On Wednesday morning I woke up as I normally would, snoozing my alarm past the point I should, and groggily leaned to my side to check my phone.
The memories from the night before flashed before me… the increasingly anxiety-ridden faces of the MSNBC newscasters, state after state lighting up in red with the words: ” (state)- Donald Trump: Projected Winner,” stunned texts from my friends, “What is happening?” I remembered in horror as the newscasters dissected Michigan counties, mine and the ones adjacent to me. I remembered a newscaster saying, “Michigan will decide the next president of the United States.” I thought to the many Trump signs I saw canvassing for Hillary and to my conservative family members. My immediate reaction was: Oh my God, it’s up to us, and she’s going to lose.
I went to bed thinking that it couldn’t be real; still holding on to the faint hope that decency would prevail, that Hillary’s face would be on my Google home screen as our next president when I woke up. “Wake me up when Hillary is our president,” I texted a friend before drifting into sleep.
I was wrong.
I woke up to a missed call from a friend at 3 AM, after Hillary had conceded. Multiple texts from friends of shock and fear.
It was like somebody had thrown a barrel of bricks on my back. I got the hazy, somber sense as if something, someone had died.
While I was canvassing for Hillary the week before, I met a twenty-something boy with autism who was peppy and enthusiastic in his Kroger uniform, ready for work. He was undecided, but when I told him about Democratic plans for mental health care, he perked up. He asked whether he could take multiple flyers I was carrying, and when I laughed yes, his house lit up like it was Christmas. His mom, watching us, was pleased by the positive social interaction. I felt like I had won the lottery. I was sure that Hillary would win, and she would enact social change to help people exactly like this young man.
As I walked into work on Wednesday, clutching my coffee, I greeted a client who was outside smoking. His hands shook as he puffed at his cigarette. He waved at me. I could barely make eye contact.
What will happen to him? I asked myself. So many of the clients at my mental health agency are publicly funded and rely on government mental health care and Medicaid. They rely on those services not as a “crutch” but because their severe mental health issues make it incapable for them to sustain a living wage.
The transgender girl I nanny on weekends has married gay parents. “Will Donald Trump split our family apart?” She asked her moms, in tears. In the last year, this girl has been through so much pain, between her evolving sexuality, learning disabilities, and mental health issues.
What about the racially segregated metro-Detroit, my home? What about the city where I work, that is heavily African American? And the diverse suburb where I live?
After the initial raw grief and aftermath of the election, I still felt a deep sense of grief, heaviness, and shame.
I am ashamed of being an American.
I am ashamed of being white. Even females voted 54% for Donald Trump (how!!!!! why!!!!!).
I am ashamed to be an evangelical Christian. Around 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. 4 out of the 5 people I saw last Sunday at the predominantly white church I attend might have cast their votes for Trump.
I hurt for the America I have lived in all of my life, for what I thought it represented. I hurt for the violent incidents that have followed this election, some in my neighboring cities. I hurt and fear for the coming months and years. I hurt that my church body, my faith, my HOME, voted to elect a bigoted, racist, xenophobic, homophobic narcissist. I feel out of touch with certain family members and friends. I don’t know how to talk to them about this. I don’t know how to agree to disagree and not have all these exploding emotions burst out of me.
And if I’m being really honest, this election had a deeply personal component to it for me. This week in therapy, I burst into tears talking about the election. While I’m not willing to expand upon my personal grief in this blog post, I will say that Donald Trump, his character and words, remind me of someone who has caused deep hurt and wounds in my life. It feels like America, and friends and family, chose the side of the perpetrator, the oppressor. And if I’m honest, that feels like a knife in my heart.
In my social work program, we learned a term called critical intersectionality, meaning that all of us have multiple social identities. While I am a white and middle class, I am a female who struggles with mental health issues. In many ways, I am privileged in society, but in others, oppressed. I am scared about what Donald Trump will do to health care, because my physical and mental well being depends on that. I am guilty about being scared and selfish because in so many areas, I am privileged.
I feel deep guilt that my grief has been so profound and re-traumatizing (side note: can we agree that election trauma is a thing??) and that I haven’t loved or organized or been optimistic. I feel guilt that my reaction is mostly personal and selfish. I don’t know what to say to people. I paused this week emailing some African American colleagues at work, knowing that several of them live in Detroit and did not vote for Donald Trump. For the last few days, I have been aware and ashamed of my privilege.
I want to apologize and cry at any given moment at the same time.
I have found much comfort and solace in my liberal friends’ kind, thoughtful words; their challenges; their critical thinking. I have listened to Bernie Sanders, Rachel Maddow, and Elizabeth Warren, and they have given me comfort.
But if there is one thing I HAVEN’T done, if I’m being really honest, is be open to Trump supporters. I have scowled at what I have deemed “ignorant” posts, I have unfriended people left and right, and I have subconsciously thought I was superior. I have missed the fact that middle America has a lot of anger. Yes, there is racism, fear of immigrants, and the like, but underlying all that, there is justifiable anger. There are a group of people, about half our country, who want a major social upheaval and social change.
And I have dismissed them.
I have unfriended them.
I have not listened to them.
About half the country believes that things need to be “great” again. What does that mean to them? I have never asked.
I have not tried to find common ground.
Part of it is my personal issues– Trump taps into a dark part of my past, to the point where I had to stop watching him on TV, seeing his face, or listening to his voice. I could do it only when Alec Baldwin played him on SNL.
My automatic response to what has happened following the election is reach out to my Muslim brothers and sisters, members of the LGBTQ community, sexual assault victims, and people of color. My automatic response is to shun not only Trump but his followers. And that’s not fair either. But for me, opening myself up to hearing Trump supporters will take time.
As I wrap up my disjointed thoughts following a week I thought would never happen I have a few thoughts as we Americans move forward:
- Let people be where they are- There is no use in shaming people if they’re in a different place than you. I have gotten explicit and internal pressure to “unify” or accept that “everything will be okay.” I am fed up with trite imperatives. I am not okay with a Trump presidency. I am terrified. I am angry. I am upset. I wish I could be optimistic and perky about moving forward, but I’m not, and people need to be okay that some, or half, of America is there right now. Similarly, I need to stop unfriending people when they say (what I perceive to be) obnoxious and invalidating comments.
- Mourn and grieve if you need to, and take as long as you want. Grief is a process, not an event. I would LOVE to be volunteering for a local social justice organization and be advocating for social change on the grass roots level. I’m not there yet. I have some grief I need to process in therapy. At this point, I need to take care of myself, and I’ll organize later.
- Stand up to injustice. I say that one emphatically. We have to talk about race. We have to talk about sexism. We have to talk about xenophobia, homophobia, rape culture, segregation, bullying, shaming, fear of “the other,” fear of people groups, discrimination, and more. Violence in my own community has broken out, and in our schools no less. I will not. Let me say that again– I WILL NOT– tolerate a woman being taunted for wearing a hijab. I WILL NOT tolerate inappropriate language from men because our president elect has justified it. I will speak out about racism, because I live in one of the most segregated areas of the country! If I see it happening, I’m going to speak out about it. This is a vulnerable time for people who Trump has victimized, similar to what happened post- Brexit.
- Listen. This is a big one for me. As I said, I love listening to people who are the same as I am. It will take me a while to walk into church and ask people, “Why did you vote for Donald Trump?” I need to learn to listen so I know that there is much goodness in America still. Not all Trump supporters are evil. Not all Clinton supporters are evil. We’re all a combination of good and evil, works in progress. In order for me to listen, however, I will need to do #1 and #2 first. Thanksgiving might be super awkward this year.
I joke… half kiddingly… about moving to Canada, but I don’t want to. The United States is my home, and I need to roll with the tides, even if I fundamentally disagree with pretty much everything Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans believe. Now if a mass deportation starts, Canada might start looking good again.
One of the trite statements I’ve seen on social media that drives me crazy is “God is in control.” Yes, God is in control, but God also mourns and grieves for injustice. God is always on the side of the meek, humble, just, and oppressed. “God is in control” is not a cop out for, “Jesus is coming soon, so fuck it, let’s treat our neighbors like shit, ruin our climate, and passively wait for the apocalypse.”
If you’ve been following my “Liberal Christian” series, you know that I have made a big change theologically and politically since I was a teenager. I wonder what would happen to Jesus if he were at a Trump rally. Would he be spit upon? Beat up? Kicked out? Killed? Deported? Put in a “special line” at airport security? How would Jesus respond to a Trump presidency? What is the line between holy anger and hate? How can I internalize that Jesus loves Donald Trump as much as he loves me? That Jesus loves Paul Ryan and all Republicans just as much as he loves Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders?
As I continue to process, reflect, and grieve, I will stand up to injustice as it comes up, knowing that in the future we may have Bernie 2020.