While I do vote at every election, I have always stayed out of public conversation around politics. As a child, when the extended family dinner conversations turned to politics, it always resulted in anger and yelling, ruining the evening for everyone and dividing the family. I don’t remember constructive, curious conversations, only defensive and offensive ones. And with the proliferation of political rhetoric on Facebook, I deliberately opted to keep my opinions to myself, wanting to preserve the relationship with my family and friends and not wanting to add to the political raging in people’s feeds. I believed (wrongly) that, in this case, silence could keep us together.
This last election was no different for me. I did vote. I voted for Hillary, with confidence that I selected was the right one “given the options”.
But I kept silent on why I voted for Hilary b/c I didn’t want to invite argument. At the time, it didn’t feel like it mattered anyway, most everyone I knew were voting for Hilary. My twitter feed was full of Hilary supporters, ditto on Facebook. The news was basically mocking Trump for his last imbecilic contradiction. I went to Lisbon for WebSummit mildly nervous for being out of the country during the elections, but predicting that Hilary would win by a landslide.
Wow. Was I wrong. Horribly, terribly wrong. I was blindsided. My bubble, and my silence, was a huge part of the problem.
My initial reaction to Tuesday was total disbelief. The election was rigged! It HAS to be rigged! Trump yelled so loudly and often that the elections were rigged, of COURSE he’d rig them! Then I was convinced we needed to move to a different country and honestly thinking about where we would go. Basically I’ve spent the last 5 days feeling scared, angry, and betrayed. Scared because what does this mean? Trump likes to hurt anyone who speaks negatively about him, does that mean my first amendment rights are at risk if I speak negatively about him now? Angry at myself mostly – how I could be this insulated from how the rest of the country feels??! Realizing the thickness of my bubble, and the insulation I have from the rest of the country was a harsh and painful awakening. And I feel betrayed, betrayed that the media led me to believe (or I let myself be led to believe) the rest of the country felt how I did. Betrayed that my fellow Americans don’t have the same set of values that I have. I’m not talking about position on political issues, I’m talking about values. Values like respect for one another, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Values like truth. Values like modesty. Values like respecting our planet. Because to me, this election wasn’t about political issues. It was about values.
As I’ve slowly started to accept what has happened, I’ve talked to a handful of Trump supporters (to get out of that bubble I mentioned above), I hear that their election wasn’t about values, but it was about change. Hilary meant more of the same to them, while Trump represented radical difference. It was less about his stance on issues (although some did believe his stance was better), less about what he thought about building a wall, or his position on global warming, or disrespecting women – it was about the radical shakeup he’d bring. Trump was, as Norman Lear said in his talk at #SummitAtSea, the proverbial middle finger of America’s right hand.
In America, I don’t believe we’re having the same conversations, which is why nothing ever feels like it’s moving forward. And I think the only way we’re going to start having the same conversations, is to get back to the basics of values. Let’s all get on the same page about values, because until we can all agree that “all people are created equal” and “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” and “religious freedom” that our constitution and history declares – we can’t ever agree on the political issues at stake today and we will continue to have subpar candidates, on both sides of the aisle.
So today, in order to become a more active participant in the shaping of our futures, I uncomfortably and publicly commit to 2 opposing actions:
1) Actively seek out and listen to others who don’t share my beliefs, for a genuine attempt at understanding those outside of my community. We can’t move forward if we don’t understand. Understanding doesn’t mean agreeing, but it does mean hearing and embracing and respecting those who disagree with me.
2) Speak out about the values I hold to be self-evident, not to preach but to invite conversation, and to help shift media’s attention from negative hate mongering, to positive attributes like love and trust we share as humans. As Seth Levine has just said, “…the US needs a strong and vocal counterbalance to the hate and bigotry we just empowered”.
I hope you join me in both actions.