I try to keep an open mind about a great many things. I never got involved with the great green-peas-in-guacamole debate of 2014, for example. I am agnostic about jeggings. I know that people are different, with different tastes and beliefs, and the warp against the weft is what makes us interesting.
In the past, I’ve been able to stay that way about politics. I had a side, and I believed my side was right, naturally, but I could also understand the other side. On Twitter I enjoyed sharing political cartoons lampooning the politicians I despised as much as any twitterholic. But I understood it when I saw a cartoon of Obama or Biden, an image that made them look strident or ugly or stupid. I shared the same caricatured images of Boehner and Bush. As humans, we categorize things, we make fun of things we disagree with. I believe in democracy. When Gee Dub won (even though he lost the popular vote), I was devastated, but not this way.
Then, we still had a balance of power in POTUS, Senate and House, or least a semblance of it. There were checks and balances.
Tuesday, we lost all that.
I thought of those cartoons that always look the same no matter who’s being lampooned: floppy mouth, raisin eyes, angry arms. I thought to myself, maybe I’m overreacting. In politics, we always think the ones we oppose are monstrous, when in reality, they’re just politicians, as prone to fits of joy or slips of corruption as the rest of us. We think we’re better — but we’re not. We just have different beliefs, based on different teachings or books.
But this time it is different.
We had a few people over to watch the returns on Tuesday night. We didn’t invite many. We only bought two bottles of champagne.
Yesterday I took those bottles out of the fridge, unopened, and put them in the wine rack.
I swear to god, those unopened bottles hold my heart.
Champagne triggers my migraines sometimes, and yet I couldn’t wait to taste the bubbles on my lips, to know that a woman I believe in, a woman I respect so mightily, was going to be the leader of our nation.
The wrong team won.
Hillary has faults, yes. She’s a politician; of course she has faults. (Could I run for that office? Could you? Hell, no. And I don’t give a fuck about her emails.)
This isn’t just about the wrong team winning. If a normal career politician, a regular right-wing rednecked good-old boy had won, I would be heartily disappointed. I would have cried.
But I would have been able to hold this in my mind: We all think we’re right. We’re all a little wrong about that. We’ll limp through. We’ll be okay.
Trump and Pence are different.
Everything has changed, and we are entering revolution.
They want to strip the rights of minorities, immigrants, the disabled, the poor, and the LGBTQ. In a country based on systemic racism, a country just beginning a third, vastly-needed civil rights movement, they want to silence the few voices brave enough to shout the oppression. Not only that, but with the House and Senate behind them, they will start wars against other countries and against our environment — wars we can’t win. Period.
How did this happen?
Here’s how: The undecideds weren’t undecided. Those one in four who said they weren’t sure? They were closeted. They knew enough to understand they shouldn’t tell anyone they were voting for Trump. They knew enough to be ashamed. But in the ballot booth, alone, quietly, they voted for the white supremacist candidate.
David Duke and the KKK were elated by the win (this alone is eternally damning). Every totalitarian regime rejoiced on Wednesday. Russian leaders literally cheered when Trump won (PRI).
Hatred has been given validity.
Violence is now acceptable.
With more than half the population voting against hate, we still lost.
You have to know this: my wife and I are now scared to leave the house. We live in the Bay Area in a liberal state, and we’re still terrified to hold hands in public. And we’re privileged. We’re white. We’re still scared out of our skulls, and we ain’t got nothin’ on how POC are feeling (and have been feeling).
This week we mourn. We find community. We eat with friends. We spend our money close to home, in small businesses we care about. We pray. We meditate. We cry.
How? I have no freaking idea. Not yet. We’re still mourning. I’m numb, the way I always get during storms of grief.
But in our house, we know this:
- Even with half the income we had last year, we’re tightening belts and just set up monthly donations to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
- We will attend every demonstration we can.
- We don’t have kids — we can be arrested (oh, the dogs would be so pissed off at that).
- We will listen more than we talk.
- We will talk with those who need to be heard most.
On Wednesday, I was so upset I walked the dogs with the express intention to meet a neighbor (any neighbor, I didn’t care) and talk about it. In my Oakland neighborhood, we are good at waving. We’re not always so good at talking.
An older black woman I’d never spoken to was sitting on her porch, watching her husband wash the car. I halted the dogs and stopped on the sidewalk.
“How are you?” I asked.
She waved her hand politely. “Oh, fine, fine.”
“No. How are you? Because I’m completely devastated and I was wondering how you felt.”
She looked at me in astonishment. “I’m not surprised. But it’s so terrible I can’t bear it.”
We talked for twenty minutes. I tried to listen more than I spoke. Miss Mary E. and I are friends now. She asked what my car and house looked like because now “I can come knock if I need you.”
My parents raised me on picket lines. I knew every verse to We Shall Overcome before I knew the names of the Disney princesses. I truly believe that my New Zealander mother, who never had the slightest interest in becoming a US citizen, would have finally become a citizen after 35 years of residence in order to vote against Trump.
I won’t let her down.
I will do my part.
I will write.
I will march.
I will listen.
I will lift up.
What will you do?
all my love,
- I know I’ll get plenty of hate mail from this letter. That’s okay. If we disagree on this, you won’t enjoy my books.
- Speaking of that, if you do agree with me, please consider sharing this letter to make up for those hate arrows that were just lobbed, on fire, in my direction. Or join my mailing list. Or both.
- Lena Dunham’s letter on this is much better than my own. Go have a read, and subscribe.
- Solidarity? Wear a safety pin. It might seem silly until you wear it in small-town Mississippi.