“Hope is a virtue because despair too is a temptation.” – Philippa Foot
With respect, this post assumes the reader is none too happy with Trump’s victory. If this doesn’t describe you, there is little point in reading further. There are other posts out there for you.
I am struggling with rage, and hatred, and despair, all knotted together in my chest. These are my emotions right now, and it’s no use pretending they’re not there. But I also know they must be overcome, eventually.
I woke up this morning thankful that my toddler son is too young to understand what’s going on. I feel for the parents who have to explain to their children that the bad man won. I feel for the individuals of different backgrounds who feel less safe now, less respected, and scared for the future in a visceral way I can’t pretend to share given my life circumstances.
But in the end we must hope. We must love. We must keep faith even as darkness descends. Here are some positive thoughts.
Polarization is a disease in this country. I know it’s hard to imagine building relationships with people who voted for Trump. At the moment it’s unthinkable for me too. We mortals can only be so Christlike. We have suffered a devastating defeat, we are in disarray, and it’s too much to expect perfect magnanimity while we’re still licking our wounds. Perhaps it’s best to just not worry about building these particular bridges right now. Give it time.
But we should consider those conservatives we know who did oppose Trump, loudly and bravely from the beginning to the bitter end. This can’t have been easy for them as their erstwhile co-ideologues fell under Trump’s spell. We may have profound disagreements with these folks, but they got this one all-important issue right. We need to cultivate these relationships. We disagree about a lot, but disagreement between reasonable people is inevitable and not always bad. We were in the trenches together against Trump. That’s surely worth something. We can always cherish this common ground.
Because, barring the very real possibility of some multi-headed mega-catastrophe that truly devastates America (we’ve all read similar all-too-realistic horror scenarios), eventually the banished Democratic party will come back to power. That’s just the way politics works. When voters inevitably become once again disgruntled, they will have only Republicans to blame because only Republicans will have any power for the next two years, minimum. When this happens I want to to be able to reach across the partisan divide to the Never-Trump conservatives I am lucky enough to know, to work with them with a sense of common and public purpose, despite our real differences.
In the meantime, let’s keep raising our children. We can still show them positive examples and instill in them good values. Teach them to respect those who are different. Expose them to people of different backgrounds, different skin colors, different religions, and yes, even different political persuasions. Teach them the inherent dignity of every human individual. Teach them always to respect truth and justice. Teach them that, even though in the real world bad things happen to good people, it’s still always worth it to strive for goodness. Teach them courage in the face of adversity. Teach them compassion.
On children, let’s keep in mind also that there are demographic trends at work that suggest Trump’s victory may just be one of the last spasms of a white population in decline. Most of our children will grow up in diverse classrooms and will enjoy a diverse set of friends. This is truly barren soil for racism and xenophobia. And it’s already showing (see tweet). We can take heart in this.
There are still useful actions to take, even in this hour. While Trump will have both houses of Congress at his back, I am confident that his every constitutional overreach will be challenged relentlessly on multiple fronts. The American Civil Liberties Union not only fights effectively in court at all levels, in all fifty states, but also organizes at the grassroots level. From my time volunteering for my local chapter I learned that there is space for action where the rubber of policy hits the road of real people in real communities. All policy has room for interpretation in implementation. Little tweaks to best practices at the local level can make dramatic differences for real people. There are other worthy organizations. Seek them out. Donate. Volunteer.
I don’t know what will happen during Trump’s reign. This could be the twilight of the Republic. But then again maybe it’s not. America has been through some truly dark periods, but so far we’ve always come out of trying times bruised and bloody, but not fundamentally broken. We can get through this too.