Anywhere is better than here.
This is not the morning I hoped we'd have. I'm grappling, as most of you are, with the knowledge that my country could do this thing. I'm so sorry this is happening. I woke up with Bastille's Pompeii looping in my head, but especially: how can I be an optimist about this? I felt I needed to get some words out, so here we go. Here is how I'm trying to keep it together. Here is how I try to balance hope and fear.
In an effort to take my mind off the slow passage of time as votes were cast, I spent yesterday morning listening to my backlog of On Being episodes, including one recorded live with David Brooks and E.J. Dionne. In it, they talked a bit about how community breakdown (an issue I hold dear to my heart) is a fundamental part of why this election cycle has been so vicious, about how we live in a world where most of our arguments are with people we can leave behind rather than with people we live with every day, and how there's very little sense that even those of us who do the work are doing so with much hope of changing anyone's mind. We spend so little time with people who are different from us in any metric that it's all too easy to ignore the impact our choices have on them. We don't have to deal with the aftermath.
I think there's something important in those two points. First, that we don't think we can change anyone's opinions--we saw from a fairly early point that no amount of information or emotional appeal was swaying people's decision on their preferred (or even second-best) candidates. Although there were people whose votes changed, we don't hear from them much, and when we do, we hold so much hurt from having been forced to watch them hold earlier opinions that the change doesn't seem to mean much. I understand the temptation toward that feeling, I really do, but I think it's something we should resist. We should do our best, as much as we can, to celebrate when people find their way to the right side of justice and to forgive them for their pasts as they work toward holding stronger ground.
Tied up in it all is also the simple fact now that we're all standing on the other side, we cannot be two countries. Ideologies will stand, of course, but we will not be able to separate ourselves into Hillary People and Donald People and Independent People and Non-Voting People forever. We all have to live on earth with the consequences of yesterday's decision, whether or not it was the decisions you made for yourself. And we have to do it together. We will still sit down at Thanksgiving with our families and try not to let our arguments get too heated. We will still have to share break rooms with coworkers who like to chat obliviously over bad coffee. No small number of us will still have to do our best to keep an ideologically divided country functioning. The near future will be about realizing that things are still happening, that time didn't stop, as much as it felt like it would never end.
What I ask of you today is to take your time to mourn, and then do what you can to move forward, and try not to shield yourself from the people around you. Listen to the people who are afraid, and protect them from the people who are triumphant, but if you are safe to do so, ask the triumphant people why, and listen to the answers. We have not taken a lot of time in the past eighteen months to check in with each other and focus on the answers. I will not ask you to forgive the people who have done this thing, or to sympathize with them, but we need, at some point, to dig in to the fear and distrust and hurt that led people to think this was the best choice. Some of the reasons were weak, but others might have been addressed better, to better outcomes. People have reasons, and clearly we can't ignore those reasons. You do not have to forgive them, but you do have to work with them, and maybe, if we do so compassionately, we can heal some wounds for everybody. If you are safe to do these things, I ask them of you. We are not all safe. We can't all do it. But those of us that can, I hope, will make the effort.
Your vote was cast, the campaign, at least, is over, and now we have to do whatever comes next. It will be hard. It will hurt. It will, for many of us, be dangerous. I'm not here to tell you that it will be okay, because it won't all be okay. But it will be, and the world will keep turning, so we don't get to check out. Deep breath, eyes up, one step at a time. We have work to do, and we can't do it in pieces. Yesterday we made a statement about who we are, and it was not a great one. But the election is only one day and life is ongoing, which means we get to make those statements every day. We can still change this narrative.
Here are the things I'm being optimistic about this morning:
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