It was a bitter morning for many in America. Those drunk off of the hope of the past eight years now seem to be getting sledge hammered with the hangover.
Last nights election was a rebuke of progress and equality, the sound of a sleeping giant waking after hearing a clarion call of virulent nostalgia.
“We’ll make America great again!”
The clock will be set back, factories will sing with jobs sprouting up like a fresh Spring crop. We’ll talk tough again and bruise our knuckles drawing someone else’s blood.
This voice thought it was crying out: “America!” but it only sounded like the grumble of: “Me, me, me.” All those problems distant to us? The ones belonging to the people who don’t live like or look like me? They can stay far away.
This was a chance to restore that grand olde America. The worry-free brass-balled America where you didn’t hear about those problems that choke the news feeds of today. Back then no one carried on about black bodies murdered like dogs in the street, women reduced to empty carnal objects or the validity of consensual love between two people of any gender.
Back then there was a gentlemen’s agreement: you don’t publish the news of the lynching just let people buy postcards of the hanging afterward. Back then we made things like dime store novelties from abject cruelties.
This giant cast it’s shadow from sea to shining sea, folks who had never voted showed up putting their faith in a man that, they say, told it like it is.
It’s hard to say that progressivism is dead when we’ve elected to the presidency a man that can be diagnosed with at least one mental illness: Narcissistic or Histrionic personality disorder. Either way, this wasn’t the progress anyone had in mind.
It leaves a bitter taste having just lived through eight years of giant steps towards equality.
Too many felt that they were underfoot in those steps. It left them afraid of the world around them.
Fear is easy. Rather than rise to the challenge of the day, many took the opportunity to cross their arms against tomorrow and look backwards at the mirage of that golden age.
Most of us thought we lived in a time when the old chains were broken or at least weaker than ever before. Though hope starts to seem naive when you realize that they can always be reforged. And if there ever was a golden time in Americas past, it was only ever white gold.
The country hasn’t changed that much.
History isn’t done with us.
It was a bitter morning and easy to see things as dimming. An election is, at minimum, a four year prospect but the aftermath of those years can stretch on for generations.
And, again, fear is easy.
It hurts, viscerally to wake up thinking that sliver of doubt living in the back of your mind, the one that wondered if things were getting better, if people are seeing you as an equal person and not a societal symptom like a race or gender characteristic, has been under fed.
Today is a constant trickle of ice cold water down the spine. Every time the mind turns to something like mundane life, the shock revisits, anger churns the guts, fear lives. Hope lies bleeding.
So take some time. Let it wash over you as this previously unseen reality cuts into sharp relief.
Be numb, be hurt, scream bloody murder with the rage for what this could all mean for family, friends and country.
Then, get up off the damned mat, America.
Our system of government has tremendous power over our money, our health, our privacy, our right in deciding for ourselves what can happen to our bodies.
The fear you feel, that women will mean less and sexual assault will be relegated to myth, that a vile racism can step proudly out of the shadows, that so many bedrock values just got chipped and cheapened?
Those aren’t up to a vote. That’s purely in the realm of choice.
The government is vehicle of consequences. It never decides for us.
Throughout our history, and America has ugliness in its history, Americans have stood up for what they believe in. We waver and drag our feet but ultimately we set our heads straight and stand up for the right thing.
Now is the time to stand and be counted.
Last night showed a bright red map of angry white folks. They’re mad at the political machine, upset over this so-called increase in racism that happens when you elect a well-qualified black man and start listening to what other people endure. They want to make America great again because ignorance keeps them from seeing the greatness that is already flush in this country.
That was nice of them to take attendance. But there was only a large enough swath to tip the electoral college one way. Our nation doesn’t move in lock-step with them.
It isn’t good enough to complain, to block or unfriend. It was never going to be enough to vote. You can’t vote ignorance away.
You can oppose it.
You aren’t going to out-type discrimination, it thrives in the shadows of a keyboard. You can call it out on the street, at the office and in every day life.
There is no magical post or link that can cure sexism. But we’re free to oppose that one catcall at a time. We can be available to everyone who has been assaulted, made to feel uncomfortable for their race, ethnicity, or religion. We can walk side-by-side with someone who is told they will burn in Hell as they are entering an abortion clinic or offer a ride because the nearest clinic was de-funded by fanatics.
Giving a damn isn’t some Christmas decoration to be prized but only brought out once a year or two or four. Now is when we need to proactively care in our everyday lives, not just statuses or votes.
America is ours, as good as we let it be. Of those who voted, the majority didn’t ask for this result.
Our flag? It means what you let it.
Think about that and what you are willing to let it fly for. Consider what you are willing to live under. Recognize that in this country, under this flag there is a choice and power in that choice.
Recognize it because the other flag that came out in victory parades the other night means only one thing and as many mistakes as our country has made, God help us, we can not stand for that again. Ever.
Let’s be real, nothing of the last eight years was a true freedom. The news has been steady with no shortage of discrimination and executions in the streets. We’ve been watched, listened to and monitored in freedoms name. The road to tomorrow was always leading to a fight one way or another.
But even if this country wasn’t fully better yet, didn’t it feel better? Those children dead in the streets were met with public outrage and protest. Laws the discriminated openly saw corporations and public events pull money and jobs from states.
Maybe it’s simplistic but those fights were about gaining ground, not maintaining what we’ve got.There had been the sense of possibility. A taste of the freedom that a truly equal society should have.
Why go back?
If the election of 2016 is the rebuke of the past eight years -one step forward, two steps back- then it’s this far back, no further. Now we dig our heels in.
Last night was a big vote but only a vote. This country doesn’t change but for you changing it or letting it be changed.
Look to your friends and neighbors but look out for them as well. Because, while it’s our duty and birthright to oppose the racists, the xenophobes, the sexists, the dangerous idiots, the fanatics, it’s still dangerous to do so. It was dangerous even in the best of days. These are country-sized problems. Be there for the good fight but reach out when you need to. Be available to those who do need you. It will take the better part of a nation to drag this land into a brighter tomorrow.
“E Pluribus Unum” that is Americas motto. It’s latin meaning “Out of Many, One.” In the days ahead, accept and look out for the many. In doing that, decide which One we are.