I know, I know, this article is over 2 months late. Up until now any attempt to write about our post-November 8 world resulted in what I can only describe as the stages of grief, mainly anger (willing a plague to overcome us before January 20), bargaining (Jill Stein, did you have to get my hopes up?) and depression (shout out to Ben & Jerry for being there for me in my time of need). The good news: if I’m following the appropriate stages of grief, I should reach acceptance soon! The bad news: Do any of us know what acceptance of this particular tragedy looks like?
It’s hard to accept something this impracticable. How do we anticipate the next four years when our psyches (and pollsters) never thought we’d have to wrap our minds around such an absurd reality? My own personal acceptance, which I’m coming around to, is not so much rooted in ice cream (though it does help) but more so based from my time volunteering for Ohio Together, Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Ohio. I spent two weeks in Columbus pounding the pavement in October and returned the weekend before the election for Get Out the Vote. I met some interesting people while on the front lines of the election. While many were Hillary supporters, those who were Trump supporters and actually spoke to me didn’t have many kind words. In fairness, my thoughts on them were not exactly neighborly, so I took it in stride and catalogued them as funny stories from my time on a campaign.
I met one man who lectured me on why his Second Amendment rights were more important than my Nineteenth Amendment ones. I found myself arguing with another that no, Hillary and President Obama did not conspire to cause Katrina, and no, Trump was not responsible for rebuilding New Orleans. But the most memorable encounter, the one that’s propelling me towards acceptance, took place in the hallways of the regional field office I was placed at.
The field office shared a hallway and bathrooms with a WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Health Clinic, a government-subsidized program for low-income women and children. There were Clinton/Kaine signs all over the exterior of the building, as well as in the hallways. One morning I stepped into the hallway to use the restroom, but before I got to the door a man in his late 20s with a thick southern accent stopped me. For five minutes he berated me with reasons why Hillary’s election would mean the demise of the world, ranging from Hillary hating “women and poor people” to the total and complete destruction of the United States “socially, economically, and biblically.” Shocked and speechless, I responded on a loop with “you know that this is a Hillary Clinton field office, right?” After about 5 minutes he stormed out and slammed the door, leaving me with the proclamation that “Trump’s victory will bring The Rapture, you wait and see!”
After he left I did the worst thing I could do. I laughed. I told my friends about it when I got home and I laughed some more. So many of us were laughing when we should have been listening. The Electorate was warning us when Trump exceeded all (albeit low) expectations and received the nomination. Very few of us heeded that warning, instead listening to celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyonce fire up a crowd already singing our same tune (author’s note: this is not meant as a slight. All hail Jay and Bey).
Now, I’m not suggesting that we excuse those who propelled the misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, and homophobic sentiments that dominated the course of the election, but I am proposing we ask “why” and listen to the responses, no matter how funny or cruel. Because we weren’t listening before. I know I wasn’t even when it was screamed at me from a foot away. It took nearly 63 million Americans for me to acknowledge the power these voices carried. Trump is certainly not in touch with what is important to Americans and those that voted for him may not feel he fully represents them or their views, but they do feel like he heard them. Political strategists across the country have attributed his win to just that.
As I move through my grieving period into acceptance, I think about that man in the hallway. His views may have been extreme, but I didn’t help when I wrote him off as another crazy Trump supporter whose opinion would no longer matter after the election. We should have started listening a long time ago, because the one-sided conversation we’ve been having for the past few years ended with a deafening crash in the early morning of November 9.
So listen up, America. The arrival of The Rapture may be up for grabs, but Trump’s inauguration and the consequences of it are not. If we’re going to make it out of his presidency we have to accept our own political deafness and figure out how to help others overcome theirs as well.