Five Things I Know to Be True in the Wake of the Election

This is the piece that made me realize I really did need a place to write things, if only so I could have an excuse to think them through properly.  Although this did not originally appear here, I’m putting it here both because it’s still how I’m thinking and because I enjoy documentation.  I’m also never totally comfortable with using the adjective American for the United States because there’s two whole continents of America but my country has an awkward name and there’s not really a better adjective so sorry about that.  What follows is a recreation of the original post.

With the note that all of this comes from a place of extreme privilege and that our first responsibility as citizens and human beings is always to listen to those in less secure situations and do what we can to help.

The first two truths come together. One I feel with all my heart and the other I find almost impossible, but true. The first truth is that last night my country chose a man and administration that have often been framed as a literal manifestation of hatred and bigotry. At many times, this is something that Donald Trump has embraced and used to further his hold on this nation. The second truth is that there are people in my life who I love and respect who voted for him. And that while they, like all of us, have flaws and biases they are also good people. In this moment I cannot understand that. It seems like a dangerous defense of ideologies and actions that are going to cause real damage in the years to come. But I love them, and they are good people. While it seems easier and in many cases morally justifiable to deny that fact, there are too many Trump supporters in this country for that to be a practical or responsible course of action. And I know too many of them personally to ignore that truth. I love them. I respect them. They are good people.

My third truth is I am afraid and upset. Not for myself, for the most part. I come from a place of extreme privilege, and my life, family, and livelihood are not likely to be jeopardized in the coming months. But I am afraid for my country. For those threatened by this result, who faced this morning with real fear for their immediate futures. And I am upset that it has come to this. I am upset that we have proven to our country that decency, respect, and the ability to listen to others are not the prerequisites for leadership they should be. I am heartbroken at the prospect of so many children in this country having a president who they know hates them on account of their race, or gender, or religion, etc. Who are certain of this because their president has said so openly, and often.

Four. I am reminded this week that it is not unusual to be afraid of one’s government and that we in this country expect an unusual amount of stability. Our democracy is, and always has been, deeply flawed. But today I am reminded that it is much better than the alternatives. That in many ways surprise that an inexperienced bigot has gained power is proof that the system has been working. If we are scandalized, that shock is a product of successful governance in the past, an expectation that decency and stability would out. We stand on the stability and progress of those who came before us. And as much as I would love to decry democracy or the masses or the stupidity of “them” in this moment, I cannot. To do so would be irresponsible. Progress only happens when we refuse to give in in the face of defeat and hardship.

Five. Responsibility is not a thing we give up when we lose. So much of our current political strife comes from anger and otherizing and frustration. From the idea that someone else is responsible for the mistakes of our country. But for me, today, that is not the case. My country is my responsibility. We all, as Americans and human beings, have a responsibility to protect one another and to fight for progress and justice. For that matter, we have a responsibility to be honest about who are fellow Americans are and figure out ways to work with them, even when we disagree. I am convinced, deep down, that our inability to compromise or even have civil discussions in this country is more “their” fault than mine, whoever “their” happens to be in the moment. And I can think of lots of different groups of people to blame that conveniently do not include me. But I get the feeling that’s how pretty much all Americans feel constantly. One thing we are not lacking in this country right now is a sense of moral justification. And at least for someone like me, who is privileged enough to be decently safe regardless of the administration, there is a huge responsibility to stay active and vocal, but also to listen and understand.

Today, this is not about someone else’s racism or protest vote or stupidity. This is about me and my country and my responsibility to build meaningful and respectful relationships with other Americans. Because by the time this election rolled around, I was not in a place where I could have a meaningful or respectful conversation with a single one of my conservative friends. And that’s on me. As far as I can tell, change only happens when people choose to shoulder more than what they see as their fair share of responsibility, because our own justifications are always so clear to us. So this is about me. Last night my country was tested and I personally found us failing, That is my responsibility.

This isn’t a critique of anyone else. I’m not really in a place to throw stones, and from where I’m standing judgment as a concept doesn’t have a great track record. But today, in the face of disillusionment and fear, anger and hatred, a frustration with the status quo from all parts of the political spectrum that has carried Donald J Trump into office, I choose to believe in the greatness and morality of my country. I choose to believe that we can combat mindless polarization, and anger, and hatred. That we can band together and create something worthy of the influence and legacy Americans can never seem to stop talking about. I believe in my country because there is no alternative. I don’t think progress is possible unless progress is believed possible. So I’m afraid and upset, but also hopeful. Where I’m standing hope and courage are really the only choice. I believe that hope, justice, hard work, tolerance, and understanding will out. I love my country, I’m proud of it, we have so much work to do.

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