To say that I'm disappointed with the results of the election is an understatement. There are some great articles and analyses about Trump out there that can really make you feel pessimistic about our future, but it's pointless and depressing to waste my time rehashing that. I feel it would be better to focus on something that is within our power to change. I would like to share my growing concerns for our society and my hope in humanity.
For the first time in my short life, I am starting to see the fragility of our social structures. I've taken for granted how everything in my world operates according to a set of social rules and norms and I've assumed those rules and norms would remain in place my entire life. I've thought of social, economic, and political meltdowns as far separated from my reality because...well, we've grown past all that in my modern America. And it's been easy for me to feel that way because I've been privileged enough to come from a background that was safe and followed all those rules. I have high hopes I'll never experience first-hand that space of no rules, cruel rules, or survival rules.
Maybe I've lived a sheltered life that doesn't reflect reality, but I am still shocked at the blatant bigotry and hatred that has reared its ugly head during Trump's candidacy. Trump has become a symbol for some of resetting the social norm to keep those feelings and behaviors checked and/or hidden from public eye. While you may not like the idea of a social force suppressing honest feelings, that social force creates a semblance of peace and acceptance for those who are the object of that hate. It would be great if everyone deep down loved everyone else, but in the meantime we could at least rely on law for bigger things and social norms for all other day-to-day interactions. It's not perfect, but those social norms (i.e., intolerance toward all isms and hate-speech) keep us safe.
As it is now, I fear for the divisiveness that is eating at our hearts, building intolerance and distrust in place of empathy and brotherly kindness. I fear that in the midst of grouping into our own teams, one team member will bite and the other team will bite back.
I fear that one or more groups will become the scapegoat to all of our problems.
While Trump may become less incendiary now that he has secured the presidency, there is a disturbed beehive of social rules that may be shifting, and hopefully only temporarily. He spoke of unifying as a nation and Secretary Clinton echoed similar thoughts. This gives me hope.
It also gives me hope that this country as been through a crap ton of hard times already and has a good record of rising above. It gives me hope that we have a rich history of under-privileged citizens and oppressed groups defying the old norms, changing them for the better, and/or responding with love to those acts of hatred and intolerance. We have a history of good people doing what they can to support those who are oppressed and raising their voices even when they could follow a safer path.
While things are still fresh, we can prevent harmful norms from returning to our society. We can become advocates and allies to neighbors who are targeted while remembering love and acceptance to those less accepting. I like the step-by-step guide I've seen online for those who wish to help:
1. If you see someone being harassed, do something. That could be as simple as sitting next to them on the bus and starting a conversation with them to try and block out the hate.
2. If you hear a colleague, friend, acquaintance spewing hate speech, confront them. Explain you disagree and find what they are saying harmful.
3. If you have a colleague / friend / acquaintance with a similar commute path as you, offer to ride the bus/train together if they are feeling at risk.
Maybe the shift I fear is much smaller than I think or just a hiccup. Maybe I'm getting worked up for something inconsequential. I'd love to be needlessly concerned. Either way, there is no harm in being more accepting and helpful to those less privileged than you or me. Here's a little inspiration from Birmingham Jail:
"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial 'outside agitator' idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."