The election didn’t go the way I had hoped it would (I realize half the country feels this way every election). I had hoped to be voting for the first woman president (I still will, one day). I had hoped to see bigotry and misogyny and fear soundly trounced (they still will be, one day). But today, I feel the way most Trump supporters probably have felt for years: helpless, fearful, and watching the country I love go in a direction I don’t like. But I am not helpless. I will not give in to fear. And each of us still has a say in the direction we take as a country.
Crucially, we have a chance to choose compassion or hypocrisy. Blue has been asking Red to show compassion and respect for those not like them. Demanding, really. Saying that if they don’t, they are stupid and bad and undeserving of political power. And not surprisingly given that setup, they didn’t do it, but that doesn’t make their fears any less real. Whatever the source of those fears, whether Fox, economic instability, a threatened faith, or something else, they are real. The people that voted for Trump need our compassion and respect, even if we don’t like it. Even if we cannot (and indeed we must not) condone their actions or prejudices. They are still people worthy of being treated as people. Everything we stand for is hollow if we can’t extend compassion now.
That doesn’t mean tacitly accepting that the ugly emotions so powerfully displayed are okay. That doesn’t mean we stop advocating for equality and working to get past racism and sexism. That doesn’t mean not protecting - bodily if necessary - those whose safety and civil liberties are now in jeopardy. That does mean doing so in a way that acknowledges the fundamental humanity of those that just made a national cry for help.
While those of us in blue are decrying racism and sexism we must guard against casually practicing our own “-isms”: looking down on those who believe in real-world negative consequences for taking religion out of public discourse; shaming those whose fear of impotence and lack of options drives them to dark places; dismissing the less well educated or the less well traveled or the less intelligent; writing off half the country as a “basket of deplorables”. Acknowledging that these “basket-isms” exist doesn’t let the other “-isms” off the hook. Racism is still horrid. Sexism is still horrid. And both can be frightening to see and disastrous if left unchecked. But we aren’t going to overcome them by telling those who feel that way that they don’t matter or are bad people. Or that they shouldn’t be afraid. Every time we throw our hands up and say “how could you!?!” we are feeding the fear and anger that got us here.
We all have a tribe, an ideal, a family, that we want to protect, that we fear for. Fear cannot be expunged by making those who are afraid feel defensive. We must show love and compassion - even and especially to those that we do not expect to reciprocate. We must avoid falling into our own self righteous pity or anger, but move forward from a place of love knowing that love will win eventually - if we don’t let it be corrupted into our own bitterness and blame mongering. Both love and knowledge are powerful. They will overcome fear and hatred if we keep moving forward.