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Random Thoughts on the Election

By November 12, 2016November 19th, 2016rock the vote, save the world, thoughts

This is an assortment of unrelated thoughts that have occurred to me throughout this week. Most of them are devoid of analysis and look here almost exactly they way they did when they first popped in my head. I needed to put them somewhere so I could process them slowly and thoughtfully. Although I strongly encourage discussion and conversation, I strongly discourage trolling and I will delete any comment that isn’t conversational in tone — from either side.

When I was a kid growing up Jewish, we studied the Holocaust a great deal in Hebrew School. I remember coming home one day and asking my parents something like, “Why didn’t anybody do anything to stop Hitler before he had so much power.” Their answer was something along the lines of “I don’t think anybody knew how bad he was until he was in power.”

I sure hope my grandchildren don’t have to ask me if I did something to stop the spread of fascism in America.

We college-educated liberals have walled ourselves off from racism and bigotry. We’re proud of our liberal enclaves and we tend to judge those who don’t live there with us. Trust me. Many of my smart liberal friends don’t understand how I could “choose to live in North Carolina,” as if moving away would fix the problem. We poke our heads out of our enclaves from time to time (some people do it more than others) to yell about equality but always return to the comfort of our enclave. We are shocked and disgusted by the results of the 2016 election, but the election map of the U.S. looks a lot like every other election: mostly red, with isolated spots of blue. Isolated spots. The only states that are all blue are Hawaii and Massachusetts.

I spent time registering voters and canvassing here in my isolated blue enclave. The Democratic party only sent me to talk to other Democrats. I felt like a cartoon activist — not much more effective than ranting on Facebook. We may have actively — rabidly even — worked to get Hillary elected, but the fact is, the country is hurting. People of color are hurting, the urban poor are hurting, union workers are hurting, farmers are hurting, immigrants are hurting.

People are hurting; they aren’t stupid. Even those who aren’t as well-educated as we are aren’t stupid. And we who have sequestered ourselves off in our enclaves (the coastal elite, the city dwellers) tend, for the most part, to be the people who aren’t going to be directly affected by the results of the election. We’re the ones who can afford to be smug and say things like “Well, not all of us are stupid.” And “We’re literally looking into moving to New Zealand.” We’re the ones who crashed the Canadian Immigration servers on election night. We’re the white women who say, “Don’t yell at me — I voted for Hillary.” We’re the fiscal conservatives who say, “I’m not a racist, sexist, bigot; I just liked his policies.”

But guess what college-educated friends. The people who are actually hurting — the people of color, the immigrants, the low-income families, the LGBTQ community — they can’t sit back and become complacent. They can’t secede. They can’t move to New Zealand. They’re stuck here. And we have to take care of them. And figure out how to make their lives better. Us. We have to do it. It’s time to step away from our enclaves and listen to people. Even the people you think are stupid. If we start listening, maybe they won’t yell as much. Maybe they won’t be as defensive. Maybe they’ll actually teach us something.

Are you a Trump supporter who is NOT hateful and bigoted? I believe you. You’re my friend.

But I have a question for you that I’d like you to answer with a simple YES or NO: Do you know Trump supporters who are hateful and bigoted?

If you answered yes, then you need to work extra hard to combat their terror. Stop acting like they don’t exist. Stop acting like they aren’t as dangerous as their words imply. Stop defending them. And for the love of whatever higher power you put your faith in, stop comparing the hate crimes of these domestic terrorists with the protests and riots happening in the wake of the election. They are not the same thing. Painting a swastika on the side of a school is not the same thing as lawfully protesting. Choking a woman by her hijab is not the same thing as breaking a car windshield. You’re my friend. I know you’re smarter than that.

Intimidation and fear are happening. Not all the reports are verified, obviously, but the atmosphere is undeniable. If you aren’t willing to denounce it, you are complicit. Period. Sure, you can’t stop it all by yourself, but you have to at least try. Fight the bystander effect. Be one of the good guys.

I am a white woman. I did not vote for Trump. Lots of white women voted for Trump – a surprising number. My friends of color are emphatically blaming me for the outcome of the election. My job right now is to shut up and listen. Not defend myself. Not tell them how I didn’t vote for Trump. Not assert that some white women aren’t racist.

It feels very uncomfortable because I STRONGLY believe myself to be an ally.

But it is important that I accept this shift in perspective, this opportunity for people of color to point to me as “other.” I need to feel the discomfort, own it, dwell in it, and accept it. Then I need to use that newfound empathy to work toward eliminating the concept of “other” for everyone who feels it.

All white supremacists are white. Does that mean that all white people are white supremacists?

Does that question sound absurd? Let me ask it differently.

All ISIS and ISIL terrorists are Muslims. Does that mean that all Muslims are ISIS and ISIL terrorists?

That’s a true equivalency. Let’s study it closely.

Many “coastal elites” don’t originate from the coast. A whole lot of them moved there from the center of the country. Moving gives people a broader world view because they have the opportunity to experience other cultures. If you stay in the same place your whole life you are not going to understand other cultures. So, while sure, I’m willing, as a so-called coastal elite, to shoulder some of the blame for the outcome of this election, I don’t actually think the blame rests on the shoulders of the people with the broader world views.

When I lived in New York City in the early 90s, I wore a hand-embroidered, colorful, post-hippie vest to work one day. It was the kind of thing you might have bought at the downtown Broadway street market next to Tower Records. This one was sent to me by a friend who lived in Asheville, NC, and made by a friend of hers who also lived in Asheville. Asheville has been a hippie town forever. Clothes like this that are sold at the Broadway street market come from Asheville. The day I wore this vest to work, a co-worker complimented me on it and asked where I got it. When I told her, she replied, incredulously, “They make things like that in North Carolina?”

This woman was born and raised in New York City and had never traveled anywhere else. She believed herself to be culturally savvy because New York is such a cultural melting pot. But even someone born and raised in New York is closed-minded if they haven’t experienced other parts of the world.

The moral of the story: Go out and meet people who aren’t like you. Visit unfamiliar places. Try unfamiliar foods. Listen to unfamiliar music. The world is full of differences. Your way isn’t the only way.

The problem with the internet is that there is something published to support every point of view known to man. It has taken the silos created by the 24-hour news cycle and turned them into bunkers. These bunkers, reinforced by MSNBC, Breitbart, MotherJones, and InfoWars ensure that never again do we have to listen to anyone or anything we don’t want to listen to.

Did someone share a bigoted FoxNews article with you? Just respond with a smug piece from The Hill.

No need to actually engage with the opposing side. Just find an op-ed that does it for you.

Democrats and Republicans alike, when you reply to an accusation with a counter accusation you sound like my kids.

“You wrote all over my paper!!!”

“Well you took my pencil without asking!!!”

The thing is, they’re only 14. And I’m trying to teach them not to do that. We don’t practice “an eye for an eye” here at our house. I certainly don’t want to listen to it outside my house.

If someone points a finger at you, don’t respond by pointing a finger back at them. Listen to them. Hear what they’re saying. Maybe they have a point, maybe they don’t. But only by listening and discussing it with them will you get to the other side. Responding to a grievance with another accusation only makes things worse.

During the election, we could still hope that things were going to be fixed. Now, we have to just watch the changes unfold and there’s nothing we can do about them. That means we have to read articles like this one, or this one, or this one and just sit there stewing in our anger.

Before the election we could point to those articles and say, “See? This is why we can’t elect Trump.”

Not to mention, we’re also stuck in a “dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t” scenario. Let’s say Trump gets convicted of a felony, impeached, and forced to resign, that means we’ve got Mike Pence at the helm. Hardly a reassuring result.

The Electoral College was created by the founding fathers for a few reasons:

  1. They didn’t trust the masses.
  2. Information traveled slowly in the 1800s, and there was no organized party system, which would inherently limit the number of candidates. Instead, a very good candidate could be popular regionally, but remain unknown to the rest of the country. Expand this to the many regions of the country and the vote would be divided and diluted beyond any sort of majority.

However, these concerns have mostly vanished. Political parties are clearly established. Dissemination of information is no longer a problem. (On the contrary, the problem today is that we have far too much information.) And any question of whether the masses are trustworthy become moot when you realize that every other election in the country, from school board to senator, is decided by popular vote.

Between 1789 and 2000, the loser of the popular vote had only become President two times. Twice in 211 years.

Since 2000, it has happened two more times. That’s twice in 16 years.

Which begs the question, does the Electoral College work? And do we still need it? And if not, would it be unconstitutional to eliminate it? (No it wouldn’t be. Article Five of the Constitution was written for this very purpose: to acknowledge that the world evolves and the country’s needs change.)

Clearly this is not the best time to discuss it since the question looks a whole lot like sour grapes on the part of the losing party. But in the coming months this must be a major discussion point. Newt GingrichDonald Trump, and Ben Carson agree.

Be kind to each other. Be kind to everyone. Be kind.

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Amy Cole says:

    Great perspective Laurie. As always. I voted for Trump. And I’m not bigoted, sexist or a racist. And I am definitely open to the fact that I may be wrong, ignorant or both. So I keep reading, researching and listening. Your voice is one to which I will definitely be paying attention.

  • Joyce Rutherford Love says:

    Love this, Laurie – so many good points!

  • Bernard says:

    Thanks for sharing

  • Crabby says:

    I live in the most stereotypical liberal enclave in the country, but I see it a bit differently. Yes, San Francisco and Silicon Valley are full of affluent, college educated, liberal democrats. And I work in an agricultural community that is also home to a large conservative Republican population as well as a large Mexican and Mexican-American population. I’ve been having some really fascinating lunchroom conversations.

    These are all people who love and respect each other, but have strong differences of opinion, not because they are hurting or disenfranchised, but because they have different experiences and views of the world, country and goverment’s role. Impressively, no one cast blame on each other, they cast blame on leaders who divide and manipulate us, on media that simplifies and inflames instead of building understanding. And all sides bemoaned the insults and lack of civility from people on both sides, which we all need to own. Frustrations need better management, its a fading skill set, one I struggle with daily. There are very real fears and valid arguments on both sides, but they are of our leadership, not any external threat. And we have big threats to worry about that jeopardize our common interests, but we focus on the minitia and drama instead. We seem to have lost our unifying identity as Americans. I think that hurts most of all – this idea of opportunity that unifies us and makes our country great seems to be in serious danger. Democrats have failed to live up to the Obamas message of common inspiration. So the question I am most introspective about now is how we do we judge and pressure our own Democratic leadership to do better at building consensus and giving us a positive vision of the future to work toward. Cause its looking pretty bleak. And even I must admit, neither Hillary or Bernie had a prayer of pulling that off. Not sure where we turn next, and we better get to work fast.

    Thanks for giving me a place to meander through my thoughts too. Xoxo

  • Laura says:

    Wonderful rambling thoughts. Keep them coming. Keep this safe space open. Thank you!!

  • Jennifer says:

    Some musings in response that I hope will not offend anyone here: What strikes me as someone who identifies with the liberal elite, but still feels like an “other”, is that, as we move towards autocracy, we all have something about us that makes us an “other”, whether we realize it or not. These vulnerabilities make us fearful as we try to comprehend this new reality. What has also struck me in a disappointing way is how all of the pieces that have been done in a conciliatory tone have been done by successful white men who are without a doubt the liberal establishment, making those of us who identify more with the “other” feel that much more isolated. I question the wisdom in protest, even peaceful protest, at this stage.
    My worst fear is for my daughter right now – she has special needs and is particularly vulnerable socially to bullying. It would be great to hear from Trump supporters that they have her back, that they don’t condone rape or sexual assault, that they don’t want to see the department of education completely defunded, or IDEA removed as a special protection for people who need services in the public schools. It would also be great to know that people who supported Trump want my daughter to have access to safe affordable abortion in the event that she needs it. Those are the things weighing most heavily on my heart, the issues that make us the “other” and make us feel vulnerable.

  • Bill Anlyan says:

    Thank you! An intelligent conversation and for once, I’m not tempted to reply, “Sticks and stones may break your bones….”

  • Suzanne Joyce says:

    Laurie, while I am a part of that educated, liberal enclave, I am from the South and I am a woman. So, I feel that I had two counts against me when it came to trying to get others to consider, to really look at numbers and statistics, to read opinions. I am still in shock, and in fear. While I knew that our country was divided on many issues, I did not realize how deep this division was and how much hatred there was. Now I know, and it is not a good feeling.

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