As Todd and I settled in for an evening of takeout pizza and watching CNN in bed last night, we were feeling pretty good. When our 19-year-old started texting us at 8:50 p.m.—”Florida :( :(“—we were still confident that Hillary Clinton would win (we trusted the polls, how foolish).
But as the night went on, the text messages and the intermittent FaceTime chats became more intense. I started texting images of skulls and scared cats because I was at a loss for words. Before we called it a night, Todd texted, “Looks almost certain she’s going to lose, kiddo. Tomorrow is a new day though.”
I woke up to my furry alarm clock (she doesn’t adjust to election drama) less than five hours later, bounced out of bed (adrenaline), and clicked on the NYTimes app on my phone to confirm my worst fears. And there it was in black and white and red—Donald Trump is the next president of the United States of America.
I mechanically put Sophie’s harness on, attached her leash, and took her out for a walk. It was raining. God is crying this morning, was my first thought. I wanted to cry, but I also felt a sense of overwhelming resolve to continue to work for positive change.
Today is a new day.
Sophie and I made it back to the apartment, where Todd had turned on the news and was hunched over his laptop. Today, he has to face the fact that in a couple of months, he will be advising the State Department on Islamophobia in Europe under an Islamophobic head of state. “I am also more resolved than ever to work for the common good, to partner with many of you to dismantle the system of bigotry that is deeply embedded in this nation,” he wrote on Facebook before he headed to the bus station.
A few minutes later, I peeled myself away from social media and rode the elevator down to the first floor to pick up the key to the gym (but not before appealing to Van Jones to start preparing his 2020 presidential race). I needed to run—to clear my head. “Have a good day,” the front desk person told me as he handed me the key. “Oh, it’s a bad day,” I responded, assuming that this immigrant man of color would be a sympathetic ear. “No, it’s a good day,” he said and added, probably in response to my perplexed expression, “I wanted him to win.”
At that moment, it struck me just how far-reaching Trump was in his appeal to the “common man.”
I entered the gym with a ferocious energy I haven’t felt in a long time. I ran and felt like I could’ve kept running forever. I lifted weights and they felt like feathers. I stretched and experienced extreme flexibility. My body was ready for action.
As I ran, I thought about what I’ve learned so far about political leanings from Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. (I had the book open on my Kindle in front of me, but there was no way for me to focus on it.) A passage I’d recently read came to mind:
As one political insider explained, Reagan’s appeal derived primarily from the ideological fervor of the right wing of the Republican Party and “the emotional distress of those who fear or resent the Negro, and who expect Reagan somehow to keep him ‘in his place’ or at least echo their own anger and frustration.”
History is repeating itself, as it tends to do. White working-class people have been conditioned for over a hundred years to hate people of color—to see them as a threat to their way of life. This is not easily undone.
So where do we go from here? (Yes, I know, it’s the question of the day.)
I’m not sure yet. I don’t know if I want to give the clearly corrupt Democratic party another chance and get more involved and encourage others to do the same. I’ve also thought for some time that we need a new political party—a truly progressive populist party. A new party that could swoop in come 2020 and provide a solution to the millions who were conned by Mr. Trump in this historic election.
Regardless, I know we need to do this:
- Hug our children tightly. Tell them we love them. And model kindness and tolerance.
- Reach across the aisle and get to know the “common person,” what makes them tick, and how we can work together to create a true government for the people—not based on corporate greed.
- Work regionally on projects that will make our communities stronger: municipal utilities, growing community gardens, promoting art and beauty, providing meaningful occupation for all people.
- Remember to play and celebrate each small step toward the future we dream of.
- Gather in public places to make our voices heard and be together.
Today is a new day. But we cannot let the bigotry and fear that fueled Mr. Trump’s campaign be the new normal. Like I told Rebecka in our final text exchange of the evening, “we’re just going to have to work even harder.” Here’s to equality, tolerance, peace, and justice. Let goodness prevail.