Weekly feature by: Eric Krszjzaniek
It’s been a rough couple of days. And it probably will continue to be rough for quite some time as we continue to realize that, yeah, this is real. Quite frankly, it feels like for all of our progress, we built castles on quick sand.
I am not here to lecture or to proclaim that what happened wasn’t about fear and/or hate of differences—whether skin color or gender—because lord knows it was for many of us and I have no business telling anyone who feels existential dread that what is felt isn’t appropriate.
To my Muslim friends, I am sorry. To my black friends, I am sorry. To my Chicano/Chicana friends, I am sorry. To my Latino/Latina friends, I am sorry. To my indigenous friends, I am sorry. To my Indian friends, I am sorry. To my Korean friends, I am sorry. To my Japanese friends, I am sorry. To my Nepalese friends, I am sorry. To my friends from all other nations, I am sorry. To my trans friends, I am sorry. To my gay and lesbian friends, I am sorry. To my queer friends, I am sorry. To everyone that feels scared and afraid and angry, I am sorry. white Americans as a whole really let you down this time.
Some among us might feel such attention to inclusion is unneeded and it is political correctness run amok. However, those of us who are white and who are straight, we now more than ever need to help those of us who feel threatened by inclusion to understand that we choose what we say carefully now not because of a loss but because of respect, because throughout our country’s history we have been the only ones who have not had to worry about what we say. What an amazing privilege it has been to never have to worry about what is said, but until everyone has that same privilege, it has to stop.
Our words matter more now than they ever have before—even when some would have us believe words are meaningless. Words are the sense-making part of our brain that come to dictate thoughts and actions. Change language and you can change action.
American democracy is a fascinating specimen. If the person you support wins, you feel more connected to others than you ever could have imagined possible. You feel vibrant and alive and effusive. However, if the person you support loses, you feel more isolated than you ever could have imagined, a stranger in a strange land, a person without a country. It’s during these latter times that we can fall into despondency and feel a thousand miles from ourselves and what we know.
But listen, we all need to be here now. Right here. Right now. There’s work to be done.
We got lazy as progressives. I’ve been a lazy progressive. But now, something has reignited, something has clicked again.
Fits and starts of progress do not just happen, they take work, and that was work that too many of us took for granted as somehow the march of history or the work others would do for us, on our behalf. But no. It takes us. It takes me. It takes you. It takes everyone.
To be dedicated to a cause greater than yourself is to justify your place in this world. Including more, excluding less. The voices of the voiceless are not a tide of hate, but of fear and uncertainty. It is our job to comfort those that do not feel heard, to be empathetic, to hear and to listen. We cannot simply write off or dismiss the voices of frustration any longer. In also doing this, we must comfort those among us that feel our country has been plunged into darkness, that we have moved forward into the past. Trump does not have to be the existential threat he promised us he would be.
We elected Trump, not they. America is always us, and even though our President-elect ran on a policy of turning us against them, it will be us who will remain unshaken and unbroken. America is an action.
Government is not the looming, intangible entity that has become such a powerful metaphor for the stripping of humanity. Government and systems can only do harm through complacency. They are people. They are you and they are me. It is only people, do not be afraid. We can become government and we can become the change we took as inevitable. And only through work and diligence can we make it inevitable.
We can be better, and ultimately it will be a Trump presidency that enables us to realize this. We have no time for despair. Mourning, yes; despair, no. The reward for exalting a man who appeals to the worst in all of us to the highest office in the land is that no man or woman like that will ever have that chance again. We are lucky that this man and his intentions are so blatant and bald-faced, otherwise it could have had the potential to work against us. We need the blatant and the flagrant obscenity of tyrants to ignite within us our long forgotten fire of justice and decency.
I had no delusions about the state I chose to move to. I knew it was Red, like RED red, and that liberals were a rare, if not threatened, species here. This town gave women’s suffrage a full 50 years before the rest of the nation, and it also gave us the human-turned-symbol for hate crime legislation. A symbol that united people and brought light to a dark part of our nation. There is love in the darkness, but it takes work.
Some of us are scared, some of us are excited. Excitement is merely fear leaving the body. Those of us who are excited are not lesser than those of us who are afraid. That division can’t happen. Living here in the red sea has given me insight into the Otherness that I could not have known otherwise. It has given me empathy for the plight of those among us who vote consistently against our best interests.
We must unify and acknowledge that the system that brought us here is broken. The enthusiasm for Trump is not strictly enthusiasm for hate or misogyny, no matter how hard it is for us on the left to believe it, it is enthusiasm for the destruction of a system that made life silent for so many for so long. It just happens that the man who promised the destruction of the shackles is also a huge part of the system that forged the shackles. But systems are just people doing one action after another. Systems, like and because of the people they depend on, are fallible. Do not be afraid, we are here together. We will protect one another and now we have a solidified purpose.
Is all of this worth the pain it has caused, and continues to cause, those of us victimized by the hateful rhetoric and inhumane treatment? No. It is not. Of course not, it could never be. Nothing could ever make the fear and sadness of a student coming into my office scared about the fate of their parents, of their own education, somehow worthwhile. Therefore it is up to us to make sure this pain and hurt and anger is not in vain. That a modicum of meaning can be squeezed from this cold stone we’ve handed ourselves.
And so what is our action? Be mindful of our language, yes, but more importantly we will organize and we will run for office. We will help one another. We will be empathy. If there is no love in our darkness, we will create it.
If you elect to run for office and serve us, your win will give you more experience in public service than is necessary to become President-elect. There is nothing holding you back from public service but yourself. This is powerful. We are powerful. With work we can experience fear leave our bodies and be excited about this action called America again.
A Trump presidency can make us stronger if we make it so.
Do not despair, just be here now.