“Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States. Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States. Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States.” — Every single news outlet around the world
I am currently sitting in the Starbucks down the street from my apartment, trying to realize what have been, in effect, 36 hours of trying to put to words exactly how I feel about the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. I’m watching everyone here, baristas and patrons alike, the dressed and the disheveled, observing this microcosm of people for insight into how I want to address what may prove to be our nation’s most egregious electoral sin.
There is a man sitting adjacent to me, a black man, who may find himself subjected to the overt racism fueled by the election of Donald Trump. There is a woman across the lobby from me, holding hands with her girlfriend or wife, who may see their fight for equality torn asunder — their marriage voided — due to the election of Donald Trump. A Hispanic woman and her young child are waiting for their drink orders and the only reason I’m curious about the mother’s legal status is because I’m afraid she may be deported, leaving her child an orphan, because of the election of Donald Trump.
I’m not trying to sound like a self-righteous ass, but I have nothing to worry about. I’m white. I’m male. My demographic has not only been historically favored, but will likely also be favored by a Trump presidency.
And I have a big problem with that.
Part of what has prompted me to write about the state of affairs in the nation which I call home is not because of my own socio-economic suffering, but the suffering of others. I am worried about a Trump presidency not because of any kind of blowback I could experience, but because of the blowback that others may experience (who have a higher chance of experiencing).
I’m concerned for the women in my life, who have to live the next four years of their lives knowing their president is a man who has explicitly and unapologetically “grabs [women] by the pussy.”
I’m concerned for the people of color in my life, who have to live the next four years of their lives knowing their president is a man who has emboldened white supremacists.
I’m concerned for the Muslims in my life, who have to live the next four years of their lives knowing their president is a man who has explicitly and unapologetically criminalized their religion through rhetoric and possibly through future actions.
I’m concerned for the Hispanics in my life, who have to live the next four years of their lives knowing their president is a man committed to ripping their families apart and building a wall to keep them out.
I’m concerned for the LGBTQ people in my life, who have to live the next four years of their lives knowing that the progress made in administering to them the same rights everyone else has enjoyed, notably the right to matrimony, that they just received 18 months ago, is now in jeopardy of being taken away with extreme prejudice.
I’m concerned for everyone in my life who isn’t a white, heterosexual man — and that concern isn’t restricted to just the people I know. Everyone is someone in my life.
It would be easy, and maybe even cathartic, to figure out where to point fingers. The aforementioned emboldened bigots. The still-relevant political exasperation by young people (possibly made worse by the results of this election). The Electoral College. But while fingering blame toward whomever or whatever one feel is deserving of it may help now, it ultimately won’t do any good. Donald Trump wasn’t elected because of the racists. He wasn’t elected because of the Electoral College. He wasn’t even elected because of James Comey’s apparent partisan politics.
Donald Trump was elected because a way of life is being rendered extinct. And I’m not talking about the acceptability of casual racism or the importance placed on a morally-good, Godly community (though the latter is notable). I’m talking about the people who find themselves victims of progress.
Many of the people who voted for Trump didn’t do so between cross burnings and trips to Hobby Lobby to procure materials for “God Hates Fags” signs. Many of the people who voted for Trump did so because their jobs are vanishing, their checkbooks are too light to avoid sleepless nights, and their communities are changing in ways that throw kerosene on the flames of fear. I see people in this Starbucks who, from a quick glance, may fit this bill. Older white men who look haggard and beaten down by the stresses of the vanishing working class. Older white men who see their values (which in many cases are also their daddy’s values, their grandaddy’s values, and so on), religious and otherwise, not only disappearing, but demonized by what they incorrectly attribute to encroaching “political correctness.” Older white men who (incorrectly) see the cultural openness being promoted and realized by progressive ideologies as a threat to their security and their livelihood. While this isn’t an excuse for their prejudices, which ultimately fuel their decisions (like casting a vote for Donald Trump), it is more important to understand the anxiety that comes with changing times than to solely hold their feet to the coals.
One can still empathize with this fear while holding these people accountable for their decisions.
While I’m not making an effort to cast blame, the people of this nation did not, on the whole, vote for Donald Trump on Tuesday. 200 thousand more cast votes for Hillary Clinton, leaving her the victor in terms of popular vote. Direct democracy voted for Hillary Clinton. Representative democracy voted for Donald Trump. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes — in 2000, direct democracy voted for Al Gore and representative democracy voted for George W. Bush. But this is how the system works and it is improper (and honestly, hypocritical) to demonize the system when it doesn’t work in your favor and champion it when it does.
The election of Donald Trump is the last gasp of a dying culture in the United States, but that doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels and just hope we’ll get it right next time. We need to focus on changing the culture that allowed Donald Trump to be elected and honestly, it starts with giving a damn. Donald Trump may be unstable in terms of his commitments, but he has made several positions very clear, once you sift away the narcissist rhetoric and the overuse of “okay?”
There will be people who suffer because of the Trump Administration and it is our job — not as liberals or progressives or conservatives or libertarians, or as Christians or atheists or Muslims or Jews, or as white or black or Latino or Asian, or as male or female, or rich or poor, or whatever — to understand that. Our obligation to others is to understand that bad things will happen and do everything in our power to ensure those blows are lessened, or if possible, those punches are kept from landing. We are only as strong as each other.
We need each other. A presidency is only four years (eight with the “rule of incumbency”). The divisions amongst ourselves last longer, if we let them.
Let’s start by giving each other a hug.
Featured image via Pixabay.