We can do this together

I apologize for my late response. I’ve been jamming juke boxes with coins to play “My Generation” by the Who and “Come Together” by the Beatles. All I want to do is eat ice cream and it seems like a good time to watch Across the Universe as I make sense of what is happening in the world. This presidential election, the third in which I’ve participated, has left me trying to understand who we are as Americans and what the election results mean.

Donald Trump’s win

Surrounded by portraits of Donald Trump set against backdrops of the American flag and headlines of “Trump Triumph” is not something I was fully prepared to see, but there he is.

For the majority of people who voted for Trump I don’t think it was ever about the social attitudes he espoused. To a certain degree being able to worry about -isms and ideals is an impossible luxury when the overriding concern is surviving. Wyoming, the state I’m originally from, voted red. It historically has, likely because its economy is prone to boom and bust, more bust now that old energy industry demand is dropping. The promise of jobs, even if in the form of building a divisive wall, is probably enticing if that means you can feed your family. Trump’s win distresses me because it signifies that people’s hurt was so great they felt the need to vote for him despite the other nonsense he stands for.

But we see where this has gone terribly wrong in the past — the instances when we put individual interests ahead at the expense of the greater good, consequently threatening or extinguishing guarantees of basic safety for our neighbors.

While I sympathize with economic necessity, I’m sick that an elected leader of my country is an alleged rapist, and that he openly decries the presence and even existence of people I love based on our identities. I’m scared to see that some of those who voted for him based on shared attitudes of hatred have started to take this as a free pass to express themselves in a myriad of painful ways, including intimidation and outright violence.

How can we accommodate the needs of all to feel both financially and socially secure? As others have stated before, we have much work to be done so everyone can find a place of belonging in our society.

Hillary Clinton’s loss

I can’t be persuaded to have complete faith in a politician’s motivations or actions, but I do wholeheartedly believe in symbols. In some cases they can be just as powerful as the realities upon which they’re based. No politician is infallible, Clinton included, but her loss still breaks my heart.

At its most basic, a win for Hillary Clinton would have meant so much to me as a woman. It would have symbolized to me that women had made it, or at least were starting to make it.I would have been very appreciative of the fact that we had not elected someone with a known track record of blatant sexism. Clinton’s election would have demonstrated that sheer gumption and effort — a game well planned and played — could succeed for future generations of women. 

This time that fell fell short, but I am inspired by the fact that Clinton made it this far. Lindy West’s column in the New York Times articulates this: “But maybe this election was the beginning of something new, I thought. Not the death of sexism, but the birth of a world in which women’s inferiority isn’t a given.” She wasn’t the perfect candidate, but for now I embrace the strides she’s made and the career she’s carved out.

The way forward

This election has been fraught with difficult decisions. Maybe we can make it better in future. As starting steps, I propose the following:

  • Broaden your community. Let’s reconnect with our shared humanity and get to know people outside of our comfort zones and usual circles. Bonus points if this is done face-to-face or in an actual conversation as opposed to social media. There may be differences, and that’s not only okay, but encouraged. We can learn so much from each other. We have much to talk about. But before we talk, we need to listen, and listen better. My friend Henry Tsai created a handy tool to facilitate.
  • Support diverse media. If making it out to another district to get to know someone else’s perspective is out of the cards, let the media be our watchdogs. I know the industry is flawed in many ways, but while it’s struggling, it’s more important than ever to support it. Pay for subscriptions, pay for content so we can afford to get broad, analytical coverage. In addition to consuming major publications, consider following local ones too for a more holistic view of how situations are developing and what people are experiencing on the ground over time.
  • Consistently exercise your rights as a citizen. Here they are. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services says, “We are a nation bound not by race or religion, but by the shared values of freedom, liberty, and equality.” It’s hard to imagine what that might look like when our incoming president has repeatedly made sexist, xenophobic, and homophobic statements so it’s up to us to uphold what these values mean on a personal level. Attend public meetings, get out and vote both at the federal and local levels. And perhaps this is very basic, a preschool lesson, but let’s remember the Golden Rule — treat others as you want to be treated.

I don’t know what Trump will do with his time in office, but I’m hopeful that we’ll all come together to create a better future. We can do this together.