In case you missed it last night, the thing that I’ve been saying for months was never going to happen, actually occurred. Donald Trump is our president-elect. This is me eating crow. I never imagined this possibility.
When I went to watch the results last night, I suddenly felt sick when the first returns came in. No matter how the states went, one of these two wholly unfit candidates would be president. Obviously. We know that, of course, but it’s one to thing to talk about the hypotheticals, and another thing entirely to watch it happen and know that there are simply no good outcomes. No matter who won, though I was certain it would be Hillary, my only grim satisfaction would be that the other candidate wasn’t our incoming leader. And I am thankful that Hillary will not be our president. But boy howdy, have I been numb today.
I’ve spent my day trying to piece it together, to make sense of this mess. There were the #neverhillary voters, of course- the ones who would vote for Donald Duck if it meant not having Hillary in the white house. There were the ones who just vote republican no matter what down the ticket. There are the ones, it is true, who responded to his bigoted message, but I still believe that they are the minority.
I’ve been afraid today. Donald Trump frightens me in a way no other presidential candidate ever has. He threatens liberty, religious freedom, free speech, and hangs like an albatross on the movement I love and have fought for, and whose leaders publicly backed him. I fear for my future, for my neighbors, for our freedoms, and for our country. My cousin posted on facebook today that instead of being sad, she gets pissed, and I think that holds true for most people when it comes to sadness and to fear. Those are vulnerable emotions, and there are few among us who enjoy being vulnerable. So instead of being frightened, we get angry. And when we get angry, we respond to others that are angry, too, even if we’re not even angry about the same things.
The forgotten, the hurting, the ones in pain who have been ignored or told their pain didn’t matter finally found a voice masked in anger. Donald Trump told them they weren’t alone, and that they didn’t have to be vulnerable anymore.
I’m among the guilty- I have downplayed the fears and concerns of many of my fellow Americans, as though I somehow had the right to do so. I have claimed to be a voice for the voiceless while ignoring their hurts.
And people are hurting. Voters for Trump didn’t do so because they hate Mexicans (most of them, at least) they did so because their industries are disappearing and they fear for their future and how they will take care of their families. But fear is hard, and it’s consuming, and anger is the easiest outlet. Be angry at people here illegally, Trump said, it’s not your fault that your jobs are gone, and if you trust me you can rebuild your life that you fear is crumbling in front of you.
Policy be damned, rhetoric be damned, it must have felt good for so many people who have been afraid and so ignored to finally have someone talking to them.
Today it continues, with rhetoric about how his voters must be uneducated, or ignorant, or bigoted, or any number of things that will do nothing but drive his supporters further into anger.
While so many of us listened in horror, and gaped at his popularity despite the hateful words, what they heard loud and clear was “I see you.”
Donald Trump is a dangerous man and he found out how to tap into fear and anger, but that doesn’t mean that the fear and anger isn’t founded, and it doesn’t mean that his supporters don’t need love, respect, and a hand up.
We have to do better as a country. This cycle has been the most divisive I’ve witnessed, and I’ve been so focused on all the reasons that Trump was wrong (and believe me, they are innumerable) that I ignored all the reasons his supporters might be right. I won’t make that mistake again.
We all want the same things. Good lives, friends, family, a better future for ourselves and our progeny. The opportunity to leave a mark, the chance to matter. Trump supporters and Hillary voters are neighbors who want their streets to be safe, and their children to be happy.
This election is over, but the wounds are fresh. We must bind them together as a nation. We must rise above the nastiness and the insults. We must be better than we have been.
I fear Donald Trump, greatly. And I will do with him what I should have done with Obama: I will praise what I agree with, I will offer policy alternatives to the things I don’t, and I will call him out when he’s wrong. I will not assume that because he’s saying it it must be false; I will investigate, I will decide for myself. Donald Trump is not, and never has been, a Republican. But he is our president-elect. I will respect the office even if he has never given me a reason to respect him. But my neighbors and my friends and my family members who supported Donald Trump HAVE given me reasons to respect them. I will not let Donald Trump divide us any longer.
I have spent the past several months warning what would happen under a Trump presidency, but more than anything I desperately want to be wrong. I gain no pleasure in seeing my worst nightmares come into being. Nothing would bring me greater pleasure than to be wrong. Fear must not be our guide.
We must stop being red and blue, republican or democrat, liberal or conservative. We must start being human first, neighbors first, and refuse to be divided again. It’s time to be decent.
There are things that we can do today to ensure that this never happens again. Step out of your echo chamber. Invite people into your life with radically different views. Call a nursing home and volunteer to help with bingo for an afternoon. Get involved with local races and have a voice in your local politics (trust me, it matters far more than the presidency does the majority of the time). Praise your opponents when they’re right, and stop calling them your opponents and start seeing them as your neighbors with whom you have disagreements. Allow those disagreements to make you both better. Choose to be kind.
If you voted for Trump because you want to Make America Great Again, then do it. Make America great by being a great American. Be kinder than you want to be. Be gentle with those who are afraid. Be welcoming in the spirit upon which this nation was founded. Do not dismiss my fears because you do not share them. And take heed of history.
People are hurting, more than I had ever realized. We have a lot of work to do. WE do. Not the government. Not “someone else.” You and me, right now, today. Spread a little kindness, spread some peace, and for mercy’s sake, spread some grace. We all need it.