The Noble, The Wicked, and Everything In-Between
“People aren’t either wicked or noble, they’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”
-Lemony Snicket, The Grim Grotto
Over the last week, liberal America has asked me to break out of my “bubble,” and see the “other,” overlooked America.
I see it.
As an educated female who leans (seriously) left, but lives in a diverse, working class Chicago suburb — I see it. My neighborhood was dotted equally with Trump/Pence and Hillary/Kaine signs. I have close family and friends — people I adore, people I vacation with, people I will share this year’s Thanksgiving table with — who voted for Trump.
This made me gravitate to the many articles asking to me understand. I didn’t want to lump the people I love into a “basket of deplorables.” I didn’t want to call my friends and family “racist” and “sexist.” Good arguments are being made for opening our hearts and minds — David Wong’s Don’t Panic, New York Times op-ed pieces by both Bernie Sanders and Glenn Beck; “talk to the other side,” we are told. Don’t lump all Trump supporters together, but instead see them for the hurt, struggling, working class American’s so many of them are.
And I see this, but I also don’t want to shy away from the truth.
Sexism and racism are part of the picture, part of the “other” America, and part of our America. Each election cycle we wade through the good, the bad, and the bullshit. Each election cycle we vote, not just for an accomplished candidate, but a flawed one. As people, we choose the flaws we are willing to accept — inexperience, impatience, aloofness, defensiveness — the list goes on. This election half of voting America cast a ballot, if not driven by, openly overlooking racism and sexism, in turn, accepting them. That alone says something we can’t ignore.
When we leave race and sex out of the conversation, we continue to misunderstand the voters in support of Trump. By asking us to see so many voters through the lens of “scared” or “hurting” we are neglecting to dig deeper into the role systemic racism and sexism still play in much of America.
Racism and sexism aren’t the clearly defined behaviors we often think they are. They are fluid, shifting, and changing concepts. Just because a white family has a Muslim man over for dinner doesn’t clear him of racism, and just because someone voted for Donald Trump doesn’t make him the next David Duke. Don’t be scared to ask why so many Americans were comfortable overlooking overt bigotry. Explore what this means. Be willing to acknowledge racism and sexism exist today — not just in the KKK — but in the everyday.
I think, frequently, in the week since the election, of Lemony Snicket’s quote (from my son’s beloved A Series of Unfortunate Events collection). It reminds me that it is okay try and understand people in their entirety (wickedness and all). This year, I hope my family and friends use our Thanksgiving table as a place to come together — as confused and conflicted as we are. But I refuse to continue to look past the role racism and sexism play in everyday America. I won’t shy away from complicated, critical, conversations. I’m okay with taking on, and talking about, these things.
I have shaken the deep grief I felt the Wednesday following election day. I feel motivated, curious, passionate. I am ready to roll up my sleeves, put on a baseball hat (and/or pantsuit) and get to work — sorting through the good, the bad, the wicked, the noble — and everything in between.