Tuesday morning, Election Day, I woke up feeling like a million bucks. What a great day it was going to be for feminism, and I could feel that energy all around me. Pantsuit Nation was bursting with it. Men and women both, in my cozy, liberal nook of Silicon Valley, were beaming; dressed in white, sending me selfies outside their polling areas. I was so hopeful, and a little terrified. What if it went the other way? But no, it wasn’t possible. I cried watching a video of people honoring Susan B. Anthony’s grave site. I chilled a bottle of champagne in the fridge and bought white grape juice to toast with my ten year old daughter, who was just as excited as I. I posted excessively on Facebook:
Then, that afternoon, the numbers started rolling in. I sat thunderstruck, glued to the TV. My husband came home and I told him it looked like Trump may win after all. He said that was impossible. But clearly it was not. I got a single line text from my best friend. “Wtf is happening??!!”
I watched the media coverage for hours, unable to do anything other than read through my Facebook feed for any understanding of what was unfolding in front of me…none was to be found.
I went to bed shellshocked. My only words of insight that night came from a friend who reminded me, and all of her “progressive friends who felt their country had betrayed them,” that, “That’s exactly what rural or lower middle class America feels most of the time. They say those words. Directly. …Make no mistake: this is on us and we must have the forgiveness AND solutions going forward.” As I write this post and look back through my feed, I realize I owe my friend Amisha thanks for those words of kindness and guidance. I am sure they fermented over night and helped me reach a better place (eventually) on Wednesday.
I awoke the next morning hoping that it had all been a bad dream. I spent the day on the sofa binging on social media, even though it just left me feeling worse.
How had I been so blindsided? I was scared of Trump’s Presidency for all it could mean to all that I care so much about. I was devastated by each new piece of evidence that the number of hate crimes could only be expected to rise. I still am nervous about Trump’s hateful immigration policies. My expectations are we can expect a lack of movement in gun control legislation, a reversal in women’s and LGBTQ rights, a worsening in international relations, and unstable healthcare reform. And that is the word I most associate with Trump. Unstable.
I felt shocked, betrayed, and hurt. I felt a deep lack of understanding for my fellow countrymen. How could it be true that HALF of our country voted for Trump, despite or because of his terribly hateful rhetoric, his sexist speech, his tolerance of hate crimes performed in his name? I felt a profound polarization happening in our country, and it was clear others felt the same in the articles I was reading. Many articles referred to a concept called the filter bubble, in which we become increasingly more separated from information that disagrees with our viewpoints, isolated into our own cultural or ideological bubbles. Social media enables this. Liberal/conservative media networks enable this. Even our own search engine search results enable this. And the problem with living in a filter bubble is — it feels great! It’s comfortable there, in my bubble. Everything I hear in my bubble agrees with my own perspective on the world. I have gotten so used to living in my filter bubble, I have become completely unwilling to and uncomfortable with hearing any perspective that disagrees with my own.
I knew I had a choice. I could continue giving into my feelings of anger, and betrayal. I could continue reading the articles written ABOUT people I did not understand, which honestly were not really helping me understand them much better. Sure, they do give me reasons…but what they do not give me is understanding.
Or I could try to do something positive and constructive to deal with some of the polarization and division in our country. In short, I needed to pop my filter bubble. I decided I needed to seek out these people I didn’t understand, and listen to their views on things going forward. I will still feel angry at what is going on all around me, the hate crimes, the talk of building a wall and banning Muslims, the symbols of white supremacy.
I will still agree with the protesters and the people who are doing everything in their power to limit the damage Trump’s radically conservative administration can do. I may not agree with what I hear when I step out of my filter bubble — in fact, I am almost guaranteed not to. But if it helps create some more understanding, some more empathy, I believe that is a path towards healing for myself, and hopefully for this country.
So Wednesday night, after I got sick of reading articles that told me about what other people were feeling and thinking and decided I wanted to hear it directly for myself, I came up with the idea for meltingpot.life. I told the idea to my ten year old, who immediately jumped on her computer and made me a Wix website. It took her half an hour. She showed it to me with one of her typical, “See, it’s easy, Mommy,” shoulder shrugs, and we were off. I took a few hours to fine tune it, but really it is a very simple concept — every week there will be a new topical question. If anyone cares to join in the discussion, they can submit a response through the website (desktop or mobile). The more responses I get, the more perspectives I can then provide in the weekly newspaper. My hope is this model will remove the ability for people to troll one another, which I believe is one of the biggest barriers to true civil discourse in today’s “read to respond” world (versus a “read to understand” model I am trying to create). I will be attempting to solicit responses from ALL sides…especially the ones that make me uncomfortable! The opposite of a filter bubble. As a subscriber, people will receive in their inbox a weekly newsletter with up to ten of the most well written and diverse perspectives. There will also be a link to the next week’s question. And so forth. My hope is it will allow for some good old fashioned bi-partisan editorializing, no trolling, better understanding.
Actually, the article I most DID enjoy (and one that helped me feel like what I am trying to do here may be onto something) was actually from The Onion.
Since Thursday I have simply been trying to grow my newsletter. It is harder than I had hoped to get submissions, but they are starting to come in. Subscribers are growing more steadily — people seem really excited to read what others have to say right now. That’s pretty cool. I am just about to round 100 — maybe I will have use for that chilled champagne after all. I hope you will read this and be interested in joining the discussion…maybe you’ll be subscriber #100! We can celebrate together.