Postponing the Apocalypse (Election thoughts)

I don’t often make any kind of political statements on this blog – or anywhere, else, really, beyond the occasional soft lob in Twitter’s direction. I’m a moderate – I agree with both conservatives and liberals in different ways – and that means that most people think I’m wrong on some points, and some people think I’m wrong on all points.

But I was up most of the night talking with people, and saw so much grief and fear that I have to share some of my current thinking on what comes next for those of us who are dismayed (or, perhaps, later become dismayed.)

To be absolutely clear about where I’m coming from – no ambiguity – I voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, and I voted for Hillary Clinton yesterday.

Trump is a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist. I didn’t like him before he ran for president; I like him significantly less now. But not everyone who voted for him is a racist. I’m not just saying that because I know people who voted for him who are not bigots (including, as bewildering as it is to me, some persons of color.) I’m saying it because a black man won the presidency not only once, which might have been a fluke, but twice.

To me, then, Trump’s win means one of three things: 1) that a significant number of people voted this time who didn’t vote in the last two elections and they voted for Trump; 2) a significant number of people who voted in the last two elections for President Obama didn’t vote this time; or, 3) that a significant number of people who voted for President Obama in the last election voted for Trump in this one.

It might be a combination of all three, but it’s the latter group who matter here, I think. The movement toward or away from racism is not something that happens quickly. It’s generally rooted in childhood – we learn it from our parents, or others around us; people who were fair-minded enough to vote for a black man in 2012 are unlikely to have voted for a racist in 2016 simply because they themselves had become racist in those years.

There might be a middle ground, where people who were only somewhat racist in the past jumped on Trump’s bigotry bandwagon, seeing it as validating their views, but I doubt people like that voted for President Obama. Twice.

What is possible is that people who voted for President Obama didn’t like their lives under his administration, saw only more of the same if Clinton won, and thus voted for Trump while telling themselves that they didn’t have to like him/agree with his views on other human beings to prefer his policies.

I’m not debating policies at all here, just noting that it’s not remotely unusual for people who don’t feel like they’ve benefited from an incumbent to vote for his opponent, more so after eight years of the same party in the White House.  Not unusual at all, and we generally accept that.  This time, not so much, because it feels like so much is at stake in terms of race relations and security for minorities.

Those are absolutely valid concerns, and why I don’t think viewing everyone who voted for Trump (remember: I didn’t) as an automatic racist, which is what I was seeing a lot of online last night, is helpful.  If we look suspiciously at people around us, thinking, ‘half these people are bigots’ with no proof of that beyond that more people than we hoped voted for a racist…that’s when we’re truly screwed.  What we do, how we live our lives, matters, and often more so than what the government does.

I live in Indiana, land of Mike Pence and the RFRA that was making national news in the spring of 2015.  Leaving aside that much of what people saw was media driven, here’s what people didn’t see: many, many business owners proudly displaying signs in their windows welcoming everyone.  Whatever the reality of the law, many companies and businesses, perhaps even the majority, not only didn’t embrace it as a way to harm others but rather, went out of their way to embrace them.

Indiana had Pence, and we absolutely still have our share of racist, bigoted assholes.  But that doesn’t define us as a state; having Trump/Pence in DC doesn’t have to define us as a nation.  Don’t believe me? Ask someone who attended Gen Con the last two years. The knee-jerk reaction, after RFRA, was to move the con; instead, people came, the con – and the city’s pleasure and acceptance in that – happened, and it’s still on the schedule through at least 2020.

Last night, I commented on Twitter that I think the real question now is what can we do, as individuals, to combat racism, bigotry, and misogyny. Here’s what I’ve come up:

  1. Be willing to connect with people who are different from you. I don’t mean talking to every stranger you meet, but meeting their eyes, giving them a brief smile or making small talk when appropriate? You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. They may not respond positively, but if so? That’s not on you.  (And hey, if I’m saying this? With ‘introvert’ as my middle name? Anyone can make an effort to connect with those around them in small ways. Anyone.)
  2. Listen to those around you, particularly if you don’t agree with them. No, I’m not advocating giving racists a platform, but some of the people who voted for Trump did so because they didn’t feel their lives and problems mattered to the Democrats. Listening may not change anything, but hate and anger never will.  How do we become less racist as a society? How do people change? Nearly always, it’s because someone with a different view took the time to get to know them, to hear them, to earn their respect. Either we want to be part of people changing, or we want to pretend they don’t exist…and look how well that’s worked out for us.
  3. Be sensitive to people who may be feeling threatened, particularly right now. Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist asshole, but they’re out there, and they’re feeling validated right now. If someone looks uncomfortable or nervous, do what you can to stand with them.
  4. And getting back to our government? Pay attention to what your Congresspersons do. Over and over, we’ve seen senators and representatives do things that are inexplicable to those of us outside their district with the justification that they ‘have to work for the people who elected them.’  You want to live in a different world? Take the time to learn what they’re doing, and then contact them and let them know what you approve of or don’t. It’s time-consuming. Do it anyway.

Indiana is still here; we still have good-hearted, compassionate people in every direction I look, and I firmly believe the same is true of our country as a whole.  But we can make it better, we can make others feel valued, we can grow as a people by seeking to get to know our neighbors. And we can do it no matter who’s in the White House.




6 thoughts on “Postponing the Apocalypse (Election thoughts)

  1. I took the liberty of posting this to Facebook, using your link above to make sure you are fully credited there. You have always presented such a calm, well-reasoned position on lesser matters and this blog entry has made me feel a little less gobsmacked about the election results. I will be rereading it often during the next few days. Thank you.

  2. I’m not sure it’s the apocalypse…my hope is that Mr. Trump’s over the top rhetoric will tone down a bit once he’s in office. My concern, at least judging from what I saw on facebook last night, is that the lunatic fringe of this country will take his election as a sign that they can threaten whomever they please in the name of making America great again. Telling Muslims to pack up because their days are numbered here is horribly hate filled especially since the vast majority of them are here legally and are contributing members of society. I have several Hispanic students…legal citizens of the US who are now put in the position of defending who they are to their classmates because of the talk of deporting everyone who doesn’t meet someone’s standard of what a good American looks like. In those cases, the rest of us have to stand in the gap and make sure they know we are on their side, and it will be tough…the sort of hooliganism that goes with this issue is appalling.

    I think you’ve given good advice in your article, and I appreciate the time and thought it took to write it. Thank you very much.

  3. I would take your message of support for those who might feel threatened further. Hopefully a lot of non-bigoted folks took those window signs welcoming everyone as reason to shop in those stores preferentially. I am going to take this election result as a reason to direct my spending dollars TO those who have been targeted and AWAY from likely Trump voters. Mostly we spend kind of randomly–so yes, sometimes I’ll guess wrongly but my % of supporting what I want to support should go up at least. And when in doubt there is always amazon. Bezos won me over totally with the Washington Post’s fearless stance on Trump. And Trump in response has stated he’ll try and go after amazon under anti-trust. Not everyone has money to bankroll the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and the DNC but we all have to eat and buy clothes and so forth. I already try to shop non-corporate and local where possible. Now I’ll just get a little more specific and show very practical and hopefully useful support to those who will most be under siege in the years ahead. I have found that this election has definitely shown a different side to some people who were very important in my life. I am not as convinced that Orcs can turn back into Elves once they have passed into Moral Mordor by putting a credibly accused child rapist in the most important seat in the world.

    • Yes. Yes, yes, yes. If the marginalized are assuming every white person they see voted for Trump (and some of them are – a friend was verbally attacked in a grocery store yesterday by someone doing just that (he was wrong)), then the racists and bigots who voted for him are forgetting that Trump didn’t win the popular vote. They can not safely assume that their view is the majority, when it’s not. (Half the eligible people didn’t vote; just over half of those who did voted for Clinton; not all those who did vote for Trump are racists. The racists who cared enough about their ideology to vote are very clearly not a majority, and we need to find ways, every day, to demonstrate that.

      People are afraid we’re going to go back to the Jim Crow era. They’re wrong, because there are simply too many of us who will say, ‘not on my watch.’ Not legally (even if they managed it, many of us would simply ignore the laws), not in subtle ways. There are many companies, large and small dedicated to equality; they will continue to fight; we have to continue to support them.

      I saw a post yesterday from a woman (I think in CA) who said the morning after the election, she saw a Trump sign in a shop window in her neighborhood that had never been there before. (What cowards…) And I thought, ‘well, it’s nice of them to make it clear where people should avoid spending their money.’

      Thanks for your comments.

  4. Thank you so much for being a voice of reason. I’m beginning to see a turn in my social media feeds from the borderline hysteria of the day after the election to more calm, rational, positive and constructive thinking. We have so much power over our everyday lives, no matter who’s in Washington, and it’s good to see people realizing that and hopefully embracing it.

  5. Actually, the real danger is Vice President Mike Pence.

    Donald Trump is just a dirty street fighter who said anything to keep his name in the news, and didn’t believe hardly anything that he was saying during the campaign.

    Just as Ronald Reagan aligned himself with the Religious Right during his campaign for the Presidency, and after he won that Presidency, would not fight the Religious Right on matters that he may have not strongly bought into himself, so too, won’t Donald Trump bother to fight Mike Pence’s political associates on issues that Trump himself doesn’t believe in, but which Trump doesn’t feel particularly strongly about, either.

    Ronald Reagan was acquainted with, and even was friends with some, gay people from his days in Hollywood. But when the Religious Right took the viewpoint that the AIDS epidemic was God’s punishment being visited upon homosexuals, Ronald Reagan sat by and would not fund research money for studying the causes and trying to find treatments for AIDS/HIV.

    So too, won’t Donald Trump bother to fight Mike Pence’s arch-conservatives on many issues that Trump won’t actually buy into himself, but which don’t particularly bother him, either.

    Hillary Clinton’s Vice Presidential choice, Tim Kaine, embraces the separation of Church and State and believes that his personal religious values should inform his political decision making, but that he should not impose his personal values on the nation as public policy. (Tim Kaine, a devout Catholic, personally abhors abortion, but pursued the political policy of personal freedom of choice on the abortion issue).

    Mike Pence believes that his personal relationship with Jesus not only entitles, but also compels, him to impose his own moral values on the nation.

    I.E., the fact that Mike Pence has stated that he believes that abstinance is the only birth control method that should be presented in schools strongly suggests that his determination to defund Planned Parenthood is NOT ONLY based upon his objection to abortion, but that Mike Pence probably does not believe in providing contraceptives to unmarried people, either.

    The fact that Planned Parenthood provides low-cost PAP smears and mammograms to poor women who could not afford to pay for these services from other providers will not stop Mike Pence from trying to shut down Planned Parenthood through a funding cutoff…and Donald Trump won’t care enough to make an issue of it, just as Ronald Reagan allowed thousands of gay people to die from AIDS when he could have authorized funding for research.

    On many, many other issues, Donald Trump won’t mind enough to bother to put a stop to arch-conservatives’ legislative initiatives to take away rights from non-straight, non-white people.

    And Trump absolutely will be completely onboard with repealing watchdog legislation that has been intended to prevent Wall Street from getting away with boardroom deals that benefit the rich guys at the expense of us little guys.

    The folks who rejected Hillary for being, ‘Just more of the Same’, have put the Fox in charge of protecting the Hen House.

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