It’s been a week in these United States, am I right?
And let me just say right up front, if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time at all, or know me even a little bit, you can probably guess (and you’d be correct) that I did not vote for the President-elect. And I very much wish things had gone a different way. But—he is the President. For better or for worse. And when my candidate did win in 2008 and 2012, I asked my friends who had voted the other way to please respect the office, even in their anger and disappointment. And so I’m going to do my damndest to do the same.
Hear me out, liberal friends, I can already feel you getting riled…hear me out. Please.
I know that I speak from a point of white middle-class privilege. I know that I speak as someone who has never in her life felt disenfranchised. And I know that I speak as a woman who has never been a victim of sexual assault (though like all of us I certainly know what it is to feel as if I’ve been made an object of).
Still, I have a voice in this, and, as per usual, I’m going to use it. Right here—with these reasons that I believe we all—Democrats, Republicans, Independents—need to take a deep breath and figure out how we’re going to move forward. Preferably together (or it won’t make a bit of difference).
- I have family and friends—people I care about deeply—who have been disenfranchised, who have been threatened because of the color of their skin, who have been told they aren’t worth anything because they are gay or transgender, who are black or Muslim or Latino, who live life every day knowing that at any moment their well-being might be threatened simply because of who they are. I have more girlfriends than I can even accurately count who have been victims of cruel harassment or sexual assault.This is not even remotely okay. And it is not at all what God intended for us upon creation. We were made for relationship. For life together. No qualifications or strings attached. And when we act otherwise, we fail at being the humans we were created to be. But y’all? We treated each other like crap before this President was elected. And his election doesn’t give us license to reduce one another to—as my colleague Josh Baird so eloquently said in a Facebook post—“racists or sore losers.” It’s simply not that black-and-white.
- I also care deeply about some people who I know voted for this President. And I’m not going to lie, I struggle with that. Mightily. But because I know and care for these people I also know this: They are not racists in the true sense and meaning of the word. They are not misogynists. They are not people filled with hate or judgment. They are men and women just like me who love their kids and fear for our country, who know something has to change, and who just have a different idea of how that change should happen. And it’s crucial that those of us who call ourselves liberals or progressives find a way to listen to those who don’t think like we do. Really listen. Because as one such friend said to me this week, “Jules, it’s not like any of them really care about me or my family anyway—so why does it matter?”
- This one isn’t easy, but I believe it, and so I’m going to say it. We liberal progressives can be so very arrogant. We like to talk about lofty ideas and we use rhetoric that is often highbrow and theoretical. Meanwhile the promises we make about food and clothing and shelter and equality for all are not easy promises to keep, and when we fail at keeping them, our words turn empty. We talk about equality and inclusivity in theory, but far too often that theory does not include our conservative brothers and sisters, and so we come off as those who think we “know better” in the worst possible way. We label those who don’t think like us “uneducated” or “redneck” and in doing so make any further conversation impossible. We can be our own worst enemy, and so let’s cease with blaming everyone but ourselves for how we got to where we are.
- This also isn’t easy, but, again…. I adore snark (sarcasm) as a defense mechanism. So much that a friend once said to me, “You’re so good at it, Julie, that it can be really intimidating when someone is trying to have a serious conversation with you.” That humbled me somewhat, and I try these days to reign in the snark outside my closest circle of friends—because the truth is, in terms of public discourse it doesn’t help. Rachel Maddow does not aid the fight for unity (even if she makes some of us feel better in a cathartic way), any more than Rush Limbaugh.
- And in this same vein—y’all, please quit using social media as your plumb line for public discourse (says the woman writing a blog post that will be posted across social media!). Seriously. Consider this a gentle reminder that just because the Internet says it, that doesn’t mean it’s true. And also a caution that our ability to post, tweet and insta our every thought and feeling does not mean we should. I have seen the absolute worst of humanity on the Internet these last few days. From all sides. And have been unbelievably disappointed at the vitriol coming from those who claim peace and justice for all.
- I believe racism and sexism played a role in this election–but I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by pinning the entire fiasco on those two things alone. Played a role? Yes, as they do every day in our country. The driving force behind the whole thing? No. What I do believe is that, per Cool Hand Luke,”What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” And I mean that in the most profound of ways–I’m not being flippant. We literally have no idea how to just talk to each other in this country–really talk. And really listen. And really try–try our hardest, no matter how uncomfortable it gets–to walk in another’s shoes.
Y’all. There’s a lot at stake. And these are scary and uncertain times. But in the democracy that is the United States, no one person can define us. Even if that person is the President. And when folks act in hate or anger in that President’s name, it’s our job to combat that with an equal-plus measure of love and grace. I’ve no illusions that this will be easy. But I’m willing to try. Because where we are as a nation is on all of us, in some form or fashion, and it will take all of us to get to a better place.
No one party, theology, or ideology gets the main stage. We all play a part. And it seems to me our best bet is to start playing our part well.
ICYMI, the Cubs won the World Series a couple weeks back. And my dad told me a story he heard about an exchange between a rookie Cub and the soon-to-be retired David Ross. The young Cub was anxious. Wound up. All agog with the World Series and how to manage the excitement and stress of it, and he asked Ross how to get through it. And Ross said, simply, “Just breathe.”
So y’all…just breathe. We have it in us to get past the ways this election has exposed our worst behaviors and divisions as a country. We have it in us to be better than this. So…just breathe. This is just one part of our story as a nation…one part. And it will not on its own equal the sum total of who we are. So…just breathe.
We might even–all of us, on every side–be surprised by something good in the process.