On Pressing Forward after the Election

My son is curled up next to me, snoring in his sleep, battling the 101-degree fever that started around 1 am Wednesday morning – right when the election news was rolling in. He has not allowed me to leave his side and even curled up in my lap through two movies and about 100 books. If you know him, you know this means he is really sick. Or really scared. Maybe he has internalized my pain.

In some ways, caring for him yesterday postponed my processing of the election. But, more importantly, it filled me with love.

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We will always be proud of how we voted this year.

Love
I genuinely believe that love trumps hate. That light drives out darkness. That in times of great division and fear, we must turn to love. But what does this really mean? And what does this mean right now?

To me, it means to love as Christ did. To see others as Christ sees them. To see their humanity and to recognize our kinship as children of God. Our Father in heaven loves all of us. We must do the same, even when we disagree. Even when we are wronged. Even when we are hurt. We must embrace love.

This love must be unconditional, but it does not have to be blind. Christ loves us, so he shows us our weaknesses and asks us to repent. He tells us when we are wrong, when we make mistakes, when we sin; He asks us to be better. He gives us a way to be better. So, like Christ, we must love and we must listen. But, we must also call out hatred and injustice and bigotry and ignorance when it exists.

We love, and we fight for light.

Acknowledgement
To fight for the light means we must acknowledge that darkness exists. It is not enough to say let’s just be kind to one another. To do so without acknowledging the ugly is more harmful than good. To do so implies the privilege to ignore realities that so many of us have lived for generations. We must be honest. And we can do it with love.

It means acknowledging that yes, many of the white people in middle America feel abandoned and betrayed by government. That people have lost their trust in a government controlled by money and business and lobbying. It means recognizing that most of us feel the same way and want to see change. It also means acknowledging that every marginalized community has always been treated this way and worse. And, regardless of economic circumstance or location, white people still have more power.

It means acknowledging that though there are other factors involved in peoples’ voting decisions, consciously or not, race was absolutely an issue.

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CNN exit polls

It means acknowledging that the person elected to our highest office represents big money and big business and an impunity that harms our democracy and values. That this man rallied his supporters despite a documented background in direct opposition to many of their concerns and needs. It means acknowledging that his narrative was created through rhetoric and bigotry and lies too countless to mention.

It means acknowledging that a man who ran a campaign founded on racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, white nationalism, bullying, fear and lies had the support of enough Americans to be elected to the White House.

It means acknowledging that while not everyone who voted for Trump is overtly hateful or racist – and that many voted for him reluctantly to support political agendas – some are. And they have been given permission to become more vocal and public in their hatred. It has already begun. It means acknowledging that those who voted for Trump, but who professed not to agree with his messaging were nevertheless willing to overlook, accept and support it with their ballots. It means that nearly half the voters in this country willingly chose to perpetuate racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and xenophobia and discrimination. It also means they can say they weren’t supporting those things – because for them, those are just ideas, not active threats. But regardless of how they justify it, the overall results endorse bigotry.

It means acknowledging that while some people have the privilege of claiming this is just about politics, for marginalized communities – people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, disabled people, women, Muslims, immigrants – this goes much deeper. This is about humanity and survival and life.

It means recognizing that for us, the fear is real. The trauma is real. The terror is real. This is not leftist political fear-mongering or over-exaggeration. This is a genuine response to Trump’s threats and words and actions. Just listen to the children. Listen to the teachers who had to go into classrooms Wednesday morning to talk with youth filled with terror. Pay attention to the things that have already started happening, even in liberal strongholds. It is a response to a legitimization of white nationalism. To the silencing of women and the acceptance of sexual assault. To the vitriol against Muslims and immigrants. It is knowing history and fearing its repetition.

It means learning about reconstruction, Jim Crow, eugenics, the Chinese Exclusion Act, DAPL, indigenous history, Tuskegee, and farm workers’ history, just to name a few. It means learning about voter suppression, the resurgence of voter ID laws and this year’s attack on voting rights.

It is about admitting that the ugliness exists, even if the brighter part of our souls wants to believe it doesn’t. It’s about choosing to confront the ugly rather than try to interpret it in a way that makes us feel better. Some people have expressed surprise. Not all of us have lived this privilege of looking away. We invite you to see the world as it has looked from our eyes all along.

I am afraid. I am terrified. I think about internment camps and concentration camps. About medical bills and an environment destroyed. I fear a loss of rights that took years to achieve. I fear a nation pushed backwards fifty years into a hole that will take generations to escape.

I fear. I tremble. I’m angry. But, I won’t wallow here. I will harness my emotions into power.

Empathy
For now, please don’t tell me it will all be okay. One must have a lot of privilege to say it will be okay. Most people saying this are White. Maybe it will be okay for you. And, to be honest, I’m glad about that. At least it will be okay for some.

But, it will not be okay for everyone. No Child Left Behind was not okay for the generation of students forced to practice taking multiple choice tests at the expense of genuine learning. It was not okay for students who never got art or music or physical education in schools. It will continue to have lasting effects on individual lives, schools and society for generations to come. The economic collapse of 2008 was not okay for people who lost homes, lost savings, lost jobs, lost everything. Maybe you were able to choose a neighborhood or pay for a school that provided a progressive education and more opportunities. Maybe you had enough of a buffer to survive and even benefit from others’ economic tragedy. But not everyone had that choice.

It will not be okay for the families who are torn apart. It will not be okay for the refugees who are turned away. It will not be okay for young people who will be ripped from schools and jobs because they were brought to our country as children. It will not be okay for people threatened by or hurt by violence. This is literally a matter of life and death for some. It will not be okay if millions of people lose their health insurance. It will not be okay if our economy collapses. Maybe you will be able to weather that storm – but remember the privileges that helped you get where you are. Not everyone has those.

It will not be okay for anyone if our planet and our environment are destroyed. No one has the privilege of avoiding those effects.

This is how I feel today. Maybe many of these things are fears that will never find fruition. I hope so. I hope the man who campaigned is a different leader than the person he presented as a businessman and campaign figure. As Hillary reminded us, we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. But, I am more than a little skeptical.

Don’t tell me things will be okay. Don’t ask me to keep you comfortable. Listen and tell me, we will get through this. Because we will get through this implies difficulty; it implies perseverance and hard work and action. Things won’t be okay unless we plan and prepare for the changes that may come, until we acknowledge the real and lasting effects they will have. Until we work through things together.

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We will look up toward hope and light.

Hope
Still, I have hope. There are still so many reasons to hope.

I have hope in my husband, who has the courage to share his opinions publicly despite hurtful responses from beloved extended family members. I have hope in former students who voted for the first time, got out the vote in Philly, studied to be informed decision makers and protested in the streets. I have hope in Pantsuit Nation, whose stories and posts have been inspiring and moving. I have hope in the people who reached out to me today, in the hugs and communities that are being galvanized toward action. I have hope in the group of Mormons I talked with last night at a book-signing event – faithful men and women who are devastated, empowered and willing to act.

I have hope and tremendous pride in a California who voted forward as the nation turned backward. I have hope that we will again be the rebel state leading the country back into the future.

I have hope because Hillary won the popular vote. I have hope knowing the majority of voting citizens did not choose the ideologies and rhetoric of division strewn by Trump.

I have hope that yesterday’s election will catalyze action among those who have been complacent. I have hope that people will be motivated to share opinions they have previously held close for fear of judgment or offense. I have hope people will realize these fears are what prevent us from generating dialogue toward change.

I have hope because, as Theodore Parker once wrote, history shows that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It is painful and slow, but it always does in the end.

I have hope that the emotions of the moment will turn into committed actions over time.

As for me, I will keep writing. I will sign petitions. I will go to protests and donate money. I will fight DAPL and stay informed about issues. I will vote in every election and write to elected officials. I will make my home a refuge for those that need one. When my home fills up, I will make room elsewhere. I will teach my children.

I will practice civil disobedience. As Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

I will not sit idly by to watch as others fight on. I will fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith. All of our voices and our actions matter more than ever.

Be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. Out of small things proceedeth that which is great. – Doctrine and Covenants 64:33

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