Post-election Hang Over
I’ve spent that last couple of days locked in limbo, inbetween, straddling two possibilities–City Council Member/Not–while also trying to take in everything that just happened at the national level.
Another count from the ROV will drop soon, but I have demanded of myself to carve additional mental space to really drill past the local race in Carlsbad into deeper waters, and I’d like to leave some thoughts here.
What you won’t find below is shock, or rage, or the castigating of those who voted 3rd party, or the marginalizing of those who voted for Trump into boxes labeled “racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobes,” or the demanding of Hillary supporters to suck it up peacefully and unify.
What you will find is introspection from a self-described progressive who has, over the last year, had the bizarre experience of moving from being hyper-critical and disbelieving of the legitimacy of our political system in the United States, to watching it work for my home town in Carlsbad (during the special election held in February for Measure A), despite millions of dollars being spent in support of the measure, to entering into the system itself to run for local office.
Where we are headed is going to be difficult, harsh even, and it continues to be for me and the majority of folks I care about and love, but this is no time to bury our heads in the sand or conjure up more narratives about how the system has failed us and rail and rail and rail. The system has given us exactly what we deserve: a radical and deeply uncomfortable look at what we have created through a lengthy disengagement with each other and our politics. This is Brexit, this is Trump, and this is our new reality.
It’s time to deal with what we have created and I am going to start right where I stand, with everything I have learned over the last year and what I am going to do moving forward. I am not going to point fingers across the aisle, at them, because I refuse to reduce or marginalize the complexity of the outcome of this election. We have got to start really listening to each other, something political elites, pundits, and the media, and frankly, a whole slew of us, have forgotten how to do, despite the fact that we are extremely prolific authors of 140 character epithets and snapshots of the daily.
Our nation is now explicitly defined by all that we have ignored.
To continue to ignore each other, to not listen deeply, to not engage each other in the hardest conversations–political, religious, ideological–is both idiotic and suicidal.
The bulk of this burden to have these impossible conversations falls on us, white liberals, specifically because this election cycle has finally brought out our collective national shadow, which has been sublimated specifically through the political correctness that we have demanded from our fellows for decades. Ignore your shadow and it will eventually force itself up and out and, if denied for long enough, the shadow will always rise violently.
Is the racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia new? Hell no! It’s been there the whole time, with all the venom and violence you are openly seeing now. Every person of color, woman, and LGBTQ person in this country knows this. We have been trying to communicate this to others for a very, very long time, both in measured tones and with uncomfortable intensity.
Now we, and the rest of the world, get to see the reality horribly, openly, as in days past (not so long ago). We can no longer look away or pretend that by stifling the vitriol, that it doesn’t exist. Take a good hard look in the mirror, America. This is who we are too.
Here is a reality: when you oppose a system from the outside, you strengthen said system. Choosing to not engage within a system, attempting to tear the system down from the outside in, or running away from the problem (denial), generates our exact trajectory. We are here because we are, very importantly, fearing each other and ignoring history. Our “be here now” mentality/spirituality, America, means we are dangerously illiterate philosophically and historically.
No one gets to sit this one out. Silence and retreat are no longer acceptable, neither is flaming, acerbic criticism without engaging with the system you think ought to be different. Raging against the machine, disengaging, and gargling the positivity-focused vibe is exactly how we got here, and only engaged political work will get us out.
Taking to the streets in protest, breaking things, and other expressions of rage, I understand to be a part of a collective mourning process. I get it. I’ve done it. I’ve marched in the streets, pumped my fists, scrawled my rage on paper and walls, and screamed through the bullhorn.
We’re all demanding the same thing, whether through vote or protest: “HEAR ME!!” Do you get this? Do we hear each other? ARE YOU LISTENING?
I swear to all that is holy that if the marginalized, white working people in this country, who are natural allies of the LGBTQ community, people of color, immigrants, and women, continue to listen to the proto-fascist rhetoric that is meant to divide ally from ally, we’re in for a very disturbing road ahead. So too if my own Democratic Party doesn’t take a good hard look at how we contributed to our current situation. There is a huge, underlying unhappiness with the status quo, and the Dem Party is a big part of this status quo.
The leadership in this country–media, pundits, politicians, and pollsters alike–has not been listening to the people. This has created a vacuum into which someone stepped with a narrative that spoke to people in real pain and distress. You can criticize this narrative, but you cannot deny its influence and its power. What now needs to happen is the introduction of an antidote just as, if not more, powerful. Can the Democratic Party construct such an antidote? I strongly encourage the Party leadership to look to those who have been intimately engaged with bipartisan grassroots movements for direction and leadership… from the bottom up. Time for a palaver.
Our own Party needs a lot of work. I am more deeply committed to being a part of the difference and the change from within the political process than ever before. I am looking forward to the work, in fact, and I hope you will consider joining me, regardless of your political leanings.
No matter how you voted, it is very clear there is a strong desire for change in our country. In this, we share a fundamental similarity. Get involved in the political process. Our nation needs you.
With all this noise, the finger-pointing, the screaming, we are repeating the same fundamental mistake that got us here in the first place: we are not listening to each other, we are not communicating (two-way dialogue), and we certainly are not going to change anything by repeating the same mistake. Get the rage out, the pain, the horror, the triumph, the boasting, then get your boots on and hit the ground running: engage, join, change the political process directly.
So, what to do…
Actively seek out impossibly difficult conversations with folks who don’t share your views in person, stick with them, and keep having them. It is incredibly difficult to hate or enact violence against an individual when there is a developing relationship with them. It is far easier to rage against a group (them) than it is to learn about our differences face-to-face, but this is where change actually happens.
If you are truly invested in change, start with a dialogue. Listen, not to prove a point, but to understand. Everyone is hurting. Everyone.
We are far more similar than different, but our differences matter, which is what we find time and time again in our interactions. I don’t want the whole world to be like me, or to agree with me all the time, nor should you. But we have to find some way to recognize and respect our fundamental humanity, and to acknowledge and creatively utilize our disparate life experiences for the greatest good. Remember, the average person’s life, opinions, truths, and experiences do not take away from your own, regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, socio-economic status, or belief systems.
Rather, it is the systems built of taking (the selfish, growth-dependent, wealth-centric, power hungry, consuming systems) that do the most damage and so must be transformed. These systems are largely fueled by people’s innate fears of scarcity and lack (we all share these fears), so it is imperative that we do not confuse the systems with the people. Fight the simplifying, mental shortcuts that perpetuate “us vs. them” and please… don’t have these conversations on the computer. Get off of social media. Stop watching the news cycle (they were all wrong anyway). The isolation generated by this type of “communication” is exactly the wrong mode to do this work. Get outside and walk, talk, connect with each other directly, and with the environment.
Engage and transform the political process, don’t walk away from it! Join your local political clubs and your county party. Show up to meetings, use your voice, express your opinions, help to shape policy from right where you live now. It’s as easy as googling “[your county/city] Democratic/Republican/Green/Libertarian Party,” showing up to a meeting, throwing down a few bucks for membership (I’ve often thought this should be eliminated, but the annual cost is pretty mild), and engaging. Voting once every 2 to 4 years is not enough. It has never been enough. Thank you to all those who have been and continue to be engaged at every level of politics. It’s rough, dirty, hard work, but it is also incredibly important work, even noble work, at times.
We are the largest democratic experiment in the world, and we are still going, still learning, 240 years on. We’ve done some really stupid, awful, disgusting things, and we have also done some brilliant, beautiful, and incredible things. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. We’re experiencing some massive growing pains and it is humiliating and humbling, but we will get through this. We will.
Let’s get to work.