A Day Removed

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Like many Americans, I woke up sick to my stomach.

Did that just happen? Did we just put a tax-dodging, racist misogynist in the White House to spite the establisment?

It sunk in as my daughter came down the stairs and asked me tentatively, “Did Hillary win?”

I’m sure she already knew from the despondent look on my face.

It was soul crushing to answer her.

I gagged as I said the words.

“No, honey, Donald Trump is the president elect.”

Even now, that has an absurd quality to it I can’t process.

Processing

Work took my mind off it for the moments I wasn’t catching snippets of conversation about the results. I had to fire up a live stream of a contentious commission meeting and remained busy until I had to run my son to the doctor.

He’s 15, and his heart is broken. He’s got a big heart and loves people of all backgrounds. He stands up for his gay friends when they have abuse hurled at them. He defends his Palestinian friends when they are called terrible names.

Trump is everything he has come to resent in white America in his brief lifetime.

I tried desperately to change the subject, but he wanted to process.

Later I watched Hillary’s consession speech and jotted this down.

“And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” – HRC

Soon it became a meme, and I sent it to my daughter on Instagram with a little note attached: I love you.

She wrote me back right after school: I love you too.

I busied myself with work for another hour or two, and then I watched the President give his remarks.

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for that man and the way he encourages America to handle a crisis. I’ve watched him calmly walk us through tragedy after tragedy while always recognizing the inherint good within the human spirit.

I wasn’t hungry, but I ate a leftover piece of chicken and some green beans for lunch pondering the pang in my gut.

I didn’t talk about the election with anyone. I slowly turned the shock over in my mind until it began to resonate.

I met up with an old friend from high school for a late-afternoon walk in the late-fall sunshine. And we never mentioned the president elect the entire time.

At my desk, again, I read something that made some sense in all the chaos.

We are not a hopelessly divided country. Red and blue states, purple states. We’re not rural America and and the liberal coasts.

We’re an evolving country whose strength and resolve has always been in the eye of the beholder.

When we look around and see those around us, we are comfortable with that view, with their views.

If you don’t have any or just a few black friends, Jewish friends, gay friends, Muslim friends or friends with mental health issues, then your America is going to look a lot like the people who voted for the Donald.

The many Americas

Your America is also very white, generally well-behaved, probably entitled, definitely uncomfortable with anything that doesn’t fit your thought patterns, some degree of racist, homophobic and scared.

Oh, and Christian. Because your America was founded as a “Christian” nation. One nation under God, in God we trust and all of that.

Someone else’s America is more colorful, has some gay and lesbian aunties or brothers and some mixed-race marriages. It’s complex and stretches back several generations to before Texas was a state, but it doesn’t matter that they’ve lived here longer than the U.S. has been a country, they are brown-skinned interlopers.

Another person’s America is confined to the seven blocks of their South Side Chicago neighborhood. They can’t leave the neighborhood to buy cheaper food, let alone vote, because they will be shot dead by rival gangs. And they’re only in a gang themselves for the minimal protection it affords them in the limited areas they can travel any given day.

These Americas do not bleed into one another. They do not cross paths or mix in any way. These Americas may not even know the other exists if it weren’t for the way they are depicted by the warring media factions at CNN and Fox.

The cities have blended cultures since the beginning of everything. While the vast stretches of the West have allowed people to live almost untouched by society for the same timeframe.

It has been said of this election that rural America has not been listened to, had gone unheeded by the establishment, and the Donald is payback for all the neglect.

It’s been said that the liberal elites on the Left Coast and the establishment, monied liberals on the East Coast need to try and understand rural America better.

But this is an inaccurate picture. The cities were the foundations from which Manifest Destiny sprang, and which is alive and well in the hearts of rural Americans like the brothers Bundy.

The cities birthed the Civil Rights Movement, feminism and gay rights. The cities are the constantly evolving mix of the young and the old, the vast array of skin colors, religious beliefs and cultural practices.

The truth is that rural America needs to look toward its own future. America is more brown than white, though power is still consolidated. Rural America needs to come to grips with the changes cities have been experiencing for 200 years.

This is not about rural life and the desire to live rugged, individual lives. This is for the isolationist set who refuse to see beyond the borders of their small towns to the massive generational, cultural and religious shifts that have swept over America in the last five years.

The president was right, we have to find a way to come together, because those divides are too deep to attempt alone.

The only reason I have to hope is that America overcame a Civil War, a Great Depression and Two World Wars.

It has already overcome the explicit racism of slavery. I have to believe it can overcome sexism and misogyny and candidates supported by the KKK.

I don’t know this, but I so badly want to believe it.

I’ll be processing this for many days and nights to come. My stomach will remain in knots for some time, as I try to reconcile the the many Americas I know and the ones I still don’t know well.

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