In the days following the election, I have watched events unfold fairly silently. Initially, it was out of necessity that I was quiet. I simply was not on social media to comment. The morning after the election, I went straight to my daughter’s middle school, where I spent that day and the next tallying pie orders for the annual music department fundraiser, because I am a mom, and that’s what we do. But I started to see things happening. I watched, and I listened. Over the past week, I have started to feel like I needed to write about what I was witnessing, and so, here it is. You might not agree with me, and I might not agree with you, and that’s okay, because it takes all kinds of people to make the world whole. I am confident that, together, we will all be all right.
To my friends who are upset by the negative reaction they are seeing to Donald Trump’s election:
Can you understand the way people who were targeted by the most hateful, hurtful, frightening things that were said during this campaign must be feeling right now?
I know you feel like some of things that are being said are justified. I get that. You, of course, have a right to your opinion. But what if it were you and your family they were talking about?
Sure, you can say it makes sense to talk about deporting people who aren’t here legally and building a wall to keep people out, but, for just a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a 12-year-old who hasn’t the power to vote, who hasn’t the power to stop his loved ones from making the choices they do, but stands to lose them if these laws pass. That’s frightening. He has the right to be afraid, or sad about what is to come. He doesn’t understand what is happening around him, and he only hears the angry words that fly in his direction. There are children at school using the President Elect’s words to bully him. They single him out because he looks different, whether they know his ethnicity or immigration status or not, because his skin is brown, children at school will single out a student (or even whole groups of students) and threaten deportation as a bullying tactic. Children have been surrounded by other students chanting “Build a wall!” Why would a student like the 12-year-old I have described not feel afraid and uncertain? He is a child. Couldn’t you try to understand how he is feeling? Couldn’t you show him some compassion?
What if you were Muslim, and you had been told that we had to be suspicious of Muslim people, because there are “bad Muslims” out there? Aren’t there bad people everywhere? Haven’t we seen bad people do bad things all over the world for all sorts of reasons? I think it’s important to understand that those bad people, no matter what their religious agenda, hurt all of us ~ no matter what our religious agenda. For instance, when people say or do hurtful awful things in the name of Christianity, it wounds me to my very soul, as a Christian. It marks me, to the world, as one of them. The world sees me as one of “those people.” They give me a bad name, just like the “bad Muslims” give all Muslims a bad name. There are so very many good, kind, loving decent Muslim people in the world who are hurt by this attitude, and do not deserve to be lumped in with terrorists simply because they are Muslim. Now, they feel like they have been. They don’t feel safe. Can you understand that? Can you reassure them that they are? Because the man you elected President, and many of his supporters ~ not you, but many of them, and that is, unfortunately, a problem ~ did not instill that confidence. So, can you reach out and extend your hand in friendship to them, and make sure they know that you understand how they are feeling? They are genuinely frightened.
People in the LGBTQ community want to feel safe and respected. I don’t really care how your feel about that. I’m sorry if that bothers you, but your feelings on the matter are irrelevant. They want to know that their rights will be respected and that they will be safe from harm. Safe from harm seems like very little to ask, if you ask me, but many of them are not feeling confident about this, and for good reason. We have a Vice President Elect who has expressed support for conversion therapy. This is a terrifying threat to transgender people who do not have the support of their families and communities to protect them. My kids have friends who are genuinely worried this may become a reality for them, or for people they care about. Some people we care about live in areas of the country that are not quite so liberal-minded as Southern California, and there is reason for them to be worried about their safety, because it has been threatened. I want to be able to tell them this isn’t something they have to worry about, but I just don’t know. I want to be able to tell my friends they can love who they love, and marry whomever they love, because love is love, and I just don’t think I should get to decide whom anyone but I get to marry; but I am not confident that their rights will be respected. I heard that, when asked, Donald Trump told Caitlyn Jenner that she should use whichever bathroom she preferred, and that gives me hope that he will work to protect the rights of my friends in this community, but they are frightened, and they feel threatened, and not without reason. Can you understand? Can you reassure them?
Women and girls feel hurt and confused and threatened. We are worried about our future. Worried about the lack of respect our President Elect has shown in the way he speaks to and about women. Worried about the fact that remarks he made that described sexual assault were excused as “locker room talk” and “boys will be boys,” or “all men talk like that.” It’s not true. I know men. Men talk about sex. That’s true. So do women. Let’s be honest. But, for now, we’re talking about men, so let’s stay on that topic. Some men brag about their sexual exploits. Healthy, normal, decent men do not brag about sexual assault. They don’t brag about grabbing women without their consent. Or, at least, they shouldn’t, and, if they do, it’s a problem. If those remarks were made off-the-cuff, without forethought, he should have admitted that, taken responsibility for that, and apologized. I mean, he apologized…sorta. But he didn’t apologize for the fact that the remarks were specifically sexual-assault-related. He apologized for their inappropriateness, as if it was the language he used that was the problem. It wasn’t. If he didn’t mean what he said and would never engage in behaviour like that, perhaps he should have said something like, “I didn’t think it through. I realize now I overstepped a line. My remarks were way out of line. Sexual assault is a very serious issue, and I would never do a thing like that. I apologize to the woman we were going to meet, I should never I made those remarks.” And all of the men who excused his remarks could, instead, have said, “Wow. That was reprehensible.” They should have told their sons that kind of talk is never okay, because that kind of action is never okay. They should have told their daughters, their wives, their friends, their mothers, their sisters… that they would never stand for a man talking about women like that ~ and they should follow through and not stand for it ~ because sexual assault is not something you laugh and brag about. They should have taken the opportunity to have a conversation about consent, because, yes, consent is key. Without it, you are committing assault. Not only does “no mean no,” but only “yes” means “yes.” Without “yes,” you must assume the answer is, “no.” If you are a woman who excused his remarks, I don’t even know what to say to you. I guess I will say, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry that you don’t understand why those words were inexcusable. I’m sorry that you don’t understand why it’s important to stand up against that kind of abuse ~ and yes, I do believe that kind of talk is a kind of abuse. I’m sorry, because I feel like, somewhere, somehow, society failed you. I’m sorry if you are offended by my remarks, but, as a woman who has been sexually assaulted ~ who has had men grab (and more than grab) without waiting for her consent, I cannot excuse remarks like these. I need the world to know that the days of “boys will be boys” are over. We need to move forward with the attitude that “all will be held accountable.” Boys will be good, because they can. Girls will be good, because they can. All of us are capable of being kind, strong, moral and responsible. We need to hold the bar equally high for all people. Boys will one day be men, and what we teach them about issues like consent and culpability when they are young is so incredibly vital that to excuse a remark that would be easy to excuse as off-the-cuff so we don’t have to deal with its implications really is that important, when it comes out of the mouth of someone as powerful and influential as our President Elect. Can you understand how we feel? Can you put yourselves in our uncomfortable shoes and try to make peace with what we must be feeling right now? Can you reassure us that, somehow, this man will represent our best interests? How? How can we be confident going forward that this is true? What reason do we have to believe that?
People with disabilities are hurt. Our President Elect has openly and repeatedly mocked them. I am hard of hearing. Does a President who mocks people’s disabilities represent me? Does he represent my friends and loved ones with disabilities? How are we supposed to believe that he represents our best interests?
As election results were rolling in, members of the younger generation ~ particularly those who are too young to vote and make their own voices heard ~ were sharing links to crisis and suicide hotlines.
Let’s pause to consider that.
That is how genuinely frightened, disenfranchised and powerless they feel.
Do they have grounds to be that frightened of this administration? I hope not. I will pray for excellent advisors and for God’s guiding hand (and if you don’t believe in God, you can take that with a grain of salt, but I am going to be praying, anyway). I understand, given some of the things that were said during the campaign, why they are. What I find most frightening is the bigotry, xenophobia, racism, transphobia, misogyny, sexism, and deep divide that has been awakened in our country during this campaign. And the hate. So much hate. Sadly, I believe it was always there, bubbling under the surface, and people were just afraid to say it aloud. They knew it was socially unacceptable. That’s the damage this campaign has done. It has made it socially acceptable to say and do horrible, hurtful things to people. And no, I am not talking about being “PC,” and creating “safe spaces.” (And it is not okay, by the way, to make fun of young people for talking about those things. They are trying to take social action to make their world a better place. Remember when you were young, and wanted fervently to make your world a better place? They deserve the support you wanted when you were young and idealistic.) I am talking about being a decent human being. I am talking about kindness, compassion, acceptance. I am Catholic, and it is difficult for me to separate my beliefs about these ideals from my religion, because they are grounded in my faith; but maybe they will resonate with some of you, even if you do not believe in God. I believe it is my job to Love my Neighbour. That’s it. It’s that simple. I am supposed to go out in to the world, and spread love. It doesn’t matter who my neighbour is, or what s/he believes, or who s/he voted for, or who s/he loves, or how s/he looks or how s/he got to my country. My first, #1 priority is Love God, and #2 is Love My Neighbour. Since I believe that God exists in everyone and everything, the two are inseparable. I don’t understand from where all of the hate comes. I do understand some of the despair, and the need to rage against the machine, if you will. Can you?
Can you put yourself in their shoes? What if enough members of the Electoral College decide to vote with the Popular Vote instead of the Electoral Vote, and Hillary Clinton ends up being our next President? (It would be unheard of, but it could happen, and it would be perfectly Constitutional.) Would you feel that same need to protest, to rage, to try to exert your right to make things the way you believe they should be, to protect the rights you hold so dear? I believe, perhaps, you would. I want you to know that, even though I do not, necessarily, share all of your political views, I would defend your right to them. I have in the past, and I would continue to do so. I do not, and will not, condone violence of any kind. I do not support rioting or destruction of property. I will not be posting naked pictures of Melania Trump and shaming her. I, too, posed nude (for art classes ~ there are drawings and paintings out there somewhere, I’m sure.). Big deal. Do I believe that all of Trump’s supporter’s fall into those categories of hateful, racist, transphobic, misogynistic, xenophobes? Of course not. I know you. I love you. I have known most of you for most of my life. You are not racists. You are decent people who searched your hearts and voted for the candidate your truly felt was most qualified for the job. I am not sure how you arrived at that decision. I am not sure how you were able to set aside some of the things he said. Maybe you agreed with certain policies he outlined, maybe you were swayed by something you found so compellingly awful about Hillary Clinton that you felt you had to cast a vote against her. Maybe, after 8 years of a Democrat, the country was bound to vote for the Republican candidate, no matter who it was. Maybe you felt underrepresented by the previous administration, and you felt this was the only way to make your voice heard. I don’t know. I do know that you are not filled with the kind of hate we have seen and heard throughout this campaign (and we have seen hate thrown back and forth from both sides). I am still trying to wrap my head around everything I am seeing right now. There are still so many problems we, as a society need to work through, together, as a result of this extraordinarily divisive campaign. I heard the KKK supports this victory so much that they are throwing a parade in celebration. Could that be true? The President elect did not ask for, nor does he condone that endorsement, but it is still a hard pill to swallow. It hurts a lot of our fellow Americans.
The demonstrations that are going on in reaction to the election are a normal and necessary part of the process. Of course you do not agree with them. Your candidate won. You say, “Get over it.” Did you get over it” when Barack Obama won? Did you gleefully line up behind him and enthusiastically support your Commander in Chief? Because I don’t remember those 8 years. I remember a lot of dissent and derision on your part ~ which was absolutely your right. And I do remember outright displays of hate when he was elected. I remember terrible racist displays during his campaign and even after his election. I know you didn’t participate, but please, let’s not pretend it didn’t happen. As recently as yesterday, you have continued to complain about President Obama’s political policies, question his right to office, his commitment to his Christian faith and accuse him of being a too-avid supporter of Muslim people (whatever that means ~ I, frankly, think we should love people of all faiths). The difference is, this time, more than half of the people who voted actually chose a different candidate. However, given how the Electoral College works, Donald Trump won the Electoral Vote, and therefore the White House. There is bound to be some dissent, because, again, more than half of the Popular Vote went to the candidate who did not win. It’s not as if the winning candidate was wildly popular. This not just a case of people being sore losers. It is, as I outlined above, people who actually have real concerns, individuals who have vested interests in the outcome of this election. Well, don’t we all, always? In short, it was a very close race, and a brutal one. Emotions ran high. The question is, now, how do we recover?
No matter what side you find yourself on in this mess, remind yourself, in the end, we are all, first and foremost, Americans, and that has to mean something. Our ultimate goal has to be a pulling together to make a better, stronger Nation for all of us, and that means we all belong here. We all are tiny fibers in a rich tapestry, and that is what makes our Nation whole and unique. We truly are stronger together.
There are things you can do to stand up in solidarity with those who are hurt and frightened. You can wear a safety pin on your lapel, to indicate to others that you are a “safe” person. You can stand up to bullying, racism and hate when you see it in action. You can volunteer time in your community to help those in need. You can pray. You can refuse to engage in hateful, hurtful rhetoric.
If you are protesting, protest. Do not resort to violence in deed or in word. Words can be brutal. Remind yourself what is important to you, and why you are there.
In that spirit, I will leave you with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., because to this day, even after all that has been said on the subject, I think no one yet has said it better:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”