A friend (somewhat sarcastically) suggested I take things like this off social media and to a blog or website. I’m trying to follow that advice.
So the silent majority spoke. And this morning I experienced another kind of silence.
There are few things I love about New York City more than the subway, despite all the stress it may cause. People of every color and creed and gender and age and income bracket squeezed in next to each other going about their day. It is the great equalizer. And it feels like America.
Today the subway, which is usually loud and bustling and chaotic, was silent. Dead silent. An eerie silence, as if everyone together had lost someone close to them. You could feel the anxiety and the fear.
I am myself so afraid. And I wonder if that is the same feeling of fear so many of the white working class people who elected this man feel about the change they see in the world. If so, what a shame that is and what a stark divide we face.
Over the last 8 years, and the only presidency for which I have been fully aware and awake, I have taken such pride in how I have tangibly, observably seen my friends of color stand up and demand equality, the smart, strong women in my life become more empowered and my LGBT friends find a more accepting world.
I know not everyone is as happy as I am to see that, but I can guarantee you that young people in this country by and large know that change to be good and just, even if we take it for granted.
I have admired watching an historic president defy every stereotype and challenge to his legitimacy while acting as a beacon of restraint and integrity and compassion on the world stage.
We can argue about to what extent this election is a threat to that progress, but I feel the fear and anxiety and my heart breaks for it.
I know a lot of white people in this country feel pain. I know the global economy has not been kind to the working class. I know so many voted out of frustration with a political system that ignored their problems and allowed corporations to ship their jobs overseas while running up the national debt. I know obamacare is imperfect.
But the man they have turned to plans to strip 20 million people of their health care, to lower taxes on the wealthy who have benefitted from the system the “political elite” gave them, to repeal the regulations on a financial industry that helped bring down the economy, all while pretending he was ever someone who was in touch with the everyman. He is also grossly incompetent and unqualified.
And those people have re-elected a whole Congress full of the same congressional Republicans who are, at the very least, half at fault for the problems that make them so angry.
That is a startling display of cognitive dissonance to me. And the numbers from this election reveal that the poorer the voter, the more likely they were to vote for … Clinton, while the whiter the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Trump.
I am only left to conclude that, yes, the appeal had much more to do with his promise to rid the country of immigrants, and put black Americans in their place, and ignore women crying out for equality and control over their bodies, and scapegoat a whole religion for a complicated global issue. Easy, emotional fixes to multifaceted, difficult problems.
I hope those on the right govern with compassion. The groups Trump has disparaged in this campaign have been oppressed since well before the TPP and all those factors driving discontent in the Rust Belt.
I am sad. I am afraid. I don’t know how we bridge this divide. I suspect it will take more mobilization and less social media pontification. I believe we need to reach out to those who offend us with empathy and compassion instead of condescension if we are to really change hearts and minds.
I am angry when I see people eager to see their newsfeeds free of politics again. By all means, be relieved this election is over, be relieved to be free of the horse race and the debates and whichever candidates made your blood boil. But I can’t help but think that the disengagement and disinterest in our system and how it affects the lives of not just ourselves, but others, is part of why we ended up here. And I don’t just mean the results of the election.
Celebrate the end of the election, but do not turn away from politics. Politics and the political establishment are not one in the same.
I ended my day back on the subway, getting on a train at 14th street station after happy hour drinks with my girlfriend because we felt we had to see each other so urgently. Two trumpet players played a slow, melancholy version of Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” for tips together on the platform while a Latino man nearby cried his eyes out and his two friends wrapped their arms around him.
I love New York and I love this country and I promise to do whatever I can these next four years to make sure all of my friends’ voices are heard and that they feel love.
I will not hesitate to support anything positive that comes out of a Trump presidency, but I believe a great challenge is ahead of us.