It’s taken me a few days to process my thoughts and actually get to a point where I can put words down in regards to the election last week. I feel like it would be a lie of omission not to discuss it here, even if I risk offending people. At this point, though, I’m sure I’ve offended enough people in real life, so I suppose it doesn’t matter if I go for a few more.
The thing is, actually, I want to apologize. Throughout a lot of the campaign, I came out swinging with the opinion and the attitude that supporting Trump was a moral offense. While I do find him morally corrupt and generally bereft of any goodness, that doesn’t mean that everyone who voted for him should be lumped in that same category. Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, even if he is. Not everyone who voted for Trump is sexist, even though he is. Not everyone who voted for Trump is ignorant, even though he is. So I feel like I should say sorry for not being able to see that when I assigned his characteristics to all his supporters, I was wrong. And I am hopeful that even if you did vote for him, if you see people acting in a racist, sexist, or ignorant way in his name (or even not in his name), you speak up to stop them.
I won’t however, back down from my opinions on Trump himself. I believe him to be willfully uninformed, capable of giving only headline-level opinions on subjects which he has not researched and doesn’t truly understand. I believe him to be inflammatory and attention-seeking in the worst possible ways, and I don’t believe he has the ability to engage in self-reflection or soul-searching. I see in him the embodiment of every self-important asshole blowhard I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with. And I worked on Capitol Hill and I was in the military; I’ve dealt with a lot of blowhards in my time — both men and women. I find Trump disgusting in his celebration of ignorance and I will never be able to accept or understand how anyone doesn’t find him repulsive. I believe him to be unworthy of the position to which he has been elected.
But. BUT. I am capable of self-reflection and soul-searching, and I’ve done a lot of it in the last few days. I want to think I wouldn’t have gloated had Hillary won the electoral college, but I know that’s probably not true. I want to believe that I would have been able to stay above the fray, but I know that I would have written and said that the country had averted disaster and thanked the gods that ignorance and hate hadn’t won the day. And then I would again have been assigning Trump’s lack of virtue to all the people who voted for him, and that’s not fair.
I have spent the last few days arguing, mostly via social media, with people who still defend the things Trump has said and done that have marginalized minorities, women, the LGBT community, the disabled. I cannot reconcile my views with theirs. I do think that anyone who isn’t at least a little offended by his remarks about those groups either needs to do a little soul-searching of their own or is actually ignorant, racist, or homophobic. I realize now, though, after wasting my time trying to argue at or reason with people whose views have offended me, that I cannot force people to be tolerant, but that I can refuse to lower myself to their level and that I must be tolerant myself regardless of their behavior.
So here I want to say, if you voted for Trump, I don’t agree with you. But I don’t automatically assume you are a bad person, either. I will work hard to try to better understand the motivations of people who make different choices than me, and I will only assign words like racist, homophobe, and ignorant to people who act in such a way as to deserve them. And I will remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
I went into Election night with such high hopes for several reasons. The first, and maybe the biggest, was that I wanted to see a woman elected President. As a feminist who vocally believes that women’s rights are human rights and that feminism is the case for EQUAL rights, as a woman who has worked in male dominated fields and knows the challenges it can bring, as a human who wants to see myself represented in my government, and as a mother who wants her daughter- and her sons – to know that no role or career is off-limits solely because of gender, I desperately wanted to witness that final glass ceiling shatter into a million pieces and rain down on all the misogyny and sexism and unfairness I’ve ever experienced. I wanted to cry with joy at the knowledge that my country was finally ready to admit that women and men are equal. And I really, really wanted to watch a woman govern as President.
The next reason I was hopeful was because from an actual policy standpoint, I agree with Hillary Clinton’s proposed plans and platforms more than I have agreed with probably any candidate I’ve ever voted for before. During the primaries, though, I supported Bernie Sanders, because I thought she was too loaded with baggage to really win, and that if Bernie was able to accomplish even a fraction of what he hoped to do, he would and could drastically change the shape of America for the better. But he’s a bit too liberal, even for me. Hillary and I, we see eye to eye. The more I read her plans, the more I examined her opinions and her stances and her priorities, the more excited I was about her Presidency.
And the final reason, but the one I was probably most vocal about prior to the election, is that I think Donald Trump is a huge asshole, big-league, and I wanted to watch his facade of male dominance and celebrated stupidity crumble like a house of cards. My baser instincts wanted to see him unable to handle his loss and I wanted to watch him crawl away into the hole where I think he belongs. I’m disappointed in myself that I talked more about this than the reasons why I supported Hillary Clinton. He didn’t deserve the energy I wasted thinking and talking about him.
As I sat on my couch until 4AM here in the UK and watched the swing states slowly turn red, despair crept right in. I sobbed when Hillary conceded and I spent most of the day in tears. Not because I’m a delicate flower who is oversensitive and can’t stand to lose, but because I truly and honestly fear that the atmosphere that Donald Trump cultivated and encouraged during his candidacy has given a voice to hatred and I am afraid of what will happen to those groups he marginalized and mocked.
While I respect the right of the people protesting in the streets to make their voices heard, I think there are better ways to affect change. And while I am certain that, had the results of the election been different, similar protests from Trump’s supporters would have taken place, I still feel like the protesters are just providing fodder to be used against the cause of progressivism. Protesting injustice is noble to be sure, but this election result wasn’t unjust. Just unfortunate.
I am also mad at myself because I really did nothing to involve myself in the political process, nothing to get out the vote, nothing to support the causes or the candidates I believe in except to talk. And a lot of the talking I did was more to disparage the opposition than to explain why I supported my candidate. I am guilty of expecting other people to do the work while I sat back, and that is unacceptable. It won’t happen again. If nothing else, this shocking election was a wake-up call that I must be more involved in actively supporting the people and causes I believe in. I’ll take that as the silver lining.
Unfortunately, for the next few years at least, I have a feeling that I have my work cut out for me. I have a feeling that I will spend a lot of my time horrified. I have a feeling that things will get worse before they get better. I think there’s a very good chance that a Trump administration will do grave damage, not just in terms of foreign or domestic policy, but environmentally and socially as well. I am confident, though, that he can only delay progress, not stop it forever.
So although it took me a few days to recover, I’ve got my feet back under me. Dwelling on what went wrong will not make a difference. Now is the time to get to work. And I’m sorry it took me so long to realize that.