And They All Lived Happily Ever After
As many across this nation sat in front of their televisions late in the evening on November 8, dumbfounded, speechless and unbelieving, there were just as many who celebrated the electoral victory of their candidate. Of all the presidential campaigns in the last couple of decades, this one played out as the most polarizing one in memory. It seemed through this campaign as though everyone was attempting to find the lowest common denominator in our populace. Insults from “basket of deplorables” to vulgar sexist bantering on a bus filled the airwaves and news shows for weeks and months.
This has set the stage for the public display of outrageous behavior. Whereas, prior to the election, people would have held their homophobic, Islamophobic, and misogynistic thoughts in check, these same people are now taking liberties to express their thoughts and beliefs in ways that dangerously assault social boundaries. It seems as though the electoral victory of the Republican candidate has granted folks carte blanche permission to act out their basest instincts, with no filters in place.
Stories are rolling in of behavior that violate the bounds of decency and social confines. Muslim women wearing hijabs are having their headwear forcibly removed, or are being threatened with violent acts unless they take them off. People who were born and have lived their whole lives in this country are being told by angry strangers to “go back to [fill in the blank.]” In York, PA, a high school student walked the hallways carrying a yard sign, shouting “White power.”
Outside of Baltimore, a young gay woman was in the store checkout line, and a man yelled at her, “Get out of here, dyke!” African-American freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania were added to a racist GroupMe account, littered with pictures of lynchings from decades ago. Cars belonging to anyone who is a person of color—and the color itself does not matter—are subject to being keyed, spray-painted, or having tires slashed.
Flipping to the other side, protests are now taking place in various cities across the country in opposition to the winning candidate. They are evidence of the depth of anger, frustration, and powerlessness felt by those on the losing side of the election. (However, my suspicions are that we would be seeing much worse outbursts of demonstration and protest had the Republican candidate lost the electoral vote.) Prior to the election, supporters of the winning candidate talked about this being a “call to arms.” Of course, when asked by the media, those espousing these views explained it away by saying that they were using that phrase metaphorically. When metaphor becomes reality, however, it is time to take stock of our collective social conscience.
The time has come to determine how we will cope with this new administration, how we will interact with those whose political views we oppose and how we will continue to promote the best in ourselves and others. Helen Ryde decided to deliver cookies to a number of her neighbors who supported the winning candidate. She shares in a video post of her visit to Corrine and Herbie, who enjoy sitting on their porch. Helen had waved to them as she walked by, but had never spoken with them. When she took them some fresh cookies, they had an interesting conversation about the election and their hopes and fears for the future. Corrine mentioned that this was the first time she had ever met a lesbian. Helen looked at her with a twinkle in her eye, and said that it was likely that she had met one before, she just didn’t know it. These cookies broke the silence, cracked open some conversation, and laid the groundwork for new friendships. We must cross that great divide between people of opposing views.
Dave Chappelle appeared on Saturday Night Live after the election. He reflected about a time at which he was at the White House, gathered with a number of African-Americans. He saw all the Presidential portraits hanging in the hallway, looked over at his group of friends and reflected on the President-elect, “I am going to give [him] a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.”
On the Sunday following the election, my pastor prayed an earnest prayer. She prayed, “Today is a difficult day for our country, as we heal from a divisive election. If our country is nothing else Lord—it is still a melting pot. It’s how we were shaped and it is most definitely who we have become. We are black and white and every color in between. We are liberal and conservative and every nuance in between. We are male and female and transgender and transitioning. We are gay and straight and bisexual and queer. We are young and old and newborn babes. We are rural and country and beach town like Rehoboth and Lewes. We are Republican and Democrat and independent and not yet identified and fed up with both parties and we don’t know where we fit.
We are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, and all the religions that are welcomed by the freedom of our constitution and the law of our land…O God, we are many and we are one and we are yours.”
And so it goes…The sun will rise again, life will go on, and our children and grandchildren will grow up in a new world. It is a world that we still have a hand in molding. We are not powerless. We are not helpless in having an important role in this country and in the communities in which we live. We have a voice and we must use it. Living in hope is much better than living in despair.