Why we hurt

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In the aftermath of the election, I find myself crying every day. I find myself looking around at the people I see, wondering which way they voted. I find myself struggling to look at those that I know voted for Trump in the eye. I’ve never felt this way after an election. Sad, yes. I was super disappointed in 2004 after George Bush’s win. But it wasn’t like this.

I said to someone the other day that if this had been Mitt Romney instead of Donald Trump, I would not be in this state. I’d be upset, I’d be concerned about specific policy issues, but I wouldn’t feel this sense of betrayal that I feel right now. And it really comes down to the rhetoric and hate speech used by Donald Trump and the people that he’s surrounded himself with. It makes me feel less safe in my own country.

I’ve heard so many people say, “It’ll be okay”, or “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose”, and “Give him a chance”. And I find myself getting so angry, because these words mostly come from people with less to lose in a Trump administration, i.e., straight white Christian males. I find myself not knowing what to say in response. How do I, as a woman, a Jew, a person who has many people that I love in the LGBTQ, black, brown, and Muslim communities, give a chance to someone who has promised to take their rights, the rights that they have fought for, away? How do I square this away in my brain? I’m at a loss.

As a Jew, the rhetoric that Trump has used, and some of his close advisors like Steve Bannon, scare me. I’ve learned that these words are a precursor, a cause for alarm. I spent my elementary and middle school years in a private Jewish day school, where a Holocaust memorial display was up in the main hallway. Walking past those pictures of Jews being forced to clean streets, emaciated Jews in the barracks of concentration camps, pictures of dead bodies in a heap, will fuck with a kid’s mind (I question why the school chose to do this). I remember asking my mom, “How could this happen? How did people let this happen?” And she said, “It happened slowly, and people were silent.” And that stayed with me.

I’m not making the leap from Nazi Germany to Donald Trump and the United States, because that is not what’s happening. But there is hate speech, and dangerous talk of registering Muslims, and inaccurate talk of what happens in (the very rare case of) late term abortion, to name a few frightening moments. Words matter, and the language of people in power lends credence to the actions of the masses. When racists and domestic abusers like Steve Bannon are chief strategists, when the president elect denies knowledge of acts of violence against minorities, it empowers hate. That hate was already there long before folks like Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Steve Bannon were on the national stage, but it most certainly wasn’t condoned or voiced by our current administration.

I find myself looking around at people, and suddenly, I wonder how they feel about me, a Jew. And I never thought that way before this election, even when I knew people had different political leanings. I don’t believe that the vast majority of folks who voted for Trump voted for him for reasons of bigotry. I think people wanted change, I think that many people believe in the principles of limited government. I think that although the economy has largely improved, many people haven’t felt that in their day to day lives. My husband made a great point. He asked me, “What’s the one direct impact we’ve felt in an Obama administration?” I couldn’t answer, and he said, “Our healthcare costs have gone up.” And that really made me think. While we don’t have lots of money to spare, we are fortunate to not really feel those costs. My husband and I both happily would eat the extra costs to make sure that we have a more level playing field, that healthcare is more accessible, that we have people in office whose policies are inclusive.

That being said, I can appreciate that there are people who are hurting, who may not be able to provide for their families, who made a decision strictly with their pocketbooks (though if you look at Trump’s tax plan, it doesn’t benefit those who are hurting). But I still struggle to understand how anyone can separate the rhetoric and hate speech from their vote. I don’t know how they fail to see that while they themselves are not racists or bigots, their vote was for someone who is, whose policies will cause harm to some of the people that they know and love. So if you want to know why people are still so upset, why they can’t just “get over it”, it’s that they feel betrayed by their acquaintances, their co-workers, their friends, their families.

I will continue to engage those who voted differently than I did, because they are inextricably linked in my professional and personal life, and I strongly believe that people with different viewpoints can not only coexist, but thrive together. But right now, I hurt. I fear. And I need you to know why.

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