I spent the majority of the election results coverage drinking beers with a long lost friend in Seattle, Washington. Like many, we started by joking about the possibility as our future President elect lurked ever forwards in his projections. We kept at it, a gentle buzz setting in, clouding the ever growing legitimacy. Then, Like the majority of my peers, dread gave way to a growing horror as reality sets: Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. Cue the list of all of the horrible things that he’s said and done.
These last couple days, I can’t help but reflect on my role in this. Leading into the election, I would have proudly identified myself as “Politically indifferent, or uhh, moderate…maybe”. Frankly, I’ve been lazy in my own understanding of and role in this nation’s political process. I’ve survived on my own self-professed disenfranchisement as I masked discomfort over the lack of thoughtful political discourse with a fashionable “to hell with this” attitude that, when provoked, I could vehemently defend. After all, why vote for a system that you don’t believe in? Why vote in a system in which neither candidate represents nearly any holistic sense for what you believe in?
Now, as the election and debate season heated up, I realized the profound importance of voting for Hillary over Trump, convinced by friends’ arguments of the growing statistical importance my vote had as a Detroiter and, just as important, my own moral prerogative which to that point I considered null and void.
Considering the above, when Trump was declared the President elect, I was faced with a couple moments of clairvoyance.
1) A profound sense of guilt. I realized, once and for all, that I aided in the creation of a dangerous narrative – voting doesn’t matter because the system is broken. Obviously, wrong. Votes matter. Voting matters. Those who abstained under the guise of moral qualms with both candidates… are you happy now? The sinking sensation hitting you ever since election night is the reality that when faced with a difficult choice, you said “no thank you” rather than taking responsibility over the fact that nothing in this world is morally black and white. You took the easy way out and I’m sorry that I didn’t get to convince you otherwise sooner.
2) We have a broken political system in which two candidates were only able to engage half of our nation. Literally, half. Party disparity has created a dangerous atmosphere of political disengagement. Now, its time to face the consequences.
3) This is us, and we’re finally forced to realize and contend with it. A quarter of our nation’s population voted for a man who, at best, lacked the moral fortitude to abandon the racism and misogyny following his race spawned and, more likely, is actually a racist and misogynistic himself (I wouldn’t be against contending that either example is one and the same).This means that a large percentage of that quarter, let’s call it an eighth (I’m feeling oddly optimistic) feel the same way, with the rest literally deciding that they cared more about their own sense of fragility (I’m talking to you, Trump supporters justifying using economic entitlement).
But, like I said, I’m feeling oddly optimistic. Why? Because we can’t hide anymore, and neither can anyone else. We can’t hide from the dinner conversations – from the friends who opportunistically racist rhetoric with humor, or the uninformed coworkers who preach hate speech in the form of economic complaint without even knowing it. The time has come to face our nation’s roots – the core of “what it means to be American”. Avoid falling into the trap that this election indicates the rebirth of some sort of long dormant bigotry. This is Us. Embrace it, understand it, and change it. At least a quarter of our population has spoken. Now it’s time for the rest of us to respond. The beauty of it – the beauty of what it actually means to be “American”, is that we have the chance to do so.
Disclaimer: These views are my own and are, by no means, an absolute reflection of any of my employers.