losing on all sides for so long. No one is here for you.
- I’m a winner and I won all my life. I will be there for you.
- Now, do you want to be a winner or a loser?
He asked Americans to pick a side, plain and simple — and they did. Now, we must be cautious and constructive in how we react to it.
Trivializing Trump supporters is wrong — their feelings are real and they matter too
We have no rights to reduce the angst and pain of Trump supports or question the legitimacy or authenticity of their feelings. Most of you reading this likely do not live their lives, neither am I. Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard loudly that one must be African-American to understand what it feels to be black in America. Similarly then, we must acknowledge that it’s hard for us to feel what it is to be white, part of the middle-class with little to no education in 2016.
Handling change is difficult. We‘ve asked a large part of the population to see their position in society shifting and adjust some of their cores values all while being hit the hardest economically. And these changes are numerous: from the advancement of technology threatening their livelihood and place in society, to the realization that the working landscape evolved in ways that no longer guarantees the same job for 30 years and requires more mobility and training. This anxiety is palpable, and it is tempting to blame it immigration or globalization rather than focusing on figure out how to adapt.
This divide is not just about White vs. People of Color. It expands to elite vs. lower-classes, city vs. rural, educated vs. non-educated, rich vs. poor, etc.
Dehumanizing Trump supporters is hypocritical — that’s the very kind of thinking we are trying to eradicate
In dire times, we can be pushed to make choices that we may not be proud of. Yet, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily all racists or misogynistic. Both candidates were deeply flawed and we can argue that the price to pay for a Trump presidency is risky, hefty and somewhat unethical. But it begs the question: how bad do they believe their situation to be so that they are willing to chose someone with such questionable values to be their spokesperson?
This situation is an opportunity that is going to force us to understand them. It’s going to push us to talk to them, not about them.
By doing so, by appeasing fears and by getting them to know us — and vice-versa — we have a chance to bridge this gap. We must look at ourselves: we know, deep inside, that not all of these of these votes were motivated by racism or sexism. Unfortunately, we’ve put them in the same broad basket, and this is in itself, the very kind of crude characterization those we are truly fighting against are guilty of. It replicates the superficial “Trump = Evil” kinds of statements analogous to the “Muslim = Terrorist” arguments that we loathe.
I can think of a few reasons that led us to act this way:
- It made for easy arguments and made us look good.
- It helped justify our lack of efforts in getting to look and understand the other side.
- We could afford to reduce and dismiss their concerns because, yes, we were indeed in power. And we were convinced we’d still be for another 4 years, at the very least.
It’s worth saying that although I never saw a Trump presidency coming, I always worried that if Hillary was elected, it would have given more fuel for this “silent majority” to revolt. Based on what we’ve witnessed during his rallies, we can only imagine what that backlash would have been.
The Need For Space
According to most of his opponents, being a Trump supporter was and still is considered a terminal illness. That’s why the conversation never really took place and how polls, pundits and media got these elections predictions so wrong. By shaming Trump followers, we did a disservice not only to them but to ourselves. In our dismissiveness, we’ve left no space for an open conversation about the issues that mattered to them.
How can we understand and reduce the fear of the other if we don’t get to know one another? It’s this lack of conversational space that allowed this gap grow and these divisions to entrench further. And part of this responsibility falls on us.
What we can do about it
The aftermath is ugly. None of us expected to woke up like this on November 9th, both figuratively and literally — but sometimes we just need a cold shower.
However, I genuinely believe that this is a unique opportunity for us to look not only at ourselves — but at the other, and particularly their version of the other. We’ve done it before: women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, the list is long. I have no doubts that with time, effort, patience, listening and an open mind, we can reconcile our currents definitions of the “other” into a more united and current version of “us”: a mosaic of us as a people.
This is what our “fight” should be about, and this reconciliation a cause worth longing for. That doesn’t mean that we’ll normalize or accept bigotry, racism or misogyny: if anything, these battles just got reinvigorated with renewed energy and we are about to see its mobilization strengthen across the nation. But for the rest — the more subtle, underlying and complex pains and fears — it is critical that we start finding some answers in the ruins.
In a weird way, we may look back at this moment in history as the first time a US President is going to unite its people not thanks to but in spite of him.
The Donald spent his life trying to fit in and belong with the greats ruthlessly and by any means necessary. We can help him finally find his place: in company of the most repugnant leaders and of one of the darkest chapters of American history.
We must mobilize and show our support to those who are going to be hit the hardest not only by M. Trump’s policies and rhetoric, but by the fringe of his supporters who do embrace his archaic views of the world. We need to be present for them, in small gestures and acts of kindness. We shall reassure them that no one man or no hatred can’t be overcome. And no ballot is required for that.
Hope and change won 8 years. Fear and bigotry won yesterday. But I’m optimistic for a simple reason: fear eventually can be appeased while hope can never be beaten. Don’t take my words for it, read those from Anne Frank, one of the most admirable and courageous women that graced this world. In World War II’s Germany, in her journal, she wrote:
“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”
It was true then, it surely is true today. Fight on.
To be clear: this is not an attempt to normalize or justify Tump or his voters actions, rhetoric or policies. I am myself a immigrant and of jewish heritage. I’ve lost count of how many of M. Trump’s position have made me cringe or outraged. My intent here is to uncover the side of his supporters’ story to ensure that we do not undermine the statement made over 60 millions voices.