The last few days have left me confused. Not because of the election results – I saw those coming months ago. And honestly, I have worked hard to stay emotionally checked-out for the last half year because I have strong opinions about our new president-elect and they are radically different from those of the people in whose home I am blessed to live.
Peace-keeping efforts have required me to politely step out of conversations and bite my tongue at the dinner table for weeks, months. They know what I believe and why. We never saw eye-to-eye but they’re family. I’m not going to not love them because of who they voted for. Our family as a whole is more important than our individual beliefs. Our family as a whole is made up of our individual beliefs. And that’s important to remember.
Back to why I’m confused.
I’m confused because of the way my friends have handled the election results.
Let me clarify who I’m addressing this to.
I’m talking to everyone here.
I don’t care if you are out holding a protest sign, crying in my Biology class, or sitting comfortably on facebook condescending those people participating in demonstrations today (and, I realize that by writing this, I fit into that last category. So I’m writing this for myself, too).
The first thing I want to say to you comes directly from the lips of my least favorite president ever, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The only thing to fear is fear itself.”
As a child growing up in a safe neighborhood in a loving, lower-middle class, very typical American family in a safe, free, prosperous country, fear was not a concept I understood.
Bugs. Wolves. Heights. That was fear to me.
Time and experience have taught me that hate, racism, malice, and danger are alive and well. But all these things, just like bugs, wolves and heights, can be overcome with open eyes, with courageous spirits, with loving hearts.
Fear, however, is a different kind of beast. It is a parasite. I saps us of our strength, our hope. It darkens our vision of the future so that we cannot see the pathway. It shrinks us, stripping us of our power as human beings to show compassion, empathy, mercy and understanding.
Fear stops us from conquering hate, racism, malice and the everyday horrors that plague the world we live in.
Much of the last eighteen months has been a reflection of what a fearful people we have become. Fearful of our abilities to provide for our families. Fearful of the dangers posed from unchecked immigration. Fearful of police brutality. Fearful of hate. Fearful of changes in attitudes that we don’t understand.
So we fight fear with more fear. We claim that our neighbors are the bigger monster. That whoever is standing on the other side of the aisle is the real threat to our livelihoods. We blind ourselves. We bind ourselves. And we exacerbate the problem, becoming one more complicated facet.
I am not here to judge anyone on how they voted. Casting my ballot on Tuesday was an excruciating decision that I dreaded for months. I’m not proud of how I had to vote. But I am proud that I voted.
I am proud of my fellow Americans who voted, who used their voices, who exercised a right that so many in the world still fight and die for. We did it safely, and then we all got stickers.
We live in an incredible country.
And still the results shock us.
For those who are judging a large wave of the population for “overreacting” to Trump’s victory, take a moment to consider where they are coming from.
Trump has spent months showing just how little he cares for immigrants, women, and people with disabilities. Whether or not he is qualified to lead this country, he has spewed a lot of hateful words and words have power.
He has incited a kind of hate in America I did not know still existed. It has been lying dormant. He woke it back up.
There are many who still think these reports are overblown. They think the problem doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened to them.
So I’m asking you to pause and listen to the demonstrators. Whether or not they are overreacting to the outcome, they are a reflection of a very real hurt in our nation. Americans afraid of deportation because they don’t have the paperwork they need to stay in a country they love. Americans afraid of abuse for being born a certain color or for holding to certain religious practices. Americans worried about what the future now holds for their daughters and how it will shape their sons.
Real things to be afraid of.
To those walking in demonstrations, giving up on college classes and homework for the week, threatening to move to Canada or Mexico…Stop. Stop it.
It was an election. They happen once every four years. They’ve been happening for the last two hundred years, peacefully, which has awed and inspired the world for two centuries now.
We moved from one regime to another without gunfire or bloodshed. Two men with completely different worldviews had lunch together today to begin the process of passing the baton.
We went to polling booths and were not bombed. We watched an election that was fair, unrigged, and open from the start.
Women and minorities, and young people who are not yet property owners were all allowed to vote. We were all given a voice.
Why do we not appreciate that? Do we not see the victory in this? Do we not see how great our country still is?
So let’s talk about the future.
Trump is president, but he is in charge of a government made for the people, by the people, of the people. We are still in charge.
If we respond out of fear in these next few days, we will waste the strength we need for the fights of tomorrow, whatever they may be.
If we respond in fear, we will further isolate the communities of this great nation, alienating our neighbors and the friends we will need so desperately to fight those daily horrors (not all of which will be Trump-related, I promise).
If we respond in fear, we will cloud our judgement, stifle our ability to make wise decisions, and step out dangerously into choppy waters without an anchor to hold us fast.
If we respond in fear, we will continue the cycle of abuse, mistrust, hatred, malice and ignorance that has brought us to this day.
To borrow a term from our former colonizers, keep calm, and carry on.
Our nation as a whole is more important than our individual beliefs. Our nation as a whole is made up of our individual beliefs.
We are all Americans. We live under the same flag. Let’s not give up on each other. Seek to understand, to empathize, to walk boldly towards peace and unity.
That means, for your personally, taking a deep breath and realizing that it will be okay. And if it’s not okay, we will work together until it is.
That means, for us as a nation, making a concerted effort to find common ground, for reals this time.
Thanksgiving is in two weeks and I will sit at a table with a family I am blessed to belong to. We may or may not talk about politics. I may or may not participate. But we will find a way to understand each other and be grateful for what we’ve been given.
And what have we been given? A country that allows its people to grow and change and broaden the scope of human rights.
A country that, though imperfect, and freckled with the sins of each generation that has tilled its soil, will continue to reach for liberty and equality for all.
A country that does not house a people who are fearful, but is rather a home to the brave.