On Empathy, On Optimism, On Olive Branches

                                                My reason to hope for a better future. 

                                                My reason to hope for a better future. 

I know we're all up to our eyeballs in election commentary at the moment and perhaps you're hoping this is just a jokey post to help you get your mind off things. I wish I could say it was. I really do just want to write about books and farting and how I have pho broth all over my shirt right now because I don't actually know how to use chopsticks but I just can't. My mind is in too much of a fog to access that literary brilliance. Soon we'll be back to the good stuff, but first, I need to get a few things off my chest. 

I am feeling very, very sad. For a number of reasons. I'm sad because my candidate lost, of course, but it's deeper than that. I don't think I even realized how important it was to me to see a woman president until we came so close. It is crushing to see a woman lose out on a job to a man who is infinitely less qualified than her and impossible for me not view it as a slap in the face to my gender. I feel the stinging crush of having high hopes dashed so brutally. I worry deeply about the rights and safety of my non-white, non-Christian, non-able bodied, and queer friends. I can't think of sweet, smart, wild little Lucy, that eager beautiful girl up there, and all of my friends' kids and my future kids, without without feeling like I failed them. I want so much better for all of them. 

I'm not just sad, I am angry. And I'm sad that I'm angry. I have always prided myself on being a relentless optimist who saw the good in everyone, a person capable of deep empathy, compassion, and understanding.  I consider this to be something great and true that I value in my flawed self. And yet this week I feel that spark has been diminished. I am not proud to admit this, but I find myself struggling to empathize with anyone who chose to vote for Donald Trump. There are so many people in my own life who I know to be kind and decent, who work hard, who love their families, and who still somehow found it in themselves to pull the lever for a man who spews vitriol for anyone who does not fall within his tiny, angry scope of what humanity should look like. And I can't wrap my head around that dichotomy. 

How do you cast a vote for a man who openly mocks a disabled reporter, who calls women fat pigs, and then try to teach your kids not to be bullies? That is not a rhetorical question. Tell me exactly what you would say? 

There's a lot of talk going around the internet about how Trump's victory is not about race, or gender, or religion, a lot of folks trying to absolve their own consiences by quickly declaring that a vote for Trump does not make one a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a mean, spiteful person like the one they voted for. It's just his tax plans, you see. A desire for a "shakeup in Washington," perhaps. And all of those motivations are well and good and valid but they alone are not the platform on which this man ran and on which he plans to govern this country. 

Here's the thing, y'all: when voting for public office, you don't get to pick just one or two items and ignore the rest. This isn't a Wawa automated sandwich menu, although I wish it was because I'd vote a turkey club into office any day of the week over Donald J. Trump. I have never seen a chicken salad hoagie try to justify sexual assault, that's for damn sure. 

 

You can tell yourself that you voted for him for his supreme court slots or because you just didn't like the other candidate either, whatever it is that helps you sleep at night, but in choosing those as your priroties, you also gave your support to his language of hate. You may not personally brag about grabbing women by the pussies or denigrate the Muslim faith or send photographs of your hands to Graydon Carter (look it up! A real, mature thing that the man about to have our nuclear codes does!) but by choosing to cast your vote for him, you you voted for those things, too. That's just how this works. 

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a beautiful piece of the country home to delicious corn and a vibrant, growing community of artists, and many people who I love and admire. 57% of the county voted for Donald Trump. On Wednesday at York County Technical High School, one county over, 25 minutes from the little town where I was raised, a group of students marched the halls carrying a Trump poster and chanting "White Power." This is true and here's a video. I'd encourage everyone to watch it and to meditate on it for a good, long while. I can not imagine the good people who I know looking young Kiana Alves - who had to leave the school in fear - in the eyes and telling her that they value her safety less than a spicy little government shakeup and yet, by casting a vote in favor of someone who does encourage this kind of violent, bigoted language, for whatever their own reasons, they are implict in allowing this kind of behavior.

To borrow a phrase from an essay a friend shared with me: "I’m not sure what is worse: to be the person who sets a house on fire, or to be the one who handed that person the match."

Before anyone can say "But her emails! Benghazi!", guys, I know. I never said anyone was flawless here. I actively and wholeheartedly chose Hillary despite some real concerns. She's hawkish, prone to secrecy, and basically refused to even acknowlage the No Dakota Access Pipeline Movement right up to the very minute I enthusiastically circled the bubble next to her name on my ballot. I cast my vote for the full package - for the progressive community activist and for the woman who coined the term "superpredator" - and I was prepared to reckon with my decision. 

And if you voted for Donald Trump, you need to reckon with yours. 

In the coming days I am going to work as hard as I can to reactivate that best part of myself, to present an open mind and a malleable heart, to actively listen to the concerns of those with differing viewpoints from my own, to extend an olive branch to those who I would ask to do the same for me. But an olive branch is not an absolution. 

If you voted for Donald Trump because you agree with his words of hate, I guess rock on with your bad self and I'm truly sorry you feel that way. But if you voted for him while claiming to disagree with his language, you need to put your money where your mouth is. One way I've seen folks jusifying his words is to argue that they are just that, words. That actions speak louder. By that logic, your words are just words too. You can shout "I'M NOT A RACIST!" from the roof of every building, share all the "let's just get along" memes the internet can dream up, but unless you are taking positive action to back up that claim, to work to heal the divide, your words remain just words. I implore everyone to take a stand aginst divisive language. To speak up if you see discrimination in your community. To hold our new president accountable for both his words and his actions. 

And while you do that work, I am going to put my energy into being sure that my own words of sorrow and disappointment are not hollow ones either. I have been encouraged to see that many of my fellow progressives are responding to this defeat with powerful, positive action. We are banding together to raise funds for causes we believe in, to hold our governement to a higher standard of humanity, to be, as that old chestnut goes, the change we wish to see in the world. At the end of this post, I'm sharing a few resources I've found helpful on this front, if you'd like to join me. 

I remain fearful and saddened but I am ready be proven wrong. 

With hope,

Liz 

#StrongerTogether Resources:

Donate Your Hillary Vote

Ten Causes That Need Our Help Right Now

Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund & 10 Ways You Can Help the Standing Rock Sioux

.... AND MORE! I'd love to hear suggestions!