I woke up early on November 9thto the sound of The Hubby angrily cursing at his phone and saying, “I just can’t believe this” as he threw off the covers and stomped into the bathroom to take a shower.
I had spent the day before happy, surprisingly emotional, and looking forward to watching the election results coming in that evening. All that gave way around 9:30 p.m. when the texts from my friends started to ping my phone. Their words may have been different, but their messages were all the same, “WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?”
I spent a couple hours defiantly stress eating before slipping into sadness as Ohio was called for Trump, and then Florida and then Michigan and Wisconsin were too close to call. I stayed up way too late watching the now inevitable pieces fall into what I felt were all the wrong places. The Hubby went to bed still hopeful; all the races were so close, maybe the tide could still turn? Now he was just angry. I was not. I was sad. I sobbed into the mattress at the finality of it that morning. After about ten minutes The Hubby stomped back in, still grumbling curse words, and not so politely advised me that I needed to do a much better job holding it together when I told the kids.
The previous day I had filled in a little bubble next to Hillary Clinton’s name with tears in my eyes and one of my children at each elbow. My son held the ballot with me as we slid it into the voting machine. I breathlessly told the poll worker beside the machine that I was going to cry and she smiled politely. I hadn’t expected to feel this emotional. In that moment I felt so deeply validated in a way I don’t ever remember feeling before. The Hubby didn’t really get why I was so emotional, which only further solidified my feelings and the importance of this day. The next morning, I felt this had been stolen from me and it hurt all the more for having felt it at all.
Another layer of tears came from a blanket of confusion that rested heavily on my soul. I didn’t understand. I just didn’t understand how people I knew and respected could vote for Trump. I didn’t see my view of Trump and what I felt he represented in their faces, in the way they lived their lives, or in the way they raised their kids. So I found my most respectful tone, logged on to Facebook messenger and started asking them why they or their spouses voted the way they did. I was very surprised what I learned.
First and foremost, every Trump voter I talked to, their vote for president was not about race. I know there’s a good portion of you who just read that and yelled at your computer, “HOW THE HELL WAS THIS NOT ABOUT RACE?” But it wasn’t in their minds; it wasn’t part of their equation. In some ways, this absence is the very definition of white/male privilege, but the fact that I felt wholy rejected by my country for the first time last Wednesday, reeks of a boatload of white privilege as well. So dear friends, many Trump voters did not wake up that morning saying, “phew, thank goodness I can finally use all those racial slurs I’ve been missing. Where’s that list I was making of them in my phone?”
The best evidence of this is how shocked and confused many Trump voters were when so many spent Wednesday and Thursday telling them how racist and sexist they must be and were deeply offended that anyone would associate them with the wackos who got an early start on their hate crime spree, just because they voted for the same person (oh, look more white privilege! It’s almost like it’s everywhere…).
How did we get here? How can we be on such different pages? Well, while we on Team Left spent many moons telling each other that a vote for Hillary was a vote against hate, against misogyny, against all that was wrong with the past and any vote for Trump could only be a vote for these evils, over on Fox News and in your uncle Jeff’s Facebook feed a vote for Trump was a vote for increased homeland security, to protect unborn life, a vote for the second amendment and any vote for Hillary was a vote for continued corruption and politicians who only care about themselves. It’s like we’re all watching the same silent movie with very different narrators, same events interpreted very differently based on which story most lines up with your personal experience.
We’ve always lived in bubbles. Mostly these bubbles are created by class, race, religion and physical distance, but we reinforce our own bubbles by how we source our information, especially online, and by only talking about important issues with those we know will agree with us. For every person screaming “But, Trump…” into their own echo-chamber, there was another screaming “But, Hillary…” into theirs, with the messages landing uselessly somewhere off in the distance.
This is why I hope you take the time to talk someone who voted differently than you, or someone didn’t vote, if you did. And no, I don’t mean your crazy uncle Jeff who only communicates in memes or that person you went to high school with who treats every conversation like the TMZ comment section. Find that person you respect at work or the neighbor who helps you coach the soccer team. If you trust someone to do your taxes, you should be able to have a respectful conversation with them about political issues (when you’re ready).
Now here’s the hard part, just listen. Fight that urge to defend yourself, or drill into their comments or roll your eyes all around in your head. Listen to their ideas in their own words, how they came to their decision and why. While you may not agree, respect that this is their truth and just as real to them as yours is to you. If you tend to make a lot of involuntary faces or gestures, it may be best to have this conversation virtually. Use social media for a positive connection, like it was intended. And then share your truth and expect to be treated with the same respect. If things turn rude or emotions run too strong, walk away from the conversation or table it until everyone can maintain a high level of respect. Remember the goal is understanding, not agreement.
None of us are the flat portraits that others or ourselves make us out to be. We all have many points on our internal radar and our own personal experiences that make some points beep louder and brighter than others. I see groups organizing that seem to think we need to keep doing all the same things, but more. I fear this will be just as effective as when I try to get my kids out the door faster by yelling louder. Nothing changes and we all end up more frustrated and hoarse for our trouble.
This was my real wakeup call on Wednesday morning. Not that America was more racist or sexist or xenophobic on Wednesday, than it was on Tuesday. We’ve made real progress in being a more inclusive and equitable society in the last fifty years and none of that is going to change. Even if we’ve got a lot of fuckwits who are reminding us anew why we have hate crime laws, student codes of conduct, employer discrimination policies and why it’s so important that they can and will be enforced.
My real wake up call was that I spent most of this election cycle talking instead of listening and look where that got me. So I’m gonna listen A LOT, to A LOT of different people because we can’t demand our voice be heard and then refuse to listen to others.
And when I choose to talk it will be more about issues and less about personalities. In an election cycle completely dominated about personalities, with very little emphasis on issues, I’m coming to realize that a lot of voters (and even non-voters) sat down and thought about issues that are really important to them and then acted accordingly and that IS the America I know.
My other main takeaway is that Kate McKinnon is really fucking talented.