I've struggled all day to process why I felt so angry, why I couldn't keep tears from welling up in eyes, and why the world felt different. I spent much of the day so frustrated that people weren't talking about the election, and when they did, they treated it like some academic anomaly to be studied, ignoring the human impacts I was already seeing in the lives of those close to me. People kept saying, "How could this have happened? I don't know anyone who voted for Trump." And I slowly realized that was how we got to the bitter, hateful state we are in now. We are alienated from each other, more so than we have been in a long time. We don't understand people who are different from us. We've dropped the ball on treating others with respect, dignity, and openness. All of us.
As I wandered through the day, I thought about how all the people I've come across in my life could be affected by the election.
-My friends who have been sexually assaulted, who woke with added fear for what this country had become.
-The women who have inspired me (mother, sister, girlfriend, grandma, more), saddened at the lost prospect of a strong woman leading our nation and a continued struggle I'll never fully understand.
-Former co-workers at a Wisconsin waste water plant, scared of how a changing America has affected their job security and endangered their hard earned retirement with a beer and a fishing pole.
-Men who have inspired me(father, brothers in all but name, grandfather, more), wondering how to keep integrity in a world where it seems lost.
-A dear family friend who had to call his Thai wife and daughter and explain whether or not this country would be safe for them.
-Friends who are gay, wondering how their love will be attacked yet again.
-Me, a researcher of climate change, faced with the prospect of a president who doesn't believe that work is worthwhile.
-The people who drank moonshine, waved confederate flags, and welcomed me to their campfire in a lonely campsite last fall, scared and angered by the changing demographics of their home, now validated in their anger.
-My friend who stands to lose more than reproductive rights if her hormone medicine is taken away as birth control.
-My Facebook friends who said "I told you so" in bold font as the final polls rolled in.
We all felt something different this morning; rage, fear, joy, vindication, sorrow. But most of all, we felt divided. Divided by race. Divided by economic status. Divided by gender. Divided by geography. Divided by ideals. So many of us, all with different perspectives and stories to tell, but divided.
That's how we came to last night. We've split ourselves off from people, especially those most different from us. Some would argue that's human nature, to form tribes and stick to what we know. Maybe that's true, but I'd like to think we're better than that. That we can embrace each others differences. That we can learn from each others differences. That we can appreciate each other for the human in all of us and begin to discuss with and understand one another. To move past the hatred of this entire election process and build something better.
I saw a video today where a female black reporter was asked by a white southern man, "How can I move past the fear that fuels my racial prejudices?" She responded, "Go meet black families. Get to know them as people." And that's what we can do moving forward. Go meet the people who are different from you. Talk to your neighbor, sit next to someone on the bus. Meet those who make you uncomfortable and uneasy. Go meet the human inside all of them. Treat everyone with dignity and respect, and try to understand their story. Nobody know what the next four years hold, but I know more than ever...
How we treat one another matters.