Let’s start with one day at a time, remembering that as long as we are able to breath, speak our mind and take action we are going to be okay. As President Obama told the nation the day after the election, we get up, lick our wounds and continue on this journey, each of us trying to do better the next time around. He cautioned about disengaging and growing too cynical and rightfully so. As soon as we give into cynicism, we become vulnerable to isolation and resentment and go down the road filling up our time with inaction. This is not to say we should not grieve right now and be scared for our country and indeed the world. We need to mourn what might have been, take a much-needed break and then agree to recommit ourselves to building a world that is fully inclusive and just. A world that takes care of all of its people and the environment we live in.
This election was brutal. It was the most vulgar, racist, misogynist Presidential election in modern times. As one NYC protestor, a twenty-something self-identified Latina woman told the media in response to Trump’s call for unity, you simply cannot put what he said these past 18 months back in a bottle. She was one of tens of thousands, in at least 7 cities, inspired to take to the streets in protest the day after the election.
Language matters – it reveals, it connects and it also destroys. Those of us who have witnessed or been assaulted by it, understand its destructive power. Insert whatever the many horrible words heard out of Trump’s mouth here – the list is shamefully long – and it’s easy to know why half the country is scared. Pundits, historians, pollsters and others will try for decades to come, to evaluate the impact this election’s language has had and will continue to have on our country.
Naturally our minds seek to understand, maybe find hope in any of what we have just witnessed. We want answers to how half the country could vote for someone lacking in basic decency – seeming to possess no moral compass. Someone who stoked racial divide courting white nationalists, insulting immigrants, threatening nonwhite Americans with stop and frisk tactics and denying refugees seeking asylum from entering our country’s relative safe haven, escaping violence and war. Someone who is a self-identified sexual predator. The sheer magnitude makes me recoil as I write this.
We are entering a time when embracing the language of hope, inclusivity and multiculturalism and the results it delivers, will have to be advanced more as outsiders than insiders once again. I have been here before. In fact advocating for social justice has mostly been fought from the outside looking in speaking truth to power. Advancing human rights and human dignity has never been easy. History is filled with so many examples of those who sacrificed so much, including their lives, to advance this cause. In the U.S. we have seen so much progress over the past decade – from the first black president to marriage equality and often changes like these are followed by backlash. It is clearly where we find ourselves now and unraveling it will take time and everyone’s involvement.
On the most basic level, ideology aside, Trump is someone with no experience to do the job he has now been handed. We have every reason to worry about his temperament and where it might take us. He demonstrated it was anything but steady during the campaign. The non-stop shock show on display left little time to learn about what Trump’s policies actually are in any depth and we have no idea how he will govern. So far what we have learned does not bode well for doing more good than harm. Bullies tend to turn out badly for vast numbers of people. We will have to wait and see and be ready to resist and rise up as needed.
Historians have been trying to help sort out current events and put it in context, I suppose to reassure us and prove that we may have been here before, that there are examples of other times in history far worse that we have come through as a country. I suppose it offers some assurance – not much but some. We are here now at this moment and what history writes about this time will be up to all of us. So please stay engaged, connected, unified and remain hopeful. They all go hand in hand. Commit to sharing your time somewhere in community with others in any way you can.
As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, “Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”