Thursday, November 10, 2016

Nothing and Everything Changed

America, two days following the 2016 national elections, hasn't really changed that much in most practical ways; yet, in another sense, everything has changed. The latter didn't hit me until this afternoon while I was out walking about our small town. It's a single town on a small island in Alaska, accessible only by air and boat. So the people who reside here are pretty much the same, year in, and year out. So really, Tuesday hasn't changed a thing in this town.

Yet, there was something different inside of me. See, I am non-white and an immigrant - fitting two of the categories (of many) which have been marginalized and attacked during the election campaign. I've lived in the U.S. for many years and in this town for the past ten. And even yesterday, as I was walking about town, I didn't really feel that different.

But today, something changed. Not the environment, the town, the people who I encountered and with whom I interacted. But something in my psyche, my emotional health, and psychological well-being. I felt suspicion and uneasiness. I was on higher alert for threats and dangers.

Intellectually, I know that the chance that something has changed so much in this town that I would actually be a target and victim is probably infinitesimally low. Yet the election of Donald Trump and the tacit approval of the rhetoric that goes along with that has attacked my psyche and emotions. And if that can happen to me -- who I acknowledge as fairly privileged in many ways, has never been overtly been a target of racism or hate, and in many ways never will be -- how much more fearful are those who actually have been victims and targets?

Even if you aren't a racist or bigot, your celebration of Trump hurts. Even if you really do love immigrants and would never do anything to harm them, your refusal to strongly denounce hateful talk is damaging. Even though (giving the benefit of doubt) that most Trump supporters really do care about people around them, your silence speaks volumes about what you value and what you don't. 

Your admonition to us to "stop whining" tells us what we're feeling doesn't matter. Your admonition to us to "learn that we can't always have our way" is telling us that our concerns are invalid. When you tell us to "suck it up" and place the "nation first," it's telling us that diversity is only of value when it conforms to traditional Evangelical Christian, white European, cis-gender views. Or to put it another way, diversity is only valued as a token.

There is a palpable fear being experienced by those who have been devalued by Donald Trump, his campaign, and some of his outspoken supporters. I hope that President Trump will have the strength, courage, and discipline to reject measures and policies that devalue and dehumanize any number of groups of people. I hope that Congress and the judiciary will act as real checks and balances, if President Trump oversteps.

When you say you care about those who aren't quite like you; when you say that you want to protect and help the marginalized; when you say that you don't hate immigrants and people whose religion aren't yours -- we need you to actually vocalize that loudly and to act strongly to support what you claim. We need you to actually go outside your comfort zones; to listen to people who are terrified, to people who are physically ill from what has happened; to denounce any kind of hate and dehumanization. Because if you don't, even if you say you're not a racist or bigot, your silence communicates something very different. We need to know we can trust what you say.


Kathy said...

We don't know how many voters were motivated by Trump's racist rhetoric, we hope that the people who voted who don't usually vote, the ones the pollsters weren't expecting, we hope they just believed that a businessman would know how to make jobs. We hope they didn't go to the polls just to keep America white. But we know that some did, because that was a message Trump was sending out.

What has changed for me here 3 days after the election is this new resentment growing in my throat towards perfectly wonderful friends who voted for Trump. They are posting on Facebook a wave of admonitions: don't whine, don't be polarized, and stop posting click-trap stories that aren't true about racist bullies. I especially hated a long article one of my best friends shared that says this is a revolution: "They stood there even though the media told them it was useless. They took their stand even while all the chattering classes laughed and taunted them. They were fathers who couldn’t feed their families anymore. They were mothers who couldn’t afford health care. They were workers whose jobs had been sold off to foreign countries. They were sons who didn’t see a future for themselves. They were daughters afraid of being murdered by the “unaccompanied minors” flooding into their towns. They took a deep breath and they stood." from
While I read the article, I felt my respect and love for my friend seep away. That's what's different for me right now after this election. I believe Trump is narcissistic, that his success is due to his privilege and ruthlessness. It won't follow him in the Whitehouse. The weird thing is this. We won't get to sit back and gloat when bad things happen. We won't get to say, "See I told you so." because the people who voted him in can blame the bad things on other forces. A Republican friend of Kevin commented on Kevin's post this morning that Obama has been a joke of a president. Anything bad that has happened in the last 8 years have been his fault. So what should I do about the light that Facebook is shedding for me on the political opinions of my friends? I'm not going to get off of Facebook because it is an important way to stay in touch with my friends. I'm just going to have to exercise a lot of forgiveness.

Mark said...

Hi Kathy, thanks for your comment. I think part of why many of us feel this way is that there is no acknowledgment of Trump's faults and only mentions of failures of Obama and Democrats when pieces and posts supporting Trump are written. It comes across as denial and hubris.