I cried myself to sleep last night. I awoke to a grey, gloomy, rainy day in which Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States. I'm still processing. I think I'm grieving for the loss of the America I thought I knew and loved.
Let me preface this by saying politics is so not my thing. I usually don't discuss it publicly because I have family, friends and co-workers who don't think the way I think or believe the way I believe. I respect their right to think and believe differently. I don't want to alienate or hurt anyone or destroy friendships that are otherwise enjoyable over a difference in ideology. Although I am extremely grateful for the right to vote, there isn't much about the process I enjoy. In fact, I detest the incessant phone calls, heaps of mailed flyers, and endless negative advertising that we are forced to endure in any election year.
This campaign year was the worst ever. I was unhappy with the choice of candidates, embarrassed that this was the best America could offer for the highest position in the nation, praying that a strong third party candidate would arise that I could get behind.
When it didn't happen, I spent a lot of time clicking through articles and trying to divine just what each candidate was promising to accomplish if elected. Trying hard to ignore all the bashing of the other candidate and all the negative advertising and just get down to the issues. Not easy, considering that neither candidate did a stellar job of clearly articulating their plans. I knew Trump wanted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but no clue what he would put in its place. I knew Clinton was promising to create jobs, I wasn't clear on how. The protection of equality for all (regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or ability), the protection of our environment, the protection of a woman's right to autonomy in her own medical decisions, the protection of those seeking asylum from terrible situations not of their own making, among other things, informed my vote.
As I was watching the election coverage last night, I was dismayed to learn that the support for Trump wasn't really about being Pro-Life or defending the right to own guns (maybe some of it was). It was about an army of poor working class white men (and women?) who feel their voices have been marginalized in favor of every other segment of the population (minorities, women, the disabled, LGBT, non-evangelical Christian religions, etc.), whose pay has stagnated, who have been left behind by the country that they loved. I imagine it is hard for them to accept that the country is growing and changing, and that soon they won't be the majority. Last night they made their voices were heard, loud and clear. As a nation, we have to own that maybe we didn't listen when it mattered. Maybe they have a point that needs to be considered.
But it hurts my heart that this economically disenfranchised group were so desperate to change the status quo, to shake up Washington, that they were willing to chance a vote for an openly racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, hate-mongering, violence inciting, tax cheat for the hope of a different future. I believe that the majority of these folks are decent, honest, hard-working people who don't condone the hate rhetoric spewed during the campaign. At least I hope so. If not, our country is far more screwed than I imagined. I'm not naive enough to miss the factions of white supremacists who would love nothing more than to kick to the curb everyone who doesn't look or think or pray like them. That kind of hatred exists everywhere in some form. But I like to believe that they constitute a rather small percentage of the population. At least I hope so.
So today I'm processing what went down. The pragmatic side of me acknowledges that in another week or month (or maybe not until after he takes office), everyone will settle into the reality that Donald Trump is the next President of the United States. They will move on with their everyday lives. The stock market will settle. We will begin the arduous task of trying to reunite this country. We are far more divided than I knew or was willing to believe possible, as evidenced by the nearly even split in the popular vote.
Already Trump has surprised me. First that he won. And second, that his victory speech was almost presidential. He didn't gloat. He sounded sincere about wanting to be the President for "everyone." (Which I admit is totally at odds with comments he made about women, minorities, immigrants, the disabled, and Muslims during his campaign). I hope that Trump will bring some good to this country, that by shaking up government he will be able to make a positive change in some way. I hope he will prove wrong all of our fears about his capability to fulfill the highest calling in the nation. I hope that his "crazy" was an act, a means to an end, and that we are not giving a man who is truly mentally ill the keys to the kingdom. I don't have to like him at all to hope he succeeds as our President. I will join the rank and file in granting him a peaceful transition to power and pray that he is a quick learner and can step up to the job of being leader of our country.
As for me, I can't change the results of the election, but I can accept them gracefully and without rancor. I can work within my own sphere of influence. My intention is to live my life as fully and as happily as I can. To be as kind and generous as I can. To commiserate with those who think and believe like me. To reach across the divide to those who don't, and to find common ground to move forward. I intend to let my light shine as brightly as I am able. And I hope that whatever good I do, whatever love and kindness I show, whatever light I shine, will help to balance the scales against fear and hatred, and help to light the darkness.