Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Election of Donald Trump: a response

I went to bed early last night, fully confident that what has happened couldn't possibly happen.  But it did.  And now we -- as individuals and as a nation -- have to live with it.

For many of us, this outcome has been inconceivable.  We never truly imagined that it could happen.  I've seen friends posting on Facebook that they had spent so much time and energy railing against the realities of the Trump campaign that they never spent much time at all imagining a Trump Presidency.  For many, fear and despair are rushing in to fill that gap.

Blame is not close behind.  If only the millennial had turned out to vote.  If only the FBI hadn't acted as it did.  If only there weren't so many bigots in the country.  If only people hadn't voted for third party candidates, or had simply shown up to vote at all.  If only they -- whoever "they" might be for us -- hadn't done whatever it was the did (or didn't) do.

Friends, we won't get through this mess, and certainly won't get out of it, with blame.  You might say that blame is one of the things that got us into it.  A large portion of the United States citizenry has for some time now felt frustrated, angry, hurt, forgotten and uncared for, displaced, disparaged and discarded, scared -- more so than many of us knew.  Or, to be honest, really cared to.  And for many of them all of those feelings had to go somewhere.  So they blamed immigrants, and African Americans, and women, and educated "elites," and "political correctness," and ... well ... anyone and everyone who seemed to be getting more care and attention than they were.

Most people do this in our own ways.  When things are hard we look for a reason -- something or someone to blame.  Donald Trump excels at taking this very human tendency and directing it to the traditionally most marginalized among us.  Yet as they say, fighting fire with fire doesn't really work. Meeting blame with blame doesn't, either.

To those of us who are horrified and terrified by the realization that our country not only could elect someone like Donald Trump, but actually has, I would say this:  we must try to resist our own tendency to blame.  Instead, we are called on to find a way for love to win -- not only in our nation and our world, but in our own hearts.

A lovely piece was published earlier on the Huffington Post, What Do We Tell The Children?  It's author offers several suggestions for how educators can respond.  I think that each of us could use these suggestions for our own responses, whether we have children in our lives.  Those of us who are stunned and disbelieving need comfort and reassurance, too.  The author writes:
Tell them [the children in your school] that we have democratic processes in the U.S. that make it impossible for one mean person to do too much damage. Tell them that we will protect those democratic processes ― and we will use them ― so that Trump is unable to act on many of the false promises he made during his campaign. 
Tell them, second, that you will honor the outcome of the election, but that you will fight bigotry. Tell them bigotry is not a democratic value, and that it will not be tolerated ..."
I have heard people make apocryphal predictions for what our future holds.  I say that we must refuse to cede our role in making that future.  People are saying that this election makes a mockery of all of the gains many of us thought we've achieved, yet I believe that we can use this as fuel to increase the fire of our commitment to making this nation and this world truly live in to, and out of, the vision that "all ... are created equal."  That ideal still shines before us, beckoning us onward.  We can (re)dedicate ourselves to following its light.

No one said any of this was going to be easy.  No one said that there would be no setbacks.  And all of this is relatively easy to say from my position of privilege as a white, cis-male, heterosexual, with lots of education and a comfortable income.  I know that many of my friends, and a great many people I don't know, have a lot more "skin" in the game than I do.  

Earlier today -- yesterday, I suppose -- I posted a video of the singer Rene Martin performing her rendition of the national anthem.  The story behind it is that in 2008 she'd been asked to sing at an event in Denver, but while she sang the expected melody, she replace the words with those of the hymn "Lift Every Voice and Sing."  This song 
was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its honored guest Booker T. Washington. The poem was set to music soon after by Johnson's brother John in 1905. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it "The Negro National Anthem" for its power in voicing the cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people.  (According to its Wikipedia entry.)
It has also been said that this was the favorite hymn of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm going to close this response by again posting the video of Ms. Martin's performance.  I do so because it gives me hope.  It gives me hope of a day when "we the people" really includes all of the people who make up the rich mosaic known as the United States.

I encourage you to listen to it.  Then to listen to it again.  Then weep if you must.  Rail if you will. Reach out to the people you love who may need to weep and rail, too.  Reach out to those you don't know, yet who you know will be feeling deeply hurt and scared right now.  And if you're not yet ready or able to reach out to those whose votes have sent Donald Trump to the White House, then at least try to avoid doing anything that will widen the divide that so clearly exists.  Because we will need to reach across it if we are to have any hope of healing it.

Pax tecum,


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