Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Thoughts on the Election

I'm heartbroken right now. I truly am. Even as the election played out over the past year-and-a-half, even as we walked right up to edge of the abyss yesterday, I remained unswerving and absolutely firm in my conviction that America would pull back from the precipice. That we wouldn't do this to ourselves. But the results are what they are. Donald Trump is our next president, and he'll be entering office with a Republican Senate and a Republican House. So here we are, left to take stock of the new normal in our country.

Twelve years ago I made my very first post on this blog in the aftermath of a presidential election, and now here I sit the morning after another, attempting to sort through the mix of data and opinion that's out there, painting a picture of how what happened last night actually happened. As I come to grips with this reality, I'm angry, I'm scared, and I'm confused. But more than anything I'm sad. And the one thing I keep thinking about is that maybe in some weird way it's my fault. Maybe I didn't do enough.

After all, on some level, all politics is personal. Certainly that's what governs our choices when it comes to these things. And given how Donald Trump made a key pillar of his campaign his desire to prevent Muslims from entering this country, how he both implicitly and explicitly said that American Muslims can't be trusted, that we're somehow less deserving of calling ourselves American, I not only felt those barbs more deeply, it also cut to the heart of a nastiness that's been festering in our discourse for a long time now.

Of course, it wasn't just Muslims that fell under Trump's rhetorical hacksaw, it was also women, African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and any number of other hyphenates. And while his comments in regards to those groups were of course troubling and off-putting, it was what he said about Muslims, and the way they became normalized into the bloodstream as a result, that brought back to the forefront the sobering realization that my American-ness, my love of the country where I was born, would never be enough to overcome my "Other-ness" to some.

But my firm belief is always that once people know you as an actual, living, breathing person, once you're more than a mere abstraction, this kind of thing simply can't work, because suddenly they have an actual point of comparison. And so, when I saw acquaintances, friends, people who I've known for literally decades, say that they were voting for Trump even after having heard his comments about people like me -- denying my rights as an American, my children's rights as Americans -- it didn't feel like a personal betrayal so much as a personal failure. 

Like, if I'd done more to articulate how worrisome this kind of thinking was, done more to put a face on it, maybe it might have made a difference. Then again, maybe not. Maybe I really was never more than just an abstraction for the people who made this choice. Regardless, whether or not President Trump follows through on even a tenth of what he's promised, he's brought the hatefulness that was no impediment to his achieving the highest political office on the planet into the mainstream.

And whatever happens as a result of that rhetoric, the people who voted him into office own that too.

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