Hurricane Donald devastated the United States by becoming president elect on November 8th.
Hurricane Donald has mainly blown hot air so far. We in the U.S.A. have sturdy structures that may withstand such wind. We have an abundance of blessings that we should be thankful for daily. Still, following the election, I felt the same way as I did on the day after 9/11. Vulnerable. Fearful for the future. As though I wanted to curl into a ball and hide under a blanket for the day (or perhaps the next four years!). As though everything that I believe in and desire for America had been crumpled into a ball and handed back to me by all that Trump represents, with a fleer and a snicker to boot.
Trump proponents on social media have said essentially everything from “get over it” and “be a gracious loser” to “we love you – let’s work together.” While what they don’t seem to understand is that it isn’t about losing a race, it’s about losing ground toward an ideology that could make the world an increasingly more just place, and that on Thursday, I walked into a class only to be greeted by a student who said, “Welcome to the end of the world,” they are right in that we need to work together. We need to cooperate so that the country that so many of us love does not tear itself in half, Civil War-style.
What I have heard reported in the past several days, however, has not been encouraging: KKK celebrating the Trump victory, use of the “n” word and graffiti that is blatantly racist against African-Americans, the beating of a homosexual man, and swastika graffiti; it is as though the Trump win were a permission slip for those who hate to come out of their closets and host a nationwide after-party that is in the same spirit as Roman gladiatorial combat or public hangings. While I realize that not everyone who voted for Trump is racist, homophobic, and misogynistic, I read something on Facebook that resonated with me and that I shared: “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist and/or a sexist, but they did decide that racism and sexism were not deal breakers.”
And I will say proudly that I plan to wear a symbolic safety pin in the days to come. I will sign every petition that I read that either encourages the Electoral College to vote Hillary Clinton into office on December 19th or that helps to protect women, blacks, undocumented immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community, and any other group that is not white male and is already being made vulnerable by the seemingly impending rise of the Trump administration. I will quadruple my efforts as a writer who believes in writing as an agent of social change and as an grassroots activist to protect the most vulnerable, my family – my 11 year-old-daughter’s future, and myself.
At the same time, like so many other individuals, I was stunned to realize that the United States is really as divided, as broken, as it is. No matter what the next four years bring, I will also work to help start healing our nation. I am hurt and irate that such hatred has gained a powerful voice. I thought that we were better than this, beyond this. Instead, I feel as though I’ve returned to being a child in my homogeneous white bread hometown where I learned racist phrases for everyday use before I ever knew what racism meant, and that causes me deep sorrow. If I feel this way, as a white woman, I can only begin to imagine how those who have been marginalized, victimized – brutalized — throughout our society’s history feel right now. I wish that we were all at a big bar, crying into our glasses, and that I could tell each of you, “I’m so sorry,” with my hand placed gently upon your shoulder.
Like so many others, I wonder how we may bridge such a chasm.
Over the past few days, I have been reminded of a couple of writers that I’ve taught in years’ past. The first one wrote a narrative essay about being a white man who grew up in the working class and became disgruntled with layoffs and his and other blue-collar workers’ lowly place in society. He joined and rose the ranks to become a leader in the KKK. Then, something happened involving a black woman that served as a catalyst for change, and he began to understand that it wasn’t racial differences that were the problem, it was social class division. He quit the KKK and over the years, he became a much more open-minded man who worked in an educated way toward betterment for all people, instead of in ignorance toward violence and destruction. It was a read that has always reminded me that people, no matter who they are or what their past, are capable of change.
The second writer is Naomi Shihab Nye, who is a Palestinian-American poet, novelist, and song writer. In her work, about turmoil between Middle Eastern countries and between the Middle East and the United States after 9/11, she tries to build bridges, so that people may focus on commonalities, instead of differences, and to show that violence hurts everyone and serves no one. I hope that in the coming days we will be able to remember and employ such lessons and do so respectfully.
Hurricane Donald has not destroyed America. He has, however, shown us that we have considerably more work to do than we’d thought. We need to re-frame this development as an opportunity to solve deep-seeded issues, opening the lines of communication, listening, and learning from one another. Instead of “rebuilding,” we need to admit that we hadn’t built the types of roads and bridges that we thought we’d constructed in the first place. And start.