To be quite honest, it’s hard to open up the imaginary “cover” on this journal, and see that photo of the girls and I on Tuesday staring back at me. I’ve had to back away from this space for a few days to catch my breath. It’s not that I haven’t been writing or talking – I’ve been doing more of that than normal. But while I treat this space as I place where I get to write for me, I am aware that you are there reading too, and words matter.
Where do I even start?
I vehemently oppose every single statement that Trump has made on dozens of issues – I can’t even wrap my head around them all, and the impact that any actions on these issues will have on our country, and my daughters, and our friends and neighbors, and our nation’s economy, and the global economy, and the Supreme Court, and our national security, and our planet… Each one of these issues, and many more, cycle through my mind at the most inconvenient times, particularly when I’m trying to focus on my work, or I’m driving alone in my car, or when I’m trying to quiet my mind enough to fall asleep. (I’m not sleeping much this week.) It is a gorgeous Saturday morning, and I have a long list of things that I want to do today, but I simply cannot focus because the words will.not.stop in my mind.
I could write a series on any one of the issues I listed above, and describe in detail the real and tangible threats posed to each of them, as evidenced by not only the statements made by the President-Elect, but by the choices he is already making about his transition team and cabinet members. I urge you to take the time to really understand what these people bring to the table, and consider the impact that their ideology will bring to the highest branches of government in this country.
But my words today mostly swirl around the racist bigotry that has found a home again in mainstream America. I’ve written about and acknowledged the bubble that I’ve been living in – comfortably relegating truly deplorable behavior to the fringes of society in pockets of the deep south – a region my extended family has lived in for generations, a region ripe with the continued expression of this hatred. Guess what folks? It doesn’t just reside there. It’s everywhere. It’s in your state, it’s on your street, it’s in your schools, it’s in your places of worship, it’s in your family. It’s in the White House.
(Pausing this writing, the tears behind the surface since Tuesday night are finally spilling over. Maybe I’m still not ready for this.)
Here are three action items for me this week:
1. Continue to reach out to communities and people with LEGITIMATE fears about their daily lives in this country. This is a lot of people. Trump railed against most everyone except for white, heterosexual males in his campaign – and he even attacked those guys if they happened to choose journalism as a career. Support protest movements across the country with as much passion for our first amendment rights as gun right supporters funnel into their second amendment rights. Talk to my children about the importance of these rights, and use this post as a guideline for discussing the importance of protest movements in our nation. I can’t expect them to understand this without discussion; we must teach our children better.
2. Become more vigilant about seeing racist behavior and calling people out on it. Especially the subtle stuff. Remind my girls every single morning as they walk out of our house and into their day to do the same. (Raging in my head: Can this really be real?? Why can’t I just tell them I love them and to have a good day at school?? This is a freaking nightmare.) A Muslim acquaintance of mine found this note written by her eighth grade daughter on the memo board in her room Wednesday morning:
“Go out there and use your education to stop bigotry.”
So yes, I’ll remind them of that too.
3. Join forces with organizations already doing the real work to make change in this country. Put my money where my mouth is, where my heart is. Say ‘yes’ to new positions when my first instinct is to protect precious things to me – my time, my effort, my privilege. I’ve said ‘yes’ to becoming a board member for We Stories here because it is an actionable extension of our family’s mission to live within, and learn from, diverse communities. I will support businesses and organizations that support and protect all Americans. I will remove my business from those that denigrate others – I’m already working through that list.
I have bigger challenges ahead of me on this – personal challenges that I don’t yet have the answers to. As Bill Maher said last night, we can’t exactly unfriend 47% of the nation. I’m not really on Facebook outside of the communication vehicles for a few committees I’m involved with, but even with that little access, I’m shocked at the things that still show up in my feed. I understand that many people were underwhelmed with Hillary on the ticket, and many had strong reservations about her. But I have not yet rationalized a vote for Trump for any reason. We must not sanitize the racist platform that he ran on, nor the support he has garnered from the White Nationalist movement, the KKK, and other alt-right groups. Voting for him was an active form of endorsement of this platform. The fact that we have to listen to these conversations now in order to understand what we’re up against is a disgrace to the strong, equitable, inclusive nation that we love to think of as a gloriously unique model for the rest of the world.
I reread the post I wrote eight years ago on the eve of that election. I explained how I responded to the question from E about how people decide who to vote for in any given election:
Some choose a president based on the decisions that they have made on certain issues, the decisions that have led them to run this race. For those people, they may choose the one that has made the most decisions in line with their own, or may even choose based on one key decision. But for me, I explain, I am choosing the person based on how they approach each of those decisions. I attempt to point out just how complex this world and this nation is, how there are millions of tiny and monumental decisions to be made on any given day, and no one, no how, can ever possibly know what all those decisions might be. So I’m choosing the one who I think approaches issues with an open mind, an open ear, and a reasoned, thoughtful approach and a refreshing combination of a razor sharp intelligence and a dash of humility.
This is heartbreaking to read now. This is a heartbreaking loss. I’ve had personal losses before; I’ve had candidates that I’ve supported fall short of the mark. This is different. This threatens the progress that we’ve made as a nation for decades, and poses a clear threat to our future security and identity as a free and noble home to a beautiful, complicated, driven, inspired people.
Chin up! Rise up! There’s work to do.
Epilogue (for today): My parents sent me this link because they know that my love for Van Jones knows no bounds. This three part mini-documentary is really worth a listen. Damn, these conversations are hard.