Knitting America back together

For the last week I’ve been walking around with my heart hanging out of my chest just like all my liberal friends. My heart hurts because hatred won. Not hatred from our candidates but the divisive friend-against-friend, brother-against-sister, Democrats-versus-Republican, stomach-churning, stratifying hatred that’s polarizing our country.

Hatred got us. Trump supporters don’t have a lock on this. They may have their walled border and Islamic fear mongering, but we have our words, like bigot, misogynist, sexist and racist. Anyone who doesn’t speak the lingua franca of political correctness faces liberal shaming. Know what? Name-calling doesn’t change opinions or behavior. It pushes them underground.

Well hatred's not underground anymore.

So many ugly things have slouched into the light during this election cycle and for that we can be thankful. After the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which the President-elect bragged about groping women, I for one have had to take a hard look at the sexual harassment and assault in my past and name it for what it was. Disgust, fear, betrayal, powerlessness—this is the emotional fallout from unwanted comments, honks on the street and inappropriate advances. And I was lucky.

But I’ve also taken a hard look at the things I’ve said about men, their predilections for anger, violence, rigidity and individual, um, shortcomings. Is it OK because I’m marginalized? Is my stereotyping more righteous? If I see a pulchritudinous specimen and comment to a friend in terms I wouldn’t use around my mother am I any less culpable?

What about my own bigotry? What about the dark thoughts I’ve had about the Religious Right? About Millennials? And, yes, people of color? As good lefties are we immune from evolutionary tribalism? Are we so evolved that we don’t succumb to the pull of choosing same-same? I think not. Us-them. Husband-wife. White-black. Me: good. You: suck. Polarization are us. We’re just better at hiding it behind the right adjectives.

My pain comes from the fact that we don’t listen to each other and we don’t demand truth. The election coverage in The New York Times appalled me it was so liberally biased. And I’m a member of that choir. When I cast my ballot, I felt like I did so mostly on faith and not fact. I believed Hillary Clinton was less corrupt and less dangerous. But I didn’t know that. Likewise if you cast your vote for Donald Trump did you buy the slogan, “Hillary for Prison”? Is she a criminal? Where’s the evidence?

I can’t speak for all media, but the front page of The New York Times read like the op-ed pages, it skewed so anti-Trump. Granted, he gave them plenty of material with which to skewer him, but for the love of all things kinda-sorta objective: Where’s the beef?

The stories that have proved most informative to me were the ones where reporters interviewed folks in Lima, Ohio, Greenville, Pennsylvania and Casper, Wyoming. People who spoke from their hearts about lost jobs, poor health and the hope Trump’s make-America-great-again message provided. I know what people in Boulder think. What do the rest of y’all think? More importantly, what do you want? What keeps you up at night? What do you believe this man is going to do for you? What in your heart made you push that button? What are liberals missing? God forbid, is it time for me to turn on Fox News?

We are tribal at our core. But bridging our differences is the work of our lives. Whether it’s understanding why my husband wants to paint everything grey or why some of my friends voted for Donald Trump, it’s all about trying to crack the shells of our own “rightness” to see what moves the other.

What if we reframe The Donald as someone who took a hammer to the veneer of equality that obscures real inequities that persist in America? What if his unexpurgated rhetoric spurs more activism, efforts to find common cause and solutions to real problems?

Hatred has been called out. Now, what are we going to do about it?

America, we desperately need to crack those protective shells and the let the light of our hopes and fears seep into each other’s hearts. We need to listen to each other with open minds and disciplined mouths. We must invite liberals and conservatives of all stripes into our homes to share meals, dreams and vulnerabilities without rancor. Now is the time to contain our egos and emotions, so we can see the bleeding represented by those red electoral votes.

Easy to say, right? These conversations are like knitting intarsia in headstand. Almost impossible.

I’m writing this because it’s what I need to read. I don’t believe half of the electorate is evil or racist or stupid. I can’t believe it. But I do struggle to understand how this P.T. Barnum-esque character convinced some of America’s most down-to-earth citizens that he deserved their trust.

I’m trying to listen, really I am. These conversations aren’t pretty or easy and they push all the buttons. There may be nothing more difficult than to sit and listen to something that feels wrong but may not be. Sometimes our differences are ones of syntax. Sometimes they are more profound. But this is how we learn who we are as a nation in all our messy diversity. And that includes the vast red-heart center of the country. I can't dismiss these folks. I just can't. These are my people and yours and they have every right to their vote, their perspective. And, I hope we will be accorded the same respect.

I'm not saying, listen to crap. If someone is slut-shaming or fat-shaming, hurling racial epithets or threatening acts of violence against anyone, anyone at all, we must call them out. But otherwise let's listen, learn and really see the ugly truths that surfaced during this election so we can start patching the foundational cracks in our city on a hill—even if it takes several lifetimes to do so.

Because as a proud second-generation American, whose grandfather came to this country as a young man with nothing, I believe in my bones that we are one nation (black, white, brown and yellow, male, female, LGBTQIA, naturalized, rich, poor, urban and rural, liberal and conservative), under whatever God you pray to, indivisible with evolving liberty and justice for all.

 

 

 

 

 

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