What are you going to do?

10 Nov

For me, as for many of us, these past two days have been full of anger, fear, confusion, and – most of all – reflection.

I can’t say I’ve come here to write something particularly inspiring or informative, or to offer a single, coherent solution. I’ve come here to vent and to process and to collect my thoughts and I welcome your own thoughts and comments.

I’m allowed to feel fear and surprise.

Whether or not I should have seen this coming, or should have been more afraid than I already was before is now a non-sequitur. This is the reality we have found ourselves in and I’m allowed to be afraid, and I’m allowed to be shocked and surprised and let down.

I’m also allowed to be angry and to mourn, and to feel shame and to shame others for their choices.

I will have no one telling me I can’t be angry. I don’t care if you thought Hillary Clinton was not a great candidate – I am still allowed to mourn her loss, not just because of Trump’s win, but because we were standing on the precipice of shattering the highest of glass ceilings and we did not get to do it. I am disheartened, let down, disappointed, and angry at everyone I know who voted for Trump or did not do enough to stop it (the latter group includes myself). I will not apologize for shaming those who support him, I will not apologize for feeling ashamed of myself for not doing enough to oppose him.

I’m taking stock of my own failures.

What more could I have done? I know conservatives – I work with them and a few are my clients. Because of the avenues through which I know these people (work), I was not as aggressive as I otherwise might have been in reaching out and conversing with them. I regret this. Jobs and clients come and go, this presidency will leave a lasting legacy for decades to come. We had plenty of conversations that always ended in friendly promises to “agree to disagree”. This is not helpful – letting people remain comfortably ensconced in their own ignorance is not helpful. I don’t want to look back at my actions 20 years from now and wish I had been more vocal and more visible – during Trump’s tenure as president you can bet I will be much louder and much more present and I will be challenging the conservatives I know and love, to be and do better. I will be challenging the liberals I know and love (some of whom sat out the election or voted third party) to do the same.

I need to develop new strategies

Saying I will be louder and more present and will challenge people more seems, at first glance, like taking a more combative approach. It is true that I feel I have been too complacent – but it is not true that I will stop being kind or open to hearing other viewpoints. I need to do the research. I need talking points. It’s not enough to come to these conversations with passion – I need to come to these conversations with concrete knowledge. But it’s also not effective to just throw facts and figures at people – I need to first learn what their concerns are and then come back to the conversation armed with ways in which my approach, our approach, addresses those concerns more effectively than theirs. And I need to help them understand, truly, why I feel the way I do. I need to step out of my comfort zone – I need to be able to handle discomfort better. If having a tough conversation strains a relationship, I need to be willing and able to do that. Challenging someone to change the way they think is just that – a challenge. It’s difficult, but necessary work. My buzzwords these next several years will be “gentle challenges” – I want to start ongoing conversations that nudge people slowly in the direction of justice, kindness, fairness, equity, and love. I will focus less on “winning” arguments and more on sowing seeds. I will tend and water my plants over the long haul, hoping they will eventually grow and bloom.

I need to show up

I still believe there is value in writing blog posts, in posting on social media, in solidarity – and I will keep doing those things. But I also need to get up, get out, and get in the streets and “on the ground”. I need to donate money. I need to attend rallies and events. I need to put in the hours.

I need to listen

I need to listen to all those people of color and other marginalized persons currently posting on social media about how this is a white problem that white people have to fix. It’s all too easy to say “I didn’t vote for him, I did my part, I’m half-Mexican, don’t blame me!” – it’s much harder to simply listen, take the criticism, and try to figure out how to influence those in power around me who I have much better access to than many communities of color do. I need to listen to all the people who voted for Trump, to listen respectfully and really “hear” them so that I can figure out why they voted for him and then we can work on addressing their concerns and making them feel included in this country’s successes. I need to listen to all the people who sit out this process and understand how we can better engage them  – what would need to change in order for them to participate?

There are, however, certain Trump supporters and, just, people I will not listen to, respect, or value – and I will not apologize for that

I have no time or energy to deal with bigots and people full of hate – I will not waste my breath on them. Even after all this, I still trust they are the minority and their numbers are shrinking with each passing year. I will not waste my time on them. I will also not apologize for refusing to legitimize them or their concerns. There is, however, always an open spot at my table and by my side for anyone coming from this community who genuinely seeks a way out of it.

I don’t know what this election was “about”

Depending on who you read and listen to, this election may have been the result of any one of the following:

Misogyny

White Supremacy

The Economy

Anti-establishment sentiments

The divide between women and men, between educated people and non-educated people, between young and old.

I’m sure it is about all of those things each to some extent, but I don’t know who to blame or what to point to as the ultimate deciding factor. Which makes it hard to know where to begin the work. Maybe the best course is simply to choose what I am most passionate and knowledgeable about and start there.

I still do believe that Feminism will save us all

Just don’t use the “F” word. We need more women in office – we need a more representative democracy. We need to make sure our rights are secure. We don’t need to “open up” white feminism to make room for people of color or for men – we need to go to them, to meet them where they live, and to take their causes on as our own and, in the process, to create a new, inclusive feminism for everyone. Ultimately, feminism is about equality – and that is where we will find our greatest strength, in fighting for and championing the equality of all during these dark and turbulent times.

Here’s what I’m going to do

I just donated $20 to the ACLU and I hope you will consider donating your money or time to organizations that matter to you, as you see fit and are able. I am hoping to give more money, more frequently, in future.

I’m going to write and make art.

I’m going to delve deep into conversations with people who think and feel differently than I do, with the intention to learn to be and do better and to help them do the same.

I’m going to get involved on the ground level in my local community. I’ve been listening and skirting around the edges and hemming and hawing for months (years, really) – I’m jumping in now, no more equivocating on the sidelines – there is work to be done, even here in our supposed lovely little liberal utopia.

I’m going to bring it home – I’m going to hug my family and focus on what matters.

I’m going to practice self-care. All of the above is not to say that I won’t be taking deep breaths, stepping away from certain parts of my life and re-prioritizing others. I cannot possibly hope to lift others up without caring for myself as well.

What are you going to do?

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