I just had an interesting conversation with an old friend. She reached out to me about my post yesterday with this comment:
. . . as upset as I am with the election results, I’m kind of more upset with people who don’t accept them. If it had gone the other way and trump supporters criticized the process and refused to accept the outcome, how would we feel? Any thoughts. I bring this to you in the spirit of thoughtful discussion – I mean no disrespect.
I was glad she asked, because I’ve been thinking about this all night. Yesterday, I read a post somewhere reminding people of how upset we were with the continuous attacks on Obama after his election (both times) and suggesting that we were acting similarly.
I asked myself if that was true. I did some soul-searching, and with the help of the discussion with my friend, I think I can formulate an answer now. Or at least a partial one.
This person will remain #NotMyPresident until he earns my respect and or proves that he is a president to all, not just to those elite few. I don’t think he will ever do that. That would require him showing respect to too many people he clearly despises. However–and this is important–I acknowledge that he won the election. The broken system doesn’t make the results less true. If that changes when the electoral college votes in December, then that’s great, but if it doesn’t he is the President of the USA. Still he will remain #NotMyPresident.
My anger right now is not aimed at his supporters. I know, that sounds crazy, but it’s not. I feel sorry for people who live their lives in so much fear and hatred of difference that they vote against their own interests. I wish we could come together to find solutions so that everyone can live lives without fear. I wish we could have civil discourse and discussions. I wish we could live in Utopia–but that’s not going to happen. So I am not angry at them. They voted what they believe, and that was their right. But it is my right to protect myself from the hatred that has followed, and I will do that with words. I will do that with art. I will do that with passion.
As I mentioned in the first post in this series, however, I am angry with one group of people, but I am trying to find space to forgive them. For now, I won’t engage. I unfollow anyone who says, “I told you so–it should have been Bernie.” I don’t believe the nomination was stolen. I also am not convinced that Bernie would have won anyway–because many of the people who supported our president-elect were voting about the Supreme Court, Abortion, and Gay Marriage –all issues that Bernie and Hillary were on the same page about. If he had been the nominee, he would have been attacked as well. His only advantage was that he was not a woman, and I stand by that. So why am I angry at them? Because, there is a difference between voting your beliefs and letting the house burn down because you didn’t get your way. Now nothing that Bernie stood for will get done, but that group is blaming people like me who supported Hillary all along.
My last thought on this, though, lies in history. it lies in the words by Martin Niemöller we’ve all read before:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The reality is this, I will not allow history to repeat itself. Perhaps it won’t go that far, but when discussion is already happening about registering Muslims, I must speak against it. When one of my favorite hiking spots from my college days has been covered in anti-semitic symbolism and Nazi propaganda, next to phrases supporting our president-elect, I must speak against it. When women have been grabbed all over the country with men saying “If the president can do this, I can” I must stand up in protest. When trans youth have committed suicide because of the results of an election. I must speak out. When women everywhere are rushing to get birth control before they can’t, I must speak out. When one of my lesbian friends says that she wishes she had a girlfriend to marry before she can’t, I must stand up and say “this is wrong.”
But, I also don’t agree with burning the flag and the violent protests from “my side.” We need to find a path through this mess that does not include violence, hate speech, cruelty.
I only have a few weapons to wield: my words, my heart, my brain, my passion, my art. I hope that with them, I can help make a difference.
In our discussion, my friend also said:
I guess I just think we need to recognize that is what 50% of the people in this country think they want and work to change within the system. Protesting only alienates those who are refusing to see and makes us look like sore losers in their eyes.
I agree, we need to recognize that fact. We need to change the system from within. But I see protest differently. For me, protesting is making sure we remember that we all have a lot to lose now. In the next four years we may lose:
- our environment
- our freedom
- our economy
- our right to love and marry who we wish
- our right to safety
- our financial well-being
- our lives
Maybe I’m being over-dramatic, but I believe in this looming reality. And it won’t just affect the 50% of this country that did not vote for him. It will eventually affect us all, until there is nobody left to speak.