The events of the 2016 presidential election in the United States left me feeling…well, it’s quite difficult to put words to it, really. Honestly, I can say that I’ve never felt that particular hodgepodge of emotions before, and I hope that I won’t ever have to feel it again! As we know however, the future is an uncertainty and I have to accept the fact that events may just not go the way I want them to — even really big events of historic proportions. While I cannot find any good, as of yet, in the political outcome of the election, I am starting to move beyond the emotional, reactionary, and defensive, and into the realm of healing, understanding, and genuine compassion and interest. I do not accept that half of my fellow citizens have an intentional malice toward others for no reason. I know first-hand that U.S. Americans are a people who value fair-dealing, straight-talking and equality. Yet, with that said, it is impossible for me to pretend that I, as a cisgender queer white male, have had a full glimpse into the limitations and systemic under-thumbing that many of my fellow citizens who are not of that particular intersectional identity have had. In short, I know that I am privileged and I believe that in that knowledge lies the first footing of our climb toward a better, and fairer tomorrow.
Politics in the USA are particularly polarizing, likely because we have only two viable political parties, thereby enforcing an either/or mentality. I think anyone with half a brain can understand exactly who those are who benefit from this dichotomous splitting of the populace. I doubt however that most understand just how intentional the enforcement of that rift is. By pitting us against each other, having us devolve into petty squabbling about issues that really require no political debate at all and are matters of individual liberty, the work of the power-merchants quite astoundingly takes care of itself. A divided people is a conquered people. My aim here is not to come across as some sort of revolutionary. I deplore revolution! Instead, I draw comfort and security in knowing that there is an ever-unfolding evolution that carries us all forward; sometimes faster and sometimes slower than we might like. I believe that we are now at a place where we must evolve or face the consequences of our laziness, clannishness, our knee-jerk judgements in ‘othering’ before we have had any chance at all to understand what the phrase, “These United States…” might mean to people who don’t look like us, speak the same language as we do, share our religious convictions, or have access to the privilege that we take as a given. That means all of us have to reassess. All of us, even us liberals who are often so very self-congratulatory and satisfied with ourselves for being, “woke”.
Clinton’s loss for me, somehow underlined latent fears and mistrust that I’d always harbored toward my own people. I took the rejection of her liberal-centrist platform as a rejection of those Americans who identified with that platform. When we were called snowflakes, or social justice warriors, or leftist weirdos, I sincerely didn’t grasp how my liberal viewpoint couldn’t be shared by the whole country. Liberal, after all, comes from the Latin for free, and doesn’t everyone want to be free? Well, that’s a much more involved question than I could ever attempt to answer here, but I am coming to realize that pinning down a meaning for words like freedom, might be the work of a lifetime, of generations, maybe of forever. Perhaps such dreams cannot be interpreted or relayed, maybe they have to be dreamt and re-dreamt until they aggregate into a collective unconsciousness whereby reference points such as origin are so forgotten and unnecessary that they become regarded as purely obvious. We are not there yet.
“If at first you don’t succeed — try, try again.” So for me, it is back to work. Back to doing my small part in the unfolding of the American experiment. I cannot be certain that it will all go the way I hope, for that is the nature of experiments. What I can do however, is look into my neighbor’s eyes. I can hug my radically politically opposite-minded family members and tell them that I am happy to see them, and I can mean it. I can show up and share my point of view, and maybe even more vitally, I can listen. I can listen when the words I hear make my blood boil, when I fear that I might disproportionately react to an opinion which I find abhorrent, dismissive, abusive, or bigoted. I can listen without feeling that I have to debate and negate the arguments given by people with whom I disagree concerning policies I find unjust. And most importantly, and I believe that here is where we will find our work over the course of these next years, I can slowly, excruciatingly slowly, interject spaces of commonality, equity, agreement, fairness, optimism, progress, and evolution. It is a long march forward, and when we get there, and WE WILL GET THERE, we will need as many free hands, and willing helpers as possible to turn that collective recurring dream into something that might bravely be called tomorrow.