This election has made a lot of us face some hard truths about our country and ourselves. I suppose the fact that Trump won (not the popular vote, of course) is the most sobering one for the 47.8 percent of Americans who supported Hillary Clinton. I can’t really give any more of my precious time or tears to Trump. I have too much work to do on myself.
I’m not who you think I am. Perhaps I never was.
Maybe I was always really a radical trapped inside the exterior of the good girl and moderately sensible shoes. I just cared (note past tense) way too much about pleasing people to fully express my truths. That’s one reason I didn’t come out until I was well into my 30’s. I was afraid people wouldn’t like me and most of all, I did not want to disappoint my parents. They, of course, were not at all surprised that I was gay and only cared for my happiness and well-being but I still deeply regret all those years of not being fully known to them.
So for most of my sixty years I have operated under the adage that my dear departed daddy used to often tell me, “You can catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” I don’t know why it never occurred to me to ask my father the obvious question all those years ago. Why the hell would you want to catch flies?
Yes, I know the phrase means you can attract more friends by being nice than by being rude. It just doesn’t apply to voters. Voters like vinegar. Bitter, stinging sour vinegar. Sort of like the taste that I have had in my mouth since November 8th.
Ironic isn’t it, since we liberals so glommed on to Michelle Obama’s passionate cry at the Democratic Convention back in July -“When they go low, we go high.” I know I clung to it like a personal floatation device – fully knowing that we had the moral high ground in this election. We repeated it on social media when Trump supporters would post vile commentary like, “Lock her up!” or “Drain the swamp”. I even shouted it at the first rally that Hillary and Michelle appeared together at in my hometown a few weeks before the election.
That rally was the day before FBI Director Comey released his letter, the October Surprise (i.e. Tsunami) – an unprecedented move 10 days before a presidential election. You remember – the one that pollsters and the media said had a very “marginal” effect on voters. At least that’s what they said before the election. Then after a lot of Wednesday morning quarterbacking, many of them proclaimed that it probably had a bigger effect than they had measured. Ya think? If there are any swamps to be drained, I hope Trump starts with the pollsters. Bye, Nate Silver. We are never ever getting back together.
I don’t know if that’s the main reason Hillary lost the election. I know I’ve read at least 1,412 theories on the subject, and I’m done agonizing over it. Bottom line: Trump was elected Lord of the Flies and now we have to put on our big girl panties and grab him and his minions by the balls to make sure that we don’t let an already great America go back.
As I often do in times of moral uncertainty, I turned to the words of Harvey Milk who said, “I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted.”
Oh. Hell. No.
I am flat-out worn out from being the good girl for so long. Oh, I’ve spoken out before on issues near and dear to my heart – LGBT civil rights, HIV/AIDS stigma, Amendment One and HB2. But I’ve never really boldly crossed that “honey” line. I’ve bit my tongue over the years with some family, friends and colleagues when they’ve made comments that offend me and my ideals. God forbid I be accused of being a humorless liberal or too politically correct. Not me, people like me. They really, really like me.
Fair warning to all – my Sally Field phase is over. I’m acquiring a taste for vinegar. Vinegar gets shit done. Simma down, now. I’m not looking for a fight with anyone on either side but I’m sure as hell not going to default to sweet talking my way out of any either. I’m too old and there’s too much at stake.
47.3% of voters may have booked passage on the Titanic but I see that iceberg ahead and I’m going to use my voice as the biggest baddest foghorn you’ve ever heard.
I’m angry and I’m going to fight tooth and nail for the America that I believe in – the America that is good and kind and loving – the America not hell-bent on preserving the white status quo – the America that is not afraid of someone being different – the America that celebrates being different.
I started to get a queasy feeling in my stomach the Sunday before the election. My wife and I drove over to Buena Vista, an upscale neighborhood in Winston-Salem, where we like to walk when the weather is nice. The streets are lined with gorgeous trees and there are sidewalks – it’s a great walking neighborhood and the houses there are big and beautiful and apparently, home to an awful lot of people who voted for Trump – at least if yard signs are any indication.
I find it hard to believe that these folks were simply voting for change because it sure looks like they’ve been doing pretty darn well for a while. Just an observation.
The “R” word has been thrown around a lot this election cycle. No, not all Trump voters are racists but Charles Gaba, founder of ACASingups.net, nailed it in one short not so sweet tweet when he said, “Not all Trump supporters are racist, but all of them decided that racism isn’t a deal-breaker. End of story.”
Yes, there was lot of Flying the W this election and I’m not talking about the Cubs. White Makes Right could have been another big seller for Trump hat vendors this year.
Author Toni Morrison gives a blistering view on this ugly reality in an essay this week in The New Yorker. You can read it here but here’s a stiff shot of it:
The comfort of being “naturally better than,” of not having to struggle or demand civil treatment, is hard to give up. The confidence that you will not be watched in a department store, that you are the preferred customer in high-end restaurants—these social inflections, belonging to whiteness, are greedily relished.
So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.
I don’t want to be angry for four years because I still believe down deep in my bones in kindness as “the only thing that matters” as the wonderful poet Namoi Shihab Nye writes in her poem of the same name.
Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
What you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness.
The electoral map certainly highlighted a lot of desolation and I think we all lost a lot last Tuesday. Maybe now it’s finally time to think about all of this through a different prism than the red state/blue state one. I’m not crazy about purple either. I might suggest something like a burnt sienna as we navigate our new country in search of kindness.
But this is where my work is. I know I cannot dismiss all Trump voters as racist and a threat against me and my wife as gay Americans.. I would lose some family members and a few good friends if that was my moral litmus test.
I know I have to stop thinking of that man standing in front of me at Starbucks – the older white man with the big belly that is taking up the whole counter while he fixes his coffee – more cream, a shake of vanilla – while the rest of us wait – as my enemy because I think he looks like a Republican.
No, that’s on me to do better. But I will no longer go with the “honey” approach. I will speak the truth as I know it. I will be respectful and civil but I will no longer stop at the line that I drew for myself so many years ago when I bought into the good girl scenario.
The results of this election made me recall something a dear friend said to me years ago in the context of a professional dilemma I was experiencing. I was opting for the path of least resistance and staying on the high road in the situation. My friend said, “Addison, taking the high road is great but sometimes you can wind up in a ditch.”
Many of us have felt like we’ve been in a ditch this past week or so – or maybe even more like road kill. Anyway, there’s no AAA to pull us coastal elites out of this one. It’s on us and we better get started.
You can sleep while I drive.