Where to begin

It’s ironic that the last post I wrote was about the incredibly personal visits of Triumph and Disaster, and that just after came the US election results which have left the popular vote feeling one way, and the rest who were given the president they chose feeling the other.  But the feelings that this election has conjured for so many in the “Disaster” category are hard to define because, as I have read repeatedly this week, it encompasses so much more than simple “disappointment”.  I think the shocks that traveled around the world were also the shocks that such a vast swathe of the country had chosen to vote for a man whose words on the campaign trail were horrifying to so many and in so many different ways.

But we have to take this experience like any other and we must learn from this, and learn to read this election in what it is signalling to the world and to our country.

To begin with, I greatly enjoyed listening to Jon Stewart’s take on what transpired because it was a reaction grounded in being understanding as opposed to being devastated.  “Let me not so much seek to be understood as to understand.”

We’re in danger of becoming obsessed with the metrics dividing our country.  Is it important to recognize that Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States by convincing a mess of people to vote for him?  Yes.  This is important, but an equally important question to ask is “does this make our country irreparably divided?”  It is tempting to feel that way, but then we’re guilty of the monolithic gaze Stewart mentions.  I, too, know good and loving people who cast a ballot for this man.  They made their decisions in agony, but another important metric to take into account is that Trump captured 209 counties that voted for Barack Obama in both his elections, and these were counties in key states!  Those counties, those ballots turned the states from blue to red, and those flips are how he won this election.  These people are not racists, and defining them by the worst of Trump’s rhetoric will only harm the people we know (emotionally), make us guilty of lump-summing our neighbors because they chose someone we didn’t, and widen the divide already present.

A simple syllogism lays out the logic those of us who voted for Clinton have been struggling with in the last days.

Donald Trump says racist, homophobic, and misogynist things.  

Some of Donald Trump’s supporters are racist, homophobic, and misogynist.

Some of my friends voted for Donald Trump.

∴ SOME OF MY FRIENDS ARE RACIST, HOMOPHOBIC, AND MISOGYNIST????????!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s easy to see from the syllogism that coming to that conclusion is hard not to do, but there is a better fitting syllogism for the current circumstances: a better reading of the signal amidst the emotional noise.

Donald Trump says racist, homophobic, and misogynist things.

Some of my friends voted for Donald Trump.

Some of my friends heard these things, and still voted for him.

Now, please, make no mistake, I know that there are racists, misogynists, and homophobic people who voted for Donald Trump.  Some of them voted for HRC too, I imagine.  I know of Dems who are racists, homophobic in their behaviors, or misogynist in their attitudes.  Being a certain party does not preclude you from hate and viciousness, so take your white hats off you liberal ninnies, your party isn’t the party of goodness and light while the other party is the party of death and doom.  Which brings up my next point.

I am interested in another metric, which Stephen Colbert talked about recently.  Half of the liberals out there are scared of the policies of the right.  Half of the right wing are frightened of what the world will look like if the left stays in power.  So half the country, effectively (excluding those who were not polled and did not vote), is scared of the people around them.  That’s a lot of fear, and I bet we’re all overreacting to a certain degree, and given the media coverage that we keep hearing, I am not surprised about the overreactions.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that our consuming habits in media are driving the panic because we’re being told to panic.  We’re being told to panic about the right, about the left, about the corruption, we’ve got false news sites galore publishing utter bunk, we have levels of inequality and impoverishment that haven’t been seen in a century, and we’re seeing problems in the world but instead of coming together to solve these problems we’re being told to be afraid of the problems and especially afraid of those guys and gals who don’t agree with us because they’re wrong, in power, and they’ll push their agendas through at the expense of our freedoms, money, country… The list is endless.

The overreacting has to come to an end so that we can begin to resolve these differences.  So racism, misogyny and homophobia were not barriers to the presidency.  Neither was a complete lack of experience or a dearth of adequately elaborated policy.  Ladies and gentlemen, a true dark horse sits poised to ride into the White House and that didn’t scare enough people to make them not cast that ballot, and I can guarantee that this is not because every single voter was a racist, a misogynist, and homophobic.  This is because the people who voted for Donald Trump were more afraid of voting for the establishment than voting for the unknown!  This is a momentous occasion when enough people are more afraid of the known than the unknown and they would choose en masse to defect.  Those news outlets reporting that this was a stunning rebuke of the establishment have read the signal correctly.

But where do we begin putting together our nation?

To begin with, we liberals who were comfortable with Clinton need to stop emulating the epithet so often thrown at us (“bleeding heart liberals”).  The time for whining and crying is over.  The time for disappointment has passed.  The time for shock and fear is long gone.  This is the time when we need to look this in the face, and we need to reach out to our neighbors who voted for the Dark Horse not because they’re racists and misogynists, but because they were more afraid of leaving the status quo in power than they were of a man who believes that climate change is a hoax.  We cannot sit here whining and accomplish anything. We need to get OUT OF OUR HOMES and TALK to people.  We need to ask them about how our communities, the communities we all live in TOGETHER, can be improved and what concerns in our immediate locations are on our hearts.  We need to start showing up at school board meetings, at the voting booth for all the elections in our towns, at local government hearings etc.  We need to know who is running in our districts for judgeship and sheriff posts.  We need to ask questions about the people campaigning to be county clerk.  We need to stop taking for granted that we believe one way (because we don’t all believe one way, there’s no party that represents all my views) and we need to discuss with one another how we might alter the current climate in our land.  We need to be less gullible and less panicky and more stubborn about fighting for our rights which means writing letters and emails to our representatives.  We need to start actually protesting, not the legal process by which the candidate we didn’t pick won, but protesting when we feel the system isn’t fair to us either.  No one ran out protesting when the Republicans wouldn’t even meet with a candidate offered by a sitting president for the Supreme Court.  Where was your fire when the status quo sat there telling you THEY DIDN’T HAVE TO DO THEIR JOBS????  Instead you decided to throw things through windows and burn buildings because someone had fairly won the election.

I think your priorities are a bit mixed up.

You post in anguish about an election fairly won, but I don’t see your posts on the non-competitive districts, or the gerrymandering present in EVERY state in the union!  I don’t see your anguish about a lack of proportional representation in our government where only two highly corrupt parties control seats.  I see no calls for more voices in our government by including other parties.  You want to throw out the establishment?  Let’s knock them both down and fight for a fairer system!  We need to stop grieving and start working for the things we believe in in our communities.  Racism is not simply images, effigies, and a voting booth.  Racism is a systemic practice enforced through housing covenants, de-funding of education, hiring policies that are unspoken, and attitudes that people act on in their everyday lives.  It cannot be defeated or sustained by a single vote in a ballot box, but by people everywhere, all day long.  Racism is an attitude, not a candidate.  Misogyny is similar, as is homophobia.  Misogyny and homophobia are attitudes which can be built on or torn down by legislation, but as a practice in every day life by ordinary people these things matter more.  “Trickle down” attitudes and life choices are not more effective or pervasive than “trickle down” economics.  The only thing that really works by trickle down principles is the flooding of your basement when you have a leak in a pipe somewhere!

Does this mean I don’t have to hold my friends and family accountable for his racist crap?

Why wouldn’t you hold the people around you accountable?  I can tell you from my own experience, that it’s far harder to hold the people around you to a standard you believe in than it is to hold strangers to that standard.  When is the last time you faced down a family member or a friend for their off-color jokes or disgusting behavior?  Have you ever stood a stranger down for something similar?  Just tell someone you don’t appreciate that kind of humor and be done with it.  Seeing someone being homophobic?  Tell them.  Tell them you don’t agree with their point of view.  Discuss it.  Just as I feel that the people who sat out this election forfeited their voice by doing so, (and therefore should not be rioting), I feel that if you are someone who has had it with misogyny, racism, and ugliness in society, that you should be fighting against those things in your every day life, and that means being actively involved in your local government, in your local schools and in your community as a voice of equality.   If we are not, as a group of people, willing to work together for a better world then what hope do we have of ever achieving it?

The bottom line is this: if we want change in society, whatever change that may be, then we have to be willing to get off our rear ends and do something to accomplish it.  The Civil Rights Movement was not won through people sitting at home whining.  They MARCHED on places, they sat in, they were jailed for their principles, and, yes, they were attacked, and ridiculed, and beaten with sticks, but because they believed so strongly together in the need for change, they withstood all of this in order to GET SOMETHING DONE.  This is what it takes to move our society because political change is not a vote in a ballot box.  Political change is when huge numbers of people work together to accomplish things.

That work is unfinished in our society.  Who believes that equality has been attained?  I do not believe that.  I believe there is more to be done, but if I am not willing to do the work, what right have I to complain that it is unfinished?

We have much to do in our land, and we can begin by joining our hands and showing our elected officials that Republicans and Democrats reach across this imaginary chasm every day to be the every day greatness that is our United States.  I am not afraid of the other side.  The other side has my friends on it, and I know those people.  Casting their ballot didn’t change who I know them to be, but it changed how much work I thought I had left to do.  It’s like cleaning your house: you thought you were done until you opened a door in the basement… Sometimes you turn around and go back upstairs to rest, and sometimes you roll up your sleeves.  The time for turning around died somewhere in the 1900’s.  We have to roll up the sleeves, and if your sleeves have been torn off from all the work you’ve been doing, well, at least they won’t get dirty.  But for the rest of us, it’s time to go to work.

It begins with US.

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~ by Rebecca Erickson on November 18, 2016.

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