So now what?
Americans (and the rest of the world) have had nearly six days to process what is, for many of us, a shocking, frightening result in the election for the highest office in the land. One can make the argument that we shouldn’t have been shocked at the result, that this shock is just further evident of the massive disconnect between those of us who live in urban centers and those who don’t—which I largely agree with. But, reasonless or not, many of us have nonetheless essentially been moving through the various stages of grief since Tuesday night.
There seem to be myriad reasons that things went the way they did, but beyond email servers, or low voter turnout, or outright fear of the other in all its various forms of phobias + isms, I see a great fatigue in the American public—we as Americans are tired of, exhausted by, and done with politics as usual and politicians as usual.
In the long-term, I hope that ends up being a good thing; that we have candidates on all sides that more truly represent their constituents and that we start to shed this falseness, this dishonesty that’s so prevalent in politics today. It may be naive to say out loud (and sounds it as I do now), but that’s my hope in the long-term.
Regardless though, in the short-term, in the here and now, it means we’ve elected someone into the presidency who is, at worst, a racist, xenophobic, woman-hating man who willfully spreads fear-mongering and hate, urging our general population to do the same; and at best is simply a power-hungry, highly egotistical individual primarily concerned with everyone seeing him as the most powerful man in the world…which he now is.
So my main concern circles back to—now what?
In all my thinking about this late at night and talking with friends as we all essentially turn every possible real-world meeting into a massive group therapy session, I keep coming back to two things that loom large for me as action items in the (let’s hope) four years ahead. And, it should be very keenly noted that I am by absolutely no means an expert in any of this, merely one of many people who is navigating relatively unchartered, extremely rough, gigantic-murder-shark-infested waters.
First, I think we have to stop with the finger-pointing and name-calling and, just in general, the real-world and computerized screaming at each other. Yes, I’m fucking mad, but calling some dude I went to high school with who didn’t vote how I did a racist bigot and asking him to unfriend me on Facebook or wherever doesn’t do anything constructive other than allow me to vent, which is what I have real-world friends for. And maybe he’s not a racist bigot—I don’t know, I haven’t seen the guy since we all thought acid wash jeans were cool (the first time). Maybe he’s just tired of not seeing his every day reflected and acknowledged anywhere else, Washington especially. But the point is, I don’t know, because on the macro level we just don’t talk to each other any more, we instead try to get the last word in on gigantic, time-consuming back-and-forth social media rants and feel like we’re the ones in the right. And that greater ill is seen mirrored back at us at all levels of representation too. Senators in Washington used to spend their entire day fighting tooth-and-nail against each other on issues and then those same people would go get a drink together afterwards and shoot the shit. That doesn’t happen any more. We’re programming ourselves to hate the other; hate and fear any ideas or opinions that aren’t our own, and I think that’s toxic. We’re poisoning ourselves. And we’re also insulating ourselves, less geographically, more with the opinions we come into contact with on a daily basis; with the news agencies we choose to play audience to and our social media habits, building up these yes-networks where all we hear is what we already think and we’re constantly reassured that, yes, we are right and they are wrong. I think every single one of us, myself very much included, needs to work to change that; needs to work to talk with everyone, because there are clearly a lot of people with a lot of opinions in this fine country and it’s dangerous to write everyone else off as racist or woman-hating or un-American or elitist and not listen.
Then, second, I fear that there are many worthy causes and movements and issues that are going to need us to fight for them in the coming years. If this administration does half of what it promised in its campaigning, many of what I consider friendly causes and their recipients are in very real danger. For us and a lot of people we’ve been talking with over the past days, that means donating to the causes we both believe in strongly and believe will be endangered by this seismic cultural shift. We’ve also reached out to some to offer design services and are working now to figure out other ways we can volunteer. But we need to support our local leaders who we do believe in too because A) we’re all on fixed budgets of money and available time, and B) that’s exactly what they’re there for, to represent us and fight for what we, their constituency, believes in. I for one am super-excited that we elected Kamala Harris to Senate last week—she’s exactly who we need right now.
We’re not even six days in, and, technically, the guy’s not even President until January 20th of next year. All that to say, we don’t exactly what’s down the road. I get how it’s easy to slip into a feeling of despair and powerlessness. I also get that we’re all at different stages as we work through all this. I personally tend to be a short griever; I’m ready to get some shit done and am doing my best to channel my anger and anxiety into constructive action that will have positive results in my community. I’m ready to fight. And I don’t think I’m alone.
In that spirit, I’ve asked a number of friends and acquaintances—people whose opinions I respect—to share what they’re doing post-election and how, in their view, they can positively affect change in the near- and long-term in light of last week’s results. I hope to share those thoughts in the coming days and weeks in an effort to both inspire action in others and allow us all to process and open up discussion beyond the social media shouting.