Wednesday, November 09, 2016

My Thoughts on the Election

I've lost elections before.  I'm a Democrat-it's something you get used to.  I remember watching as George W. Bush won elections that flabbergasted me (twice), and lived through the 2010 and 2014 Midterms.  Most of the time, I can find the silver lining.  There's usually a silver lining.  Except this time-there is no silver lining in Donald Trump winning the White House.

I could try and cling to the fact that Hillary Clinton, like Al Gore, won the popular vote-that there is a sense of illegitimacy to his presidency that we should cling toward, but that doesn't make him any less of a president.  I could talk about the spare wins last night that the Democrats accomplished, with women like Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris and (probably) Maggie Hassan now headed to the Senate, but it doesn't feel like enough.  I can list names of people I will surely end up rallying behind in four years.  Names like Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren and Chris Murphy and Amy Klobuchar-names progressives will whisper before they go to sleep in hopes of brighter tomorrow.  But that's four years from now.  Four years of a President Trump.  There is just no silver lining here.

I think of President Obama right now, and literally am weeping at my keyboard.  I think of the conversations we had started as a nation in the past eight years, the progress we have made for minority and disenfranchised communities.  I think of gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act and the Paris Climate Act and the Iran Nuclear Deal and the unemployment numbers and of Black Lives Matter and social justice reform and wonder if in a matter of weeks that is all gone.  To assume otherwise would be foolish-it was the heart of the Trump/Pence campaign, and elections have consequences, enormous ones.

I remember thinking in 2004 that part of why George W. Bush had won was because of me.  I had campaigned my heart out for John Kerry, knocking on doors and driving people to the polls-it was the first presidential campaign I had ever voted in, and was so hopeful that him winning, a man who wasn't there yet on gay marriage but refused to back federal legislation outlining hate, would be an advocate in the White House.  And yet George W. Bush won, and I realized that America didn't care if I had rights.  It wasn't that they were outwardly against me, but it was something they didn't care about enough to bother to vote to help me and my community out.

I am thinking about that today, and realizing how much worse that is for Trump.  At his heart, George W. Bush had been a president who had been there for America during one of the darkest chapters of its existence.  He had led us through a period of great turmoil.  I don't want to rewrite history here-I still think the presidency of George W. Bush was an abject failure and that his policies were deeply damaging to the world-but he was a man of a guiding principle, that democracy around the world was something we should strive toward, and that was something to cling to even when America sent him back to the White House, even it if meant that for me, a 20-year-old gay man just coming out of the closet, that my rights would have to be put on hold for another four years.

There is no moral stature to cling to today though.  Donald Trump did not guide us through a national tragedy-if anything, he created one.  I think of the communities he has debased repeatedly on the campaign trail.  Women, persons of color, religious minorities, the disabled.  I think of how he encouraged his followers to chant "lock her up" to a former First Lady of the United States, his political opponent, and how he said our president was illegitimate based on racist lies.  I think about his call to ban Muslims from entering the country, and I think about his promise to rip apart immigrant families.  And yes, I think of self-interest and his promise to overturn gay marriage through the Supreme Court and his vice president's deep hatred of gay people, wishing to electrocute gay youth until they become straight.

These are not hypotheticals anymore-America chose to elect this man, knowing he had promised such hatred toward minority communities.  People have made a lot of excuses for Trump's supporters, but the reality is that they endorsed this behavior, whether they did so flagrantly at a rally or in the private comfort of booth.  They truly, completely, didn't care about the rights of women, racial minorities, religious minorities, the disabled, and LGBTQ citizens; at least they had such apathy toward them they were willing to throw away all of the progress that they had made just to "shake up the system."  I wanted to believe that America had gotten better than that.  I had wanted to believe that in a country where Beyonce is a superhero and Ellen Degeneres a national treasure that we had become more tolerant, but I was wrong.  We are not more tolerant-that fear that minority communities feel when they're in public is real.  That hate I felt in 2004, that I felt my entire youth from the community I grew up in, is real.  It still exists in so many people I see every day, on the bus or in a mall or sitting next to me at a movie theater.  The hate of the "other" is there, and now has shown that overwhelmingly in the comfort and anonymity of the ballot box.

I don't know how to move on from that.  I see people on social media say "we have work to do," and I know that's the right attitude to have.  The fight moves on, and it just gets tougher now, but I'm just so tired.  I'm tired of having to demand my rights just to have them snatched away whenever the majority wants to put me in my place.  I'm tired of watching people demean a movement like Black Lives Matter or Planned Parenthood because it doesn't have a direct benefit for themselves.  I know that I will need to pick up my picket sign and start protesting.

But I need to mourn first, and I need to overcome first.  I need to mourn for a planet that is likely lost to climate change now, and for a future that felt like it could be more harmonious.  I need to understand if I will ever forgive people in my life who I know voted for Trump, or for a third party candidate.  I share the deepest disappointment and disdain for those who I know simply didn't vote, justifying in that action that "both the candidates were bad" and not acknowledging their own culpability now in having elected Donald Trump to the White House.  I don't know how to do that-I don't know if I can turn the other cheek this time and forgive.  Time could give me the answer, but it may not.  Those people who stayed home and didn't vote may simply become figures I can never look directly in the eye again.  I thank god that everyone in my family voted for Hillary Clinton not only because it was the right thing to do, but because I can rest easy knowing that I will never hate them for what they did yesterday.  They may not all have liked Hillary Clinton, but they knew what was at stake and voted for her anyway. I can be very proud of that in my heart, but mostly it's just relief.  It's the closest place I can reach for a silver lining, though one I cannot share with all of my friends in this journey, in this battle, which makes it of sorry comfort.

I pray that Donald Trump didn't mean the things he said on the campaign trail.  I pray that he realizes the importance of women's rights and Black Lives Matter and gay marriage and climate change and the Affordable Care Act and social justice and a free press.  I don't believe he does, but I still pray for it.  But I cannot pretend there is hope here.  Every movement to making society more open, more inclusive, I will always wonder if it's just soon to be snatched away by someone who wants to push me back to being the "other."  I want to comfort, but I have none to give.  I feel like someone I loved has died, and like any death of a loved one, the only respite that I can see is that "time heals all wounds."  I don't know if that's true, but it's the best that I can muster.

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