The Winter of Our Discontent

So, here I am making history:

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This is me putting my ballot, along with Brian’s, into a Washington state ballot box. All the voting here is done by mail. We both voted for Hillary Clinton.

Annnnnd, yeah. That didn’t happen. I didn’t sleep for 72 hours after Election Day, and only grabbed brief sleep for the week afterwards. It didn’t help that Brian was out of town all that week; my kids sensed my distress (I hated that I put that on them) and took pains to be kind. Eleanor gave me the “special plate” when she set the table; Jeff ran his hands through my sweater pockets to make sure I didn’t take my phone up to my room at night. William butts my arms with his head while chanting no Facebook, no Facebook, no Facebook, Mom. 

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My kids made this “bacon grease Trump” to try and make me feel better

Last Sunday’s regular blogging time was swallowed up with the task of calling, texting, messaging and e-mailing all the strong women in my life (and making friends with a few new ones!). I wasn’t able to write about it then. I suppose I can do so now.

Richard the Third is now the President of the United States.

“We’ve survived worse!” my parents tell me. “We survived Andrew Jackson!”

What does it say that we have to go all the way back to the 19th century to find someone comparable to the 45th President?

“You’ll be fine! We had to live through the Carter administration!”

Really?

Today has been the first day I’ve been calm enough to even think about the election results without a ball of anxiety in my chest. Facebook is a minefield; all my conservative friends are outraged and on the warpath, all my liberal friends are horrified and on the warpath. (I fortunately do not have any Facebook friends who voted for Trump. But I’m sure there are some in my ward.)

Reading the news has become an exercise in depraved masochism.

From my friend, Jessica Day George:

I voted by mail a few days ago. And I can be proud of how I voted.
I can look my children in the eyes and tell them:
I did not vote for a man who calls women “nasty” and “pigs.”
I did not vote for a man who boasts about cheating on his three wives.
I did not vote for a man who has posed for pornographic magazines, who has tweeted links to pornographic films.
I did not vote for a man who boasts about grabbing women’s privates and kissing them against their will because he’s famous and can get away with it.
I did not vote for a man who has been accused by 22 women of sexual assault.
I did not vote for a man who has been accused of raping a 13-year-old girl, and was photographed partying with underage girls alongside his good friend, who is now in prison for child rape.
I did not vote for a man who calls his daughter a “hot piece of ass” and says that he would sleep with her if they weren’t related.
I did not vote for a man who cannot remember if he is for or against abortion.
I did not vote for a man who calls Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers.
I did not vote for a man who advocates the torture of American citizens.
I did not vote for a man who wants to restrict the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech.
I did not vote for a man who wants to restrict America’s freedom of religion.
I did not vote for a man who calls for the wives and children of suspected terrorists to be executed.
I did not vote for a man who praises the leadership of dangerous dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.
I did not vote for a man who joked that gun owners should assassinate his opponent.
I did not vote for that man.

Me neither. I remember when Trump’s autobiography came out in the 1990s, and my mom turned off Entertainment Tonight because she didn’t want any of her children learning about that man, who epitomized everything sleazy, cheap, and greedy. That man now represents me, and all of my fellow citizens, on the world’s stage.

I’ve spent more time ugly-crying in front of my computer in the last week and half than in my entire life. I’ve spent time absolutely furious and spent entire mornings having imaginary arguments with hypothetical Trump voters. I’ve imagined getting in fistfights with them. I know that most of these voters are good folks who do not perceive themselves as racist. They just didn’t consider racism, xenophobia, and misogyny a deal-breaker, and I don’t know how to deal with that yet.

My kids put the “Cool/Crazy” sequence from West Side Story on the computer and suggested that I needed more tough-guy finger snapping to express my mood.

I care deeply about things, more deeply than I should, and I fear that the poor working-class Americans who put Trump in power are going to feel the crush of his policies harder than anyone else. Medicaid and Medicare are already on the chopping block.

You reap what you sow.

From my friend, Katherine Fisher:

Like many of you, I spent last night feeling increasing horror and nausea as the reality of a Trump presidency became more and more apparent. We had the opportunity to elect a super-smart, experienced, committed, knowledgeable woman to be the first female president of the United States. Instead, we chose a man who is cruel, racist, sexist, and ignorant of policy and governance. We chose a man who was endorsed or supported by Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and the KKK.

If Hillary Clinton had lost to, say, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio (or Mitt Romney or John McCain, to look back at previous elections), I would still be disappointed and perhaps worried. But this outcome is orders of magnitude more disturbing for its symbolic effect. It reveals the depths of fear, racism, and misogyny that pervade our society and that are once again acceptable to speak aloud, and it demonstrates an astonishing willingness to choose show over substance and devalue knowledge, preparation, and critical thinking. Trump’s administration will not be “constrained by facts,” as NPR’s Scott Horsley put it this morning, and this has serious repercussions for our democratic process, the trustworthiness of government, and our relationship to the rest of the world.

There’s already been plenty of blame assigned, to Clinton herself, the DNC, third-party voters, the media, the Supreme Court for weakening the Voting Rights Act, and the GOP for allowing Trump to get the nomination, but ultimately the culpability lies with the people who cast their votes for Trump. Shame on you, Mormons, 61% of whom voted for Trump, for being too cowardly to make a moral stand when it mattered. Shame on you, white women, 53% of whom voted for Trump, for telling other women that your perceived self-interest matters more than their rights and bodily safety. Shame on us, America, for telling our children that bullies win power, our sons that they can treat women with contempt, and our daughters that if a man is rich and famous and white enough, he can commit (and brag about) sexual assault and still become president. Shame on us for rewarding ignorance and cruelty and voting selfishly instead of with all Americans in mind. Shame on us.

I know there are checks and balances in place that will limit what Trump can do, although he still has a great deal of executive power and with Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, those checks can only do so much to promote rigorous, bipartisan debate. I can only hope that Ryan and McConnell will not let Trump and his campaign rhetoric dictate their legislative priorities and will make decisions that are well-reasoned (even if I disagree with their reasoning) and grounded in facts. We have our work cut out for us on the local and state levels to advocate for the issues that are likely to be neglected or undermined on the federal level: police reform, voting rights, expanded access to healthcare, education funding, sustainability and climate-change initiatives, reproductive rights, refugee support, and many more.

Today, I’m indulging my anger and sadness. Tomorrow, I start figuring out how to work like hell alongside black, brown, immigrant, indigenous, queer, disabled, and Muslim Americans to keep this country safe and welcoming for all of us.

The question is: how exactly to do this “work like hell”? I can’t drop all of my obligations, cancel my ambitions to do . . . what? Protest in the street? There’s been a protest or demonstration in Seattle every single day since Election Day. I’ve donated money to causes I feel will suffer under the regime of the 45th President. I called my senators to express my fear of Stephen Bannon, one of the vilest fedora-wearing neckbeards on the Internet, being in the White House. I live in a blue county in a blue state; my congressional representatives are already on the same page with me. I’m in the process of putting together “welcome kits” for refugees arriving in Seattle. Beyond that . . . what?

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This past Friday I was in charge of Katie’s Daisy Girl Scout meeting, and we made “courage crowns” while learning about the “Courageous and Strong” part of the Girl Scout Law. I taught this group of precious five-year-olds about how they can be brave and help others, how they can be strong and try new things that seem scary at first. It was great, but my heart wasn’t in it. That tiny, twisted voice emerged from within myself: what’s the point of all this? What’s the point in teaching girls they can make the world a better place? 

My logical mind knows that this is simply not true, but the twisted voice followed me to the bookstore that Brian and I visited that evening for a date. I couldn’t summon the energy to look at a single title in the children’s section: What’s the point of teaching children about science? Other cultures? History? They will always be outnumbered by the ignorant and cruel.

From my friend, DaNae Leu:

We are the country that blazed into existence on the idea that

ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL

As the men who penned, and fought, and bled, and ultimately governed on that undeniable truth –

Held ownership papers on living, breathing men, women, and children.

We are the country that ultimately battled each other, until all its citizens lived in freedom.

We are the country that passed the 15th and 19th amendment, bestowing voting rights for the entirety of our citizens.

But needed the Voting Right Act of 1965 to ensure those rights.

We are the country that gave birth to the automobile and the personal computer.

We also gave birth to Jim Crow and eugenics.

We are the country that crossed the sea to liberate Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen, et al.

We are the country that interred its First People to Reservations and opened Heart Mountain, Manzanar, Minidoka, Topaz, et al.

We are the country that gave voice to Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.

We also endorsed the voices of Andrew Jackson, Joe McCarthy, and George Wallace.

This week when we said yes to the voice that once again gave voice to the voices of hate, and fear, and divisiveness, once again we turned our back on the truth that

ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.

I know many see riots – not protest, many see temper tantrums and sore losers.

See it for what It is – grieving, full out, ugly crying, hair-yanking, breath-supping grieving. For a very real loss –

a loss of our identity.

If we have just said yes to white nationalism, xenophobia, misogyny, how can we be the country that believes

ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL?

The transfer of leadership is sacred in this country, something one of the candidates did not concede before his election. It absolutely must happen for us to once again surge forward from this huge step back.

It must happen for us to remain the country

we hope we

in reality are.

 

I fear losing that essential American optimism, something that pervades our culture so completely we don’t even see it. Visitors from other countries have often pointed it out to me and asked how we do it, how we manage to look to the future with forward motion, picturing good things ahead. I couldn’t think of an answer (“what’s water?” asked the fish) but Brian pointed out that our country has never been under the thumb of a dictator or demagogue. We said that with a smile, almost cheeky that we are part of this, one of the bright miracles of human civilization, the American Experiment.

I don’t know how I’d answer today.

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At the Seattle LDS Temple, Nov. 11, 2016

Two days after Election Day, I tumbled out of my sleep-deprived bed and felt a nudge to attend the temple. I went, and struggled to stay awake during the session, still feeling edgy and anxious inside. Sometime during the ritual, all of the scriptures that begin with the phrase “Fear not” came pouring into my head.

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

Fear not, for unto you a child is born . . .

I need to remember that putting off fear is a commandment, not a request. This is a challenge for me. The election was as ugly and traumatizing an event as 9/11, except the threat didn’t come from foreign extremists, but our friends, neighbors, and countrymen.

What I wrote on Facebook on Election Day:

I have a few Facebook friends that are unfriending anyone they know who voted for Trump. I don’t blame them. But I’d rather say the following to any Trump supporters reading this:

Everything I’ve read about Trump voters says they are heavily motivated by fear, fear of change, fear of any kind of opposition. Fear of anyone who speaks to a different way of thinking from themselves.

So I want to say: Put aside that fear. You are safe with me.

It’s the same thing I say to my LGBTQIA friends, and my Muslim neighbors, and the refugees who have come to Seattle: You are safe with me. And I refuse to withhold that from any of my fellow citizens, red or blue. Feeling afraid? Come sit by me, and I’ll protect you.

A late-night Facebook post seems like an empty gesture, but if this makes the slightest amount of difference towards bringing the two halves of our country back together, so be it.

I am nothing to fear. Out of many voices, peoples, states, we still need to be One, and so I say to you again: you are safe with me.

E Pluribus Unum. God bless America.

So goes the command: Fear not.

Time to work like hell.

 

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