Monday, November 14, 2016

Onward

I woke up on Wednesday morning hoping for some good news. But as Mark Johnson came walking down the hall sighing and shaking his head, I knew what he was about to say. The New York Times headline read "Trump Triumphs." Everything was about to change.

We had decided to turn off the TV on election night around 11:00 PM. Things were not looking good for Hillary, but we thought there might still be a chance. Now it was officially over. I laid back down on the bed as Mark Johnson went about his usual morning routine. Sometimes I try to fall back asleep while he gets ready for work, but I knew that wasn't going to happen. My mind was racing. As soon as he came out of the shower, I uttered these words "I'm scared."

Being a person with anxiety, fear is something I am used to. Many of my fears are completely unfounded. They come from an overactive brain and excessive worrying about things I cannot control. Many of my fears are easily alleviated with a few deep breaths and a little perspective.

But that morning, I wasn't afraid for me. I was afraid for our country. I was afraid for women, and Muslims, and Mexicans, and African Americans. I was afraid for my nieces and nephews and all children. I was afraid for people who are sick or disabled, like my Mr. Big. And I was afraid for all of the people who are vulnerable and rely on our government just to stay afloat.

Both feeling disheartened, we decided not to watch the news or get on any social media. We knew that there would be a lot of anger out there and we thought it would be best to just avoid it. So we tried to stay close to home and focus our attention inward. For the next few days, we cooked dinner together, took our evening walks, read books and wrote in our journals. Amidst any of those activities, we would sometimes pause and look up at each other and one of us would say "I can't believe Trump is going to be President."

After a few days, I ventured out onto the Internet just to see the final results. It was then that I discovered Hillary had actually won the popular vote. I texted Mark Johnson to see if he knew. And it turned out he had also gotten a glimpse of a headline that said the same thing. I remember when Al Gore won the popular vote and lost the presidency. And everyone vowed to do something about the electoral college process. But then everyone moved on. And nothing changed.

It is funny how history repeats itself. Although this time it felt even worse. Mostly because Trump is such a divisive personality. Like everyone else, I have been repeatedly offended by what he has said and done throughout the election. There are not even words to describe my feelings about him.

But setting all of that aside, I really don't think this election was about Trump. It was about all of us. The people who voted for him and the people who didn't. And the people who didn't vote at all. The reason Trump was able to win the election is because people are frustrated with the government and all of the gridlock in Washington. They want someone to come in and shake things up. It is the same reason many of us voted for Obama in 2008.

Trump was able to capitalize on that frustration. I don't mean to oversimplify things. I know that there are also people who voted for him because they agree with a lot of his racist, misogynist and homophobic views, but I do not believe the majority of people in our country feel that way. I think that people felt they had to choose between the lesser of two evils, and for some of them, that was Donald Trump.

Hillary was not my first choice for president. I was a Bernie supporter, but eventually I came around and voted for Hillary. The reason I voted for her is that I know she is highly qualified and I felt that she would move the country in a direction that was generally consistent with my beliefs and values. That said, I wouldn't say I liked Hillary. To me, she seemed insincere. And I felt that she played a lot of the same games as other long-time politicians, and she got her funding through the PACs even though she said she supported campaign finance reform. It is hard to argue that you can be part of the solution when you are also part of the problem.

As a woman, I was disappointed that the would-be first woman president got there by the same underhanded and dirty politics as the men. Somehow, I expected more of her. I wanted her to be better than that. And maybe it was unfair of me to hold her to a higher standard just because she is a woman. But that is how I felt.

My position on Hillary started to soften after the election. My sister sent me a photo that had gone viral on Facebook. A woman was walking her dogs in a park in New York a few days after the election and she ran into Hillary and Bill walking their dogs. That photo of Hillary had a softness to it. A vulnerability and humanity that I had not seen from her throughout the entire campaign. She looked like an actual person, not a robot reading from a teleprompter.

It was then that I realized something. Hillary may have dodged a bullet by losing this election. And even though she is disappointed, I wonder if somewhere deep down she may actually feel relieved. She was poised to do this huge thing - becoming the first female President of the United States. And now she doesn't have to do that anymore.

Even though I think it would have been better for our country if Hillary was elected, I don't necessarily think it would have been better for her. If Hillary had been elected, she would have been in the same position as President Obama. Stuck with a Republican controlled legislature that has no desire to work with her. It's not like she would have been able to get anything done. And the Republicans would have the sole mission of defeating her in 2020 and making her life miserable for the next four years.

Instead, she can walk away from the pressure cooker of a political life. After living under the intense scrutiny of the public eye for all of these years, she is finally free. Free to do work that really matters, instead of just talking about it. Free to work at her family foundation, or take a job at a non-profit, or follow wherever her heart leads her. As John Steinbeck beautifully states: "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good."

So, the election is over and Trump is going to be President. That is a fact we cannot change. That said, he is only the President. He is not the CEO of the world. And being President is not the same as being a rich and powerful businessman. Everyone will not be lining up to tell him how great his ideas are, or to kiss up to him at functions. There will be plenty of people, including other world leaders, who are not going to just step aside and let him get his way.

With great power comes great responsibility. It is one thing to get on TV and threaten to do all of these things, like repealing Obamacare or deporting all of the Mexicans. But when it comes to real life, there are consequences for doing those things. Many of the policies that Trump wants to repeal may have negative consequences for businesses. And that may create a conflict for him and for the Republicans in the legislature. And there are going to be many voices speaking out and trying to stop him from implementing some of his most harmful campaign promises.

Even when you want to do something good, it seems that things in Washington take a lot longer and are more complicated than you ever had imagined. When Obama signed the order to close Guantanamo, he had no idea of the complex maze of political and bureaucratic red tape that was about to ensue. Trump will have to deal with those same challenges.

Even though this is not the outcome I wanted for the election, I have to accept that there is a higher purpose. Just as I accept that in my own life when things do not go the way I had planned. I often think about Shiva, the Hindu God of destruction. He is also sometimes referred to as the transformer, because he does not destroy things merely for the sake of destruction, but to create something new.

Even though it is painful to think about, this election may represent destruction of life as we know it in the United States. But at the same time, it presents the opportunity to reinvent ourselves as something else. Maybe it is the beginning of the re-birth of our democracy. Maybe the fact that someone like Trump could be elected will cause all of use to be more engaged in a political process that we had previously abandoned.

I know that I have taken way too much for granted and assumed that the liberties and protections we have already achieved would remain forever. I do not believe that is the case anymore.

We will all need to be vigilant and speak up over the next four years. We will all need to do our best to protect and defend the rights of all of our citizens, and even those guests in our country who are not yet considered citizens. I'm not sure about you, but those are not things I usually think about, no matter who is President.

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