If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might have noticed that things have been pretty quiet on here as of late.
There are many reasons for that.
There are the usual reasons: work, daily life, binge-watching all the episodes of Good Girls Revolt because OMIGOD SO GOOD.
And then there’s, well, the big fat volcano of bile and horribleness that was the recent United States’ election. As I watched the debates and other news coverage and read all the Internets (including the comments even though I knew that clicking on “see all comments” would make me want to bang my head against a very hard table, repeatedly, forever), I found myself at a loss for words.
Well, that’s not exactly true. I had words. Lots of words. But most of these words consisted of four letters. Most of these words were in ALL CAPS. Most of these words were angry and hurt and punctuated by excessive exclamation points — lined up like little baseball bats at the end of each of my sentences.
But I want to keep things light and fun on this blog! I want you to laugh! I want you to like me! I want my blog to be the one little space on the Internet that is not full of comments that make you want to punch yourself in the face, repeatedly, forever.
So I kept silent.
Not just here, but also on my personal Facebook page and in my face-to-face interactions with people.
I didn’t post any links to any articles or videos that expressed my views — views I knew were not shared by many of my family and friends.When family and friends posted things I found offensive or knew were untrue, I didn’t confront them — I just quietly unfollowed or unfriended them.
It was for the best I figured.
It wasn’t worth getting into petty political arguments with family and friends.
It wasn’t worth making anyone uncomfortable.
Besides, what effect would I have anyway? There was nothing they could do or say to sway my opinion. Likewise, I figured, there was nothing I could do or say to sway their opinion. Why waste my energy when I’m already terribly busy with other stuff, like work and daily life and ALL THE EPISODES OF GOOD GIRL REVOLT BECAUSE OMIGOD SO GOOD.
When I went home at the beginning of October for a friend’s wedding, I was worried that the topic of the election would come up. My parents are very much Republican, and I am very much not. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) if they were voting for Trump. But I knew my mom especially is not a Clinton-fan. I also know my mom especially is not the type to keep quiet about these things. The last time I had gone home was before the Democratic primary. I asked my mom to pass me the butter, and she responded with, “You’re not voting for THAT WOMAN, are you?” and I was like, “But I just wanted the butter.”
When neither of them said anything in October (other than a muttered utterance or two about Hillary being a liar when a Clinton ad had the audacity to pop up on the television), I was relieved. I figured I’d just dodged a big Donald-Trump-shaped bullet.
On the morning of the election, I woke up ridiculously early, dressed up in the only pantsuit I own, went to the polls, ready to vote for the first female President of the United States. I stood in a line that went out the door of the polling place in my racially diverse, inner-city neighborhood. I listened to my neighbors arrange a baby-sitting schedule to help our other neighbors who are parents to get out and vote. I watched two women in pantsuits hug each other and whisper how excited they were about this election. My heart swelled with pride for my country and my city. For the first time in months, I didn’t feel depressed and anxious and angry.
I was already mentally writing my next blog post. The blog post wouldn’t be about who I voted for or why. It wouldn’t even mention pantsuits. Maybe instead I’d talk about cookies and cats and unicorns and Good Girls Revolt BECAUSE OMIGOD SO GOOD.
And, then that night as I watched the election results roll in, I realized how wrong I had been wrong.
Yes, of course, I had been wrong about who would win the election. Really, REALLY wrong.
But the biggest thing I was wrong about had nothing at all to do with who was about to become president. Or who was not about to become president.
It had to do with me.
I was wrong about keeping quiet.
I was wrong to think that just because my words might not affect change that they don’t have any value.
I was wrong to deny my own voice when so many people don’t even have the privilege of a voice.
There are many things I wish I would have said. But, for the most part, I wish I would have said this:
Dear Trump-supporting family and friends,
I love you. I respect your opinion. I value our relationship.
I know you don’t want to get in a petty political argument with me. I know you want me to shrug and say it’s “just politics” — that we should just “agree to disagree.” Trust me, I want that, too. There is nothing I would rather do than avoid this really uncomfortable conversation we’re about to have.
But I can’t avoid it because, here’s the thing, it’s not “just politics” for me and many people I know.
It’s not “just politics” for my Muslim student who raised his hand the day after the election and asked me in class why it’s okay in America for white people to say they hate Muslims.
It’s not “just politics” for the minority students on the campus where I teach who have had racial slurs yelled out of car windows at them.
It’s not “just politics” for my recently married neighbors, who are worried that their marriage will soon no longer be legal.
It’s not “just politics” for me and many women like me who have been sexually harassed and physically intimidated by men.
I know you have your reasons for supporting the candidate you supported. I know none of those reasons are because you are anti-Muslim or racist or homophobic or sexist. But, here is the thing, the candidate you support is all of those things.
And, I know, as I’ve been told many times this week, that the President only has “so much power.” That he probably won’t be able to pass all the laws and follow through with all the policies he talked about on the campaign trail. That all that stuff was just “campaign talk” anyway.
But the one power the President does have is to set an example.
And, frankly, the example he’s setting terrifies me.
It terrifies my international students and the many other minority students on my campus. It terrifies my neighbors and my many other LGBTQ friends. It terrifies the one in five women who have been sexually assaulted in this country and the countless other women who have been harassed.
I know you would probably rather “agree to disagree” as we have done for years.
But how about instead of that, let’s agree to talk? Let’s agree to listen. Let’s agree to get really, really, REALLY uncomfortable — like gritting-our-teeth-all-the-way-through-Christmas-dinner uncomfortable.
Let’s agree that what we’re talking about is not petty. Let’s agree that it’s not just politics. Let’s agree that it’s not about you or me — that it’s about our country and our people and our humanity.
I know we won’t agree on many things, but let’s agree on that.