In search of silver linings…
Ok, I’ll admit that since I woke up on Wednesday morning, I’ve been searching for some way to make sense of where we are today and where we go from here. Stunning, right?! I’m sure I’m the only one.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I campaigned for Hillary, I voted for her, I believed in her. She wasn’t my second choice, or a lesser choice. I REALLY WANTED HER TO WIN. This is a woman who has sacrificed and compromised and figured out how to make the best possible difference she can make in the face of insurmountable odds, in the midst of intense public scrutiny for over 30 years.
I never held her up as a saint — who among us is? — but I always believed that she made far more self-sacrificial choices than self-serving ones, and never doubted that she would be a good and just (not to mention supremely qualified) President.
But the country disagreed, or at least enough of it to give us Donald J. Trump as our President-elect. I truly don’t know what to make of that just yet. I am still grappling with my own over-estimation of our likelihood of victory and with what it will really take to bridge the deep divides that have fractured our nation.
And, the truth of the matter is that only 25% of the country elected this man, and many did so with deep reservations, or because some of his policy positions were more important to them than his other failings.
I agree wholeheartedly with no violence and no property damage, but peaceful protest is essential to our democracy.
Trump has said he wants to be President for all Americans and that means negotiation, compromise, and listening to the people who did not vote for him but whom he now represents. Winning the election isn’t a blank check, it is a sacred responsibility and how he listens to the voices of dissent will be a telltale sign.
How we frame our dissent and stage our protest will be as well. May we go forward in dignity and respect but holding fast to values of liberty and justice for all at every step of the way.
So where, oh where, is the silver lining? If there is one, and today’s news reports of actual violence and upticks in hate crimes temper my optimism here, it lies in no space for complacency.
When I think of what might be playing out now had the roles been reversed — with razor-thin margins favoring Hillary, I worry that my liberal friends and I would be patting ourselves on the back, relishing the thought that we’d vanquished misogyny or xenophobia, and retreated once again to the privileged realm of disengagement. I worry that we would have looked to Hillary as evidence that we’d succeeded, that things weren’t really as bad as they’d seemed, and that justice had prevailed, and that in so doing we would have doomed her to fail.
If we had smugly basked in our momentary victory as evidence of some grander accomplishment, it would have been a lie. If this election season has revealed anything it is that we have lost the ability to listen to one another, that we are insufficiently connected to what matters to our friends, and family, and neighbors, and that failing to listen deeply is the greatest risk to our democracy.
If I have any hope (and it is again tempered by real fear of violence and harm against marginalized groups), it is that we emerge from the fog of this election season with eyes wide open and ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work, together.
There are real places we can make a real difference right now (watch this space for more on that soon!), and this is not a time for complacency. Yes, we can value the peaceful transition of power as a hallmark of American values, but we can also hold freedom of speech and religion, and the rights to liberty and justice for all to be sacred values worth standing up for again and again.
At the end of 48 hours (my God, has it only been 48 hours?!) I am left with the deep realization that silver linings are not granted, but made.
We get to choose who we are in the face of defeat. I choose to believe that we are up to the task, and that we can model a path to the kind of future we want, and hold our leaders accountable to represent us all.
Let’s get to work.