It is the day after the election. Donald Trump has more than enough electoral votes to win the presidency (However, Hillary Clinton, as of this writing, leads in the popular vote—one of the ironies of the U.S. electoral system.) and many of us are in mourning and are fearful for the future. A day many of us hoped would be one of celebration has turned instead to one of sackcloth and ashes. It is a day, such as Octavia Butler describes, when stability can disintegrate.
When stability disintegrates
When apparent stability disintegrates,
As it must—
God is Change—
People tend to give in
To fear and depression,
To need and greed.
When no influence is strong enough
To unify people
One against one,
Group against group,
For survival, position, power.
They remember old hates and generate new ones,
They create chaos and nurture it.
They kill and kill and kill,
Until they are exhausted and destroyed,
Until they are conquered by outside forces,
Or until one of them becomes
Most will follow,
Or a tyrant
∞ = Δ
(The Book of the Living, verse 17)
As Greg Sargent said in the Washington Post today:
“Campaign 2016 presented the occasion for a grand argument between a vision of an evolving America that embraces pluralism, tolerance, inclusion, and cultural change — and one that is standing athwart those changes.”
And this time, what I see, what many of us see, as the positive vision of change lost against a different vision, one that is reactionary and rooted in an unwillingness to give up privilege and dominance, unwilling to adopt a broader vision of America as a bastion of progressive values, one unwilling to see this new vision as the one for a greater America—one that seeks not to make “America Great Again,” but one that seeks to embrace all of America and make it even Greater than it has ever been.
So we have lost this battle. We will mourn, we will rant, we will cry to the heavens, we will be afraid. All of this is appropriate. But we must also look at what has happened. Is this all just a matter of not “getting the vote out,” of not spending campaign money in the right places, of the candidate for progress that was perhaps too weighed down by her political baggage, or of running a bad campaign? Or is there more going on?
I think we need to look more deeply. What gave Trump his power despite his un-savoriness, his nastiness, his bigotry and misogyny? He hit a responsive nerve and that can’t be denied. In our push for change, we have left people behind, and maybe we have been too arrogant in doing so.
Speaking at the LGBT for Hillary Gala in New York City on Sept. 9, 2016, Hillary Clinton spoke about the “basket of deplorables,” and that got taken up by Trump and Trumpers as a point of pride. She was speaking of “the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic,” but spinmaster that Trump is, he expanded the term to include all of his supporters. But that is not what she was saying. She was speaking of those whose deep-seated and irrational hatreds keep them from being reasonable and keep them closed to any kind of change that we would be considered progressive.
But in that same speech, she talks about the “other basket,” those “who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”
I believe this latter group is the one who primarily elected Trump. These are the ones we have left behind, who we have not reached, who are desperate for things to be the way they once were. They have not been convinced that the changes that the Democrats represented in this election would heal their wounds or soothe their concerns. Instead, they grasped for change that was more comfortable, that promised them what they felt had been denied them or taken away. They voted from hope, and faith, and desperation.
But does this have to be that kind of day, one where stability disintegrates, where we give up the hope for change we know is needed? I think we must first begin with this:
To make peace with others,
Make peace with yourself:
Shield the weak.
Treasure the innocent.
Be true to the Destiny.
Forgive your enemies.
∞ = Δ
(The Book of the Living, verse 52)
There are ways that we can do this, despite Trump and the Trumpers. The Huffington Post ran an article today, If You’re Overwhelmed by The Election, Here’s What You Can Do Now, that gives a list with three types of action that we can use to Shape Change:
- Volunteer – There are plenty of organizations out there that simply need your time.
- Practice Self-Care – It’s easy to forget that taking care of yourself is just as important as going out and doing something and Self-Care includes reaching out to support groups and hotlines if you find yourself in need of someone to talk to or having suicidal thoughts.
- Donate – Groups and organizations who are fighting the good fight are always in need of money and donating to them is one way to act for change.
To their three basics, I would add, at a minimum, the following:
- Read, Watch, Listen and Keep Informed – Not knowing what is going on means you can be left behind, or just put behind the 8 Ball. Remember it is important not to just ingest what comes from our own points of view, but those of others as well. We can not depend just on our own side to give us the full story. It also means including the points of view of people of all racial makeups, ethnicities, or religious viewpoints. Besides getting the fuller story, it can alert us when we’ve gone off course, when the needs of everyone are not being listened to or met. Avoid Group Think.
- Show Up – Get involved with your community in some way, and look for ways to become involved with the full spectrum of your community, whether we’re talking age, race, gender, economic class, or any of the other ways we tend to become segregated or segregate ourselves.
- Be Mindful and Compassionate – Act with both forethought and from an open heart.
Of course, there are more ways to engage, to proceed, to keep the faith, but these serve as beginning steps for us, the next stage in this war to establish this new great progressive awakening. Verse 56 of The Book of the Living, speaks of the destructive consequences of when Vision fails. I do not think our Vision has failed us. We just need to work for it a bit longer, a bit harder, and keep the faith that we can Shape the Change that our Vision of the Greater America requires to bring it to fruition.
So mote it be.