One week ago today, the day after the election, I picked myself up off the floor, left my boathouse at Shilshole Bay Marina and walked down to the beach.
It was quiet. Calm. Slightly overcast, with bits of blue sky and wispy, sunlit clouds hinting at a brighter afternoon. Just a sprinkling of people on the beach.
I was aware of a creeping sense of vulnerability. I felt shaky. Unsafe. Uncertain I began to wonder about the people I passed on the path. Did that guy vote for him? Did she? How were they feeling about it? Were they as confused as I was?
I saw one woman sitting alone on a log. Our eyes met. “How are you doing?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said simply. “I just didn’t know what to do with myself today so I came here to sit for a while.” We talked about the impact on women. “Yes, women do stand to lose a lot,” she said. “But it’s bigger than that.” (Bigger than a man who proclaims his entitlement to grab women by their genitals being elected to the highest office in the United States?)
Yes. Bigger than that. Much bigger than that.
Continuing on my walk, I saw three women in hijabs walking together. I knew that I needed to talk to them.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I’m sorry for what happened last night. For what our country did.” One of them embraced me. Smiling, they told me that I was the second person to approach them. They expressed uncertainty about whether they should leave the country. One wondered if there would be camps set up to contain them. It’s happened before. Remember the Japanese interment camps during WWII, right here in the U.S.? And late ‘30s/early ‘40s Germany? Enough said.
As the days went on I read voraciously. I stuck to analyses, un-emotional views of what happened and why. I talked to friends, some of whom wept at the number of people we share this country with who voted for a man who vomits hatred and has openly legitimized racism and sexism. Indeed, since the election there has been a shocking increase in racially motivated hate crimes.
As I read, I began to understand that a wide swath of our country feels disconnected from our government leaders. They don’t understand the words these leaders speak. Their lives get worse no matter who is in office. This man spoke their language. He offered something different than the politician du jour. He promised to take a giant sledgehammer to the whole mess and start over again. He appealed to people’s deep-seated feelings of powerlessness. And he offered them enemies. People to target. To hate. To blame.
This has happened around the world, particularly in the Arab and African nations who have been subjected to dictatorships and occupations which, by the way, “the U.S. has propped up and maintained positive ties with over the years,” as written by Malak Chabkoun, a Middle Eastern writer and researcher based in the U.S., in an article on Al Jazeera. Chabkoun reminds us, though, that unlike in those countries, this man was chosen by the people of the United States, not “imposed on them by occupation or intervention.”
Sadly, the voters in this country who voted for Trump are expecting results that will benefit them. They will be sorely disappointed because contrary to what Trump promised, things are rigged to benefit the wealthy. Not the working class. When that becomes clear – and it will - that we may all begin to better understand one another – to join together and realized that we have a common enemy.
We have all been little frogs in the same frying pan, as one of the Muslim women I met on the beach reminded me. And the heat has been turned up slowly. The sooner we realize that we are in this pan together the better.
Hate is never the answer. Hating those who voted for Trump – or against him - is not the answer. That won’t accomplish anything but to pave the way for more of the same. We are better than that.
We absolutely have to get out in the streets, participate in the protests and speak up for what is right. Get out of that frying pan before it boils. But the protests must be focused on issues. Not just anger that the election didn’t go your way. Protests must be informed and visible and three dimensional and loud. Knee jerk responses don’t work. Point and click protesting doesn’t work.
The Senate, the House, the Executive Branch, and soon the Supreme Court are setting the stage to remove rights that we have spent centuries fighting for. The mark of a true democracy is not people complaining and whining and crawling under the covers in despair but getting out there and demanding change and justice for all of their fellow citizens.
This is our democracy. Those people work for us. They have to answer to us.
But only if we get loud enough for them to hear us. All of us.