The Aisle

Saturday, November 12, 2016

My friends who are happy with the outcome of this election, please read.

First of all, I hope you'll notice the courtesy of not calling you "Trump supporters". Some are, some aren't, but it's worth not painting with too broad a brush if I can help it.

I read an interesting piece today that was the last thing I shared on my wall ( I loved this article, and I want to call out a few specific things and add to it my own thoughts.

I also fit into the pattern of moving from a conservative, right-wing religious stronghold (suburban Utah) to the coast (Seattle), with the result of many of my views shifting in the years before or after. Part of moving here had to do with my worldviews, but I've definitely started to see things with an increasing liberal point of view in the last four years here.

This means that I know I'm talking across the aisle, not to my own, now; which gives me a very possible talking-out-of-my-ass bias.

However, I do remember my roots well, and the motivations that made me think the way I did when I still considered myself mainly a right-wing voter.

America the United States.

To pin this election on the coastal elite is a cop-out. It’s intellectually dishonest, and it’s beneath us.

We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience.

Truth: America is more of a melting pot than middle America shows. Middle America — everything from rural parts of eastern states all the way to Utah, eastern Washington, etc. — is not representative of the demographics of the country.

Does this mean voters in Utah or other rural Americas have less of a right to vote according to their own specific needs? Of course not. But this election has brought out — on all sides — a uniquely strong and foul-smelling brand of "I want it my way."

There are 320 million people here and growing, across a country the third largest in the world.

That's worth a diversion to point out just how significant it is.

We're the third most populous country, and the third largest by area. Of the 100-most populous countries, the United States has the 77th highest density. Of the top 10, we're the ninth. With so many people across so much land, America is easily one of the most challenging countries to keep aligned, not to mention the ongoing economic and political responsibility of our place in the world.

The success of the system of government, on an original design, across such a wide land and large and diverse population is remarkable, even unprecedented.

We can all stand to check in, and more constantly remind ourselves that there are many more Americans that are not like us. That there is no possible way we could be as homogenous as we tend to believe. This is something I fight daily. I have no concept of what "320 million people" really looks like. I simply have to believe that I also can't conceive how different we all are.

As a result, this reminder means that the greatest good may not come from voting in our own interests, but in the interests of a diverse population.

I do my best to do this, and I try to ever do better. I think it's worth it for the left to give red-state voters the credit that they can do the same.

Winners and losers

They genuinely do not understand today’s shock, particularly from minorities.

This line stood out to me, (never mind the speaking for others, which I have a problem with, but I digress...) and it got me to think about what I've seen on social media from my own friends — people I know — who were pleased with the outcome.

I saw some gloating that "HRC" got what she had coming.

I saw some extremely hopeful messages that Trump, despite his, um, roughness, would bring some good to the country.

I saw a lot of anger at the left — progressives, liberals, "elite" — for having done such a poor job of understanding the needs of middle America for the past year, 5, 10, 15 years. For "getting it wrong". For prioritizing modernist social agendas and socialist economic visions over the traditional values and hard-earned success of the traditional American story.

I don't necessarily agree or disagree with these points or believe that's all there is to it, but I hope it illustrates the gulf.

But saying this is all about the left not seeing the right (while true, certainly) misses something, too, and, my November-9-victory-voter friends, I hope you can hear me out.

You've probably felt unseen for years. If you felt any of these things, if you felt that feeling of "winning", how do you think it feels, for those who are afraid this means what they love about America is so undervalued, that they may lose it. Love, equality, fairness, progress, collaboration, community, support, humanity.

It doesn't mean you don't share these values, but Trump's rhetoric and success have left many afraid that you don't.

(Yes, many of these voters spent the last 8 years gloating at the liberal victories that took place. I am ashamed for that, and I know it can't have felt good. I am empathizing strongly with that now, and I hope we can kill this tendency sooner than later.)

Trump has spent 16 months or more spouting off at rallies and in the media with messages that frequently contradict and undermine these values. To much of the American electorate, he destroyed his credit early. They — as city voters, minority voters, secular voters — don't understand or share your policy values and needs, so they aren't quite sure how you can see past this inhumane and hateful speech.

I'm not pretending we can see it the way each other sees it, but we can at least each say "think about how it feels" and share our own feelings.

The future is your chance — our chance — to show each other we still have values of love, decency, humanity, progress, community in common.

How does this victory taste?

I hope I've showed a good amount of trying to understand those of you who are happy with this election outcome. I was devastated, but I know many people of values were relieved. "Where are they coming from?" I asked myself. I posted the following video with strong words for the left to hear.

This need to realize just how badly we don't see across the aisle is one of the most important take-aways this election, and has a strong message of self-responsibility (which is one of my highest personal values).

If you're happy with the outcome, I'd challenge you to think for a second about the difference between how this election outcome feels to you, versus how it feels to the rest of the country. Who agrees with you, and who doesn't? Why don't they?

For some, the disagreement and sense of loss will be so far removed from your feeling as to be visceral. Emotional and gutwrenching in a way that tests our ability to remember that rational discourse is needed. Many people I've talked to have been unable to concentrate on much at all this week; depressed and utterly shocked that policy values "trumped" (ha) human decency this election.

If you're happy with the outcome, you probably don't see it that way, and that's OK. I ended election night with this thought, which I posted on Facebook: "Tomorrow, I'm going to start by loving more."

This was the only thing I could think to do in face of such an utter gulf between two Americas. Love more, hate less. The next day I posted the bright new cover photo at the top of this article, with the tagline "Always choose love".

What does this mean for me, and how can I help when I encounter those who disagree? I can love you by empathizing, listening, suspending argument and conflict. And I can love you by standing strongly as my real self, showing up 100% as myself and letting you know who I am. This is part of that.

I'm the product of a relatively isolated, white, homogenous part of America, and I've also shaken many of those beliefs off.

I don't think this makes me better than my roots. It only means I try to be better than I was. In every way, I try to make my outcome a product of all the good I've seen in the world.

The broader and more diverse the sources of that good we take in, the better we can each be. I hope all of us can hear that message and put it into action in our lives now, without delay. The gulf smashed between us this election illustrates it's more important than ever before.