“If we withdraw into our grief and abandon those most threatened by Trump’s win, history will never forgive us.” (D.D. Guttenplan, “Welcome To The Fight”, The Nation, Nov. 10, 2016)
The truly crap thing about waking up to find yourself in a nation where hatred and fear carried the election is that it’s hard not to hate those whose oxymoronic hearts are fueled by hate. Hatred towards Blacks, Latinx, women, LGBTQ folks, indigenous peoples, Muslims, Jews, intellectuals, climate scientists, and Syrian refugees. My apologies to anyone I inadvertently left out here, but my list makes its point: The road of hate is slippery. You start out hating one group of people, and you wind up hating most of humanity. Your heart grows harder. Your dissatisfactions multiply. The world takes on an ugly face. A mirror perhaps.
I stayed with MSNBC on election night through all the hours as optimism turned to cautious hope, as hope grasped at every possible straw, as the straws disappeared and the outcome became a grim certainty, right up until Hillary conceded in the early morning of November 9. I stayed because, as Emily Dickinson wrote:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
I usually devote my mornings to writing, but when I awoke after three hours sleep on that post-election day, I crawled to my computer and, fueled by black coffee, did the only thing I could manage: Look for a balm for my broken heart. Something to get me through the next 24 hours, and the four years beyond that.
And I found it in the goodness of all the people out there whose hearts, even when outraged and hurting, do not harbor hate. I share here excerpts from two of those messages:
“Let’s get all these words out of the way: Devastated. Angry. Heartbroken. Outraged. Shocked. Sad. Disgusted. Ashamed. Discouraged. Exhausted. Shattered.
And now four more words — the most important ones: THESE. DOORS. STAY. OPEN.
… It’s up to us to keep fighting to protect Planned Parenthood health centers, so they can continue to serve the people who rely on them — people who come from communities that need our continued support in this new reality — immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community, people of faith, and more …
[These] doors will stay open because our voices get louder. Our determination grows stronger. And our commitment to protecting the rights and health care of millions of people is unwavering.
Whatever you’re feeling today, know that there are millions of us who feel the same way — and we aren’t going anywhere. I’m holding on tight to that truth this morning as I think about what comes next. It is so good to know we can count on each other, especially now.” (Planned Parenthood)
“Tragically, Donald J. Trump is the president-elect of the United States… As we watched state after state turn red, we could not escape the realization that the country was taking a sharp turn for the worst.
To be clear, we’re under attack and we’re scared for our families and loved ones …
The stakes have never been higher. We have work to do and we need to be powerful enough to organize and refuse to support Trump’s regime and its heinous agenda …
In the face of a government that will force deportations, engage in rabid sexism, cultivate overt appeals to white nationalism and enforce brutal crackdowns on protesters, we have a duty and responsibility to act, to build, and to resist hate, fear, and violence.” (Presente Action)
Fighting Hate With Love
As a force in the world, I’m not certain love is stronger than hate. But it certainly is healthier. Hate maims, kills, sucks all the oxygen from our lives, from the planet. Love creates, rejuvenates, breathes life, breeds joy and connection. In the face of the fight ahead, we will need great quantities of love to fuel our efforts. Without love, how can we fight for a more loving world? Hate robs us of our humanity. Without our humanity, how can we build a more humane society? The signature of love is social justice. The signature of hate is revenge. I want to fight hate with all the love in my heart.
And when enough of us do that together, love will trump hate.
I’m ANGRY. Angry that so many of my fellow citizens voted for a man endorsed by white supremacists; a man who has vowed to ignore our commitments to the Paris Agreement dealing with climate change, who would let our beautiful planet, with its abundant life, rot so that fossil fuel billionaires can bank more billions; a sexual predator who thinks of women as toys to be used and discarded, and LGBTQ people as “abominations”; a man who has … well, the list goes on and on with every nightmare scenario imaginable for both domestic and foreign policy.
But anger is an emotion, in the abstract neither good nor bad and with the potential to be either. All the reports say Trump’s supporters were angry, angry, angry. But instead of channeling that anger into positive action for a better world, they let it rankle inside. Become something toxic. Become the hatred and distrust of everyone “else.” That’s what unfocused anger becomes: hatred.
To be constructive, anger must fuel positive action. Personally, I don’t have the time or energy to spend hating the people who would destroy this planet, deport my friends, steal my children’s future. Better to take the love I have for my fellow human beings, the animals, our world, and this life—and let that love direct my anger in fighting the people and policies that would harm them. There were many messages, like this one, in my Inbox on November 9, reminding me that love is a powerful force:
“Our editor-in-chief, Clara Jeffery, wrote an essay last night (because none of us could sleep anyway). She explained:
“There is no time, no room, no space to do anything but push back against what, in large part, this will turn out to be: not just a protest vote by rural whites who feel left behind, but the coming out of a burgeoning while nationalist, authoritarian movement … Trump appealed to America’s worst impulses. Now it’s on the rest of us to show, to prove, that this is not all that America is. This is a time when we’re called on to do things we may not have done before. To face down bigotry and hate, and to reach beyond our Facebook feeds in trying to do so.” (Mother Jones)
Scary Times: Handling the Fear
I’m not trying to be clever when I say fear is a terrifying feeling. Most of us will go a long ways around a situation to avoid tangling with our fears. But fear doesn’t vanish because we keep our head down. Fears multiply in silence and inaction. We have to adopt the attitude of the main character in the Dr. Seuss story I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. After a long, difficult journey seeking a way to avoid trouble in life, he realizes there is no magical trouble-free place:
Then I started back home
To the Valley of Vung.
I know I’ll have troubles.
I’ll, maybe, get stung.
I’ll always have troubles.
I’ll, maybe, get bit
By the Green-Headed Quail
On the place where I sit.
But I’ve bought a big bat.
I’m all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going
To have troubles with me!
A Trump presidency scares many of us, but we are the only ones who can stem the tide of assaults on our democracy and the world. As this message from Grassroots International reminds us, U.S. policy reverberates globally:
“As a global funder and advocacy organization, Grassroots International knows all too well that the damages of US policies and practices does not stop at our borders. In fact, some of the worst aspects of US policy play out regularly in the lives of our partners around the world.
- Social movements in Brazil are currently engaged in their own struggle against right-wing forces, installed by an institutional coup.
- Haitian peasants continue to organize to create alternative economies and new solutions in the face of predatory international practices and climate crisis …
- Palestinians continue to live under a siege funded heavily by US aid.
- Everywhere, communities face the ravages of climate change while the US refuses to address its root causes.
As we try to figure out what the election means for us in the US, let’s remember that we are part of a much larger community on this one planet.” (Grassroots International)
You Are Not Alone
The good news is none of us has to face these fears or wage the struggle alone. In the many e-mails I received the morning after the election, this was the common thread: We will fight for a better world together.
One of my favorite messages came from the ACLU:
“If President-elect Trump tries to make his unlawful and unconstitutional campaign promises into policy, we’ll see him in court. He’ll have to face the full force of the ACLU – all of our lawyers and advocates in every state.
And he’ll have to answer to you—the millions of action-takers, activists, and card-carrying members leading the fight for rights and liberties for all. Together, we’ll fight for women, for people of color, for the LGBT community, for immigrants – for everyone in this country.” (ACLU)
POW! BAM! You gotta love those guys!
The American Dream is not about a 5,000 square-foot house in the burbs and the right of white people to lord it over everyone else. The true American Dream, that vision of a stronger-together melting pot, was the first prescient step into a global future. I keep hearing that Trump’s supporters fear and loathe a global world, that they want to turn back the clock to a time where there were no troubles and everyone (who mattered) was a white American. That time, though, never existed. Even in the five minutes of sun-soaked glory the U.S. reveled in after World War II, fear and hatred cast a long shadow over many of our citizens. The McCarthy witch hunts to expose the “Commies” among us turned American against American. The Jim Crow laws of the South and the de facto segregation of the North prevented Black Americans from equal access to education, housing, jobs, even diners and restrooms.
But using courage and love, Black Americans triumphed over hate and fear. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s stood up to Jim Crow and declared that an American dream that does not encompass all Americans is a sham. Black Americans and their white allies faced down their tormentors, risked their lives (and some lost their lives) to win the Civil Rights Act and The Voting Rights Act.
As Congressman John Lewis, said: “Our struggle is a struggle to redeem the soul of America. It’s not a struggle that lasts for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. It is the struggle of a lifetime, more than one lifetime.”
In a darker lesson, we know what happens when people look away from injustice, hide from their fears. Two days before the election, this reminder appeared on Twitter under the hashtag #beentheredonethat:
Go ahead, vote for the guy with the loud voice who hates minorities, threatens to imprison his opponents, doesn’t give a fuck about democracy, and claims he alone can fix everything. What could possibly go wrong?
– The people of Germany”
What if people had rejected Hitler’s rise to power in 1933? What if people had taken to the streets in massive numbers when the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935, laws that denied Jews any civil rights whatsoever? What if they had fought the round-up and execution of gays, the mentally-disabled, and Communists?
We face an enormous challenge going forward, but I believe we can meet it. Because we must. Because love, in action, is stronger than hate. Because inclusive, progressive values won the popular vote. By a margin of something close to a million. And that margin gives me hope.