I have written and re-written this post in my head countless times today. Not because I flatter myself that anyone is waiting to hear my opinion; rather, because I feel a compulsive need to express it and to express it well. I also want to acknowledge that I understand that as a White person, even as a woman who has felt discriminated against, there is a certain privilege I will experience, especially as the result of a Trump presidency. There are inevitably blind spots in what follows.
I want to make it clear that this blog is neutral space. And to be extra clear: I am not inviting hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist bigots to the table. There is no neutral space for that sort of rhetoric.
But for thoughtful, caring folks - conservative, progressive, and everything in-between - this is for all of us.
I want to describe the 24 hours from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday. And I want to talk about some rough things on the way through, but trust me -- this post is hopeful. Just stay with me if you can.
Monday, around lunch, I jumped on Facebook to see what people were talking about in response to the election. I saw a status written by a friend of mine who is Muslim and whose family immigrated to this country. The last line said:
"Donald Trump has made it clear that this country isn't for people like us. The ******* family needs a Clinton win because our lives will change forever without it."
I also saw so many hopeful, joyful, fabulous statuses celebration Hillary Clinton's historic candidacy. Women all over the place celebrating the fact that they'd cast their vote for a woman. I felt I knew beyond a doubt that she would win the election.
When Jordan got home, I went with him to vote (I had already done so through North Carolina's early voting option). When we got to the polls, I stayed in the car and watched a volunteer offer Jordan a Democratic sample ballot. Another volunteer offered him a Republican sample ballot. He took both, said thank you, and walked into his polling place.
Minutes later, another car pulled up. A well-dressed White man in his late 50's or early 60's got out of the car with his wife. The Democratic volunteer approached him and offered him a ballot. He responded by saying:
"If I had it my way, you would be shot. You people are a bunch of fucking Communists."
My mouth fell open. From inside the car, I gave the volunteer a sympathetic smile and tried to be as kind to him as possible as the man and his wife walked in to vote.
Afterward, we went to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and another man walked in with his wife. At that point in the evening, it was just Jordan, Tom Hanks (our dog) and I on the outdoor porch of this restaurant. The hostess came out to wipe off a few tables. He shouted at her, grinning:
"Excuse me! We're from immigration, and we're here to check for any illegals!"
We came back home and went across the street to a watch party, which was supplied with adorable decorations, hats, pizza, and cookie cake.
We watched the returns roll in. We slowly realized what was happening.
I went back across the street to our house and put the returns on. I kept falling asleep on the couch, waking up every time I heard Wolf Blitzer announce another projection. Trump. Trump. Trump.
I went to bed around 2 AM when it was all over. Donald Trump was going to win. HRC's concession speech was set for the next morning.
Jordan woke up at about 6:30 to make coffee. I had planned on sleeping in to make up for the late night, but I couldn't. I walked out to the kitchen and before I could even find the words I wanted to say, I found myself dissolving into tears and enveloped in Jordan's hug.
It wasn't because my candidate didn't win. It had nothing to do with losing. I've lost before. I cried because Donald Trump has said and done some gruesome, terrible, frightening things, and because I had no idea that so many people in this country were hurting badly enough to elect him. It felt like learning that Santa isn't real, except Santa is the America that I recognize. The one that's inclusive and kind, that welcomes instead of wipes out. It's the "celebrate our differences" America, not the "build a wall" America. It wasn't the "choke up and move on" kind of cry. It was something deep inside me that kept welling up unexpectedly throughout the day. The dehydrating kind. It was heartbreak.
I never, never, never knew that there were enough people in our country who were so unhappy, who felt so unrepresented, that this man would have even a shred of a chance. I read this post after Jordan left for work, written by a friend of mine who is gay, and it brought a new round of tears:
And this brings me to the part where (and I hope they're still reading) many Trump voters began to make more sense to me.
There are Trump voters who are terrible. They're racist, they're backwards, they're Alt Right, they've Twitter-harassed people, they say things like the folks above have said. It's not okay. It will never be okay.
But there's another group here. These people who elected a man so many of us find deplorable - they themselves are not deplorable. There is a litany of reasons why a person would vote for Donald Trump.
Maybe they couldn't stomach the thought of a left-leaning Supreme Court.
Maybe they are so hungry for a candidate who will deliver on a promise to see them, acknowledge them, and hear them that they were willing to put aside a lot of what Trump said.
Maybe they just couldn't bring themselves to trust Secretary Clinton or her message because she was too "establishment."
Maybe they are lifelong conservatives who felt they had no other choice.
I don't know why, but I do know who. You do, too. They're our friends from home, they are our immediate family members or grandparents, our co-workers, our friends from church. They are Americans, just like us.
In the coming weeks, the waters are going to be choppy. I am not naive enough - or maybe I am no longer naive enough - to believe otherwise. Facebook is a warzone of declarations, excuses, defenses, cries for help. I don't want to tell you how to feel - you can bail on this post right now. But here's where I think we have a choice:
If you voted for Donald Trump, you are going to have to give people a minute. The man you elected has wounded many of us on a level that no longer allows us to feel safe in our own country. The world is a scary place for me as a woman, and an even scarier one for my friends who are immigrants, Muslims, LGBT, or disabled. It is frightening to have a leader who has made us feel like we are disposable. You have to give us some time. You have to ask us some questions and make sure that we are okay. I don't think it's a coincidence that I've heard two unbelievably hateful things in the last 24 hours. I think this election has made people feel like it's acceptable to talk like that. And I think Donald Trump is responsible. So, you gotta understand - this is a tough one.
Voting for Trump doesn't mean you're a racist (or sexist, or misogynist, or xenophobe, or bigot). What it does mean is that you have an added responsibility to combat racism (and the like), because a Trump White House means that lots of bigots in our country are going to feel more comfortable saying and doing horrible, discriminatory things. Like this:
I also want to say that I think I'm starting to understand how you have felt. I think you have been feeling what I felt on Wednesday morning - that this country is unrecognizable to you, that this isn't the America you know, that your voice isn't being heard - for years now. Especially if you are White and working class, you've been counted out. I know I have counted you out. It's a terrible feeling. I hope we can fix it together.
If you voted for Hillary Clinton, take your time and grieve. And then, when we recover, we are going to have to do some listening of our own. Not to anyone whose rhetoric is like Trump's has been during this campaign; no. Never. We NEVER have to listen to demeaning, hateful, vitriol. Never. But there is something we've been missing, and here's how I know: a significant cross-section of the people who voted for Trump also voted for Barack Obama.
That tells us something very important: lots of Trump voters weren't voting based on policy or ideology. They were voting based on the change they want to see in Washington. They've voting for whichever candidate promises the more radically different version of America. They're hoping that this person who appealed directly to them is finally going to see them and hear them.
Something is wrong and we have to fix it. And we have to start by actually looking each other in the eye. Your only other choice is to stay stewing, bitter and hardened. We can't do that. We have to show up. Our presence is vital, just like theirs. The truth is, we have no idea what kind of President Donald Trump will be. He ran as a Republican, which, ideologically, he isn't. So we have to hope that his unpredictability will surprise us once again -- that the candidate he was isn't representative of the President he'll become.
I don't know what's going to happen. Tuesday night taught me that lesson in the form of an enormous slice of humble pie. What I know is that it is a lot harder to hate people you know. It's a lot harder to fear people you've met and talked with. There is some hate and some fear that we've got to get rid of by sitting at the table together and talking this the hell out. In the last 12 hours, I have talked to and listened to two Trump voters who I love. One is one of my very best friends, and one is someone with whom I work. There were a couple of uncomfortable moments for both of us. But we did it. And we are on the other side of that conversation. And I have to believe it made us stronger.
If you spent yesterday crying, I understand. I am here with you. I have never felt heartbreak like that unless it was the result of getting dumped unexpectedly (has happened more than a few times).
If you spent yesterday celebrating, be patient. Look around. Would you celebrate in a room full of people who'd all had a beer thrown in their faces? You wouldn't. You'd grab a towel and start cleaning up.
If you woke up yesterday in America, take heart: we're all still here. Don't get carried away in the emotional tidal wave that's headed straight for us. Don't allow yourself to get cynical about whether or not this country is beautiful. Don't let the hatefulness of a few people convince you that the world is a hateful place. Instead, I hope we can start to show that bullying is fundamentally un-American. I hope we'll invite hard conversations and hold on for dear life as they unfold. I hope you'll hug someone who you have a hard time loving. I hope we can all understand that, though it's hard to believe, there are folks out there who have a hard time loving us.
So go home. Circle your wagons. Listen to people feel their feelings all out loud. And then take a deep breath. Wait and watch. The Next Right Thing always comes around the corner. It's up to us to have the courage - not the absence of fear, but action in spite of it - to do that Thing, whatever it is.
It sure looks a lot like that Thing is returning to each other, reaching for each other, apologizing to each other, weeping with each other, and then building again.
And in case no one has said it to you yet, let me:
Everything is going to be okay.