It’s Not Just Politics

The past few days have been tough. Following what will likely go down as one of the most bitter elections in U.S. history, America has elected Donald Trump – a morally (and literally, six times over) bankrupt man with no experience in governing or world affairs who ran a hateful and divisive campaign.

I’ve been posting to social media. A lot. At first it was the only way I could process and make sense of the situation. And then it actually became somewhat comforting to share thoughts and feelings with all of the other people I know who are equally dismayed about the future of our country.

Many people misunderstand the sadness and anger. No, it isn’t because “my team lost”. This is not a football game. This is real life, the future of a country and its people, what electing this kind of person means not just in terms of policies he might set and enforce, but the kind of climate we live in – what is acceptable and what is not.

I’ve battled with the fight or flight syndrome. Stay and put up the best fight I can? Or move to a place like Canada or Sweden that better suits my values? I realized that while flight could be a long-term prospect (and I’m awfully thankful my daughters are dual citizens), at least I’m fortunate enough to live in a state that overwhelmingly voted against Trump and is filled with people who believe in equality for all and many other values I hold dear.

So what do writers do in these times? Write. Write to make sense of it all. Write for purposes of release and catharsis. Write to share with others and perhaps, gain understanding.

The first point I’ve had to battle with friends or acquaintances who either voted for Trump, voted third party or simply – and worse – didn’t vote at all, is that it’s just politics, it’s only four years, move on and come together. That he’s just one man.

  1. Point One: It isn’t just politics this time, folks. It’s the future our children and grandchildren and it’s the kind of country we want to live in. When you elect someone to the highest office of your land,  you’re saying that this person – and all they say, do and embody – represents your country to its children and to the rest of the world. You hold the person to a higher standard and you hold him or her accountable for his or her behavior. To elect a man who ran the most hatred-filled and divisive campaign in history, someone who demeaned and assaulted women, who threatened to ban all Muslims, who referred to immigrants as rapists and criminals, who has offended African-Americans, Jews, the disabled and LGBT people, says something about your country and who you want to lead it. It isn’t just politics. The electing of this man to our highest office is not just politics as usual. It is unprecedented.
  2. Point Two: It isn’t just four years, but let’s talk about those four years. In those four years, so much progress could be rolled back and so much damage could be done. Trump will likely appoint several Supreme Court justices. These Court appointments are for life and those justices could make decisions that affect the present – and future – of every American. If you’re a white male living in America, you may not see much at stake. But already we’re seeing the effects of electing someone who has spewed racist, misogynistic, homophobic and xenophobic rhetoric, seemingly making it “normal” and “ok” when it is anything but that. We’re seeing a rise in hate crimes, bullying and excitement among groups like the KKK, who suddenly feel their positions have been legitimized and they can operate as if they are normal – rather than unwanted and despised elements of society. I hear people claim that Trump is not responsible for that, nor are the good people who voted for him, voted third party or didn’t vote. I beg to differ. Trump spewed the rhetoric, incited the violence, called his comments about grabbing women’s genitals just “locker room talk” and because we as a country did not reject any of this, we have given the signal that all of it is ok – more than ok , he somehow deserves to hold the highest office in our land. This is beyond despicable. Yes, I’m having trouble coming to terms with the fact that not only did people in this country vote for him, but many people did not do all they could to stop him.  I have gay, immigrant and Muslim friends, and at least half of my family are Jewish and women, and you’d better believe that we are all worried and fearful of what the next four years hold. Only four years? For a white male, perhaps. For the rest of us, it isn’t just about the policies a Trump administration could put in place, it’s about the climate of our country where it is suddenly ok to hate and discriminate against all of these groups of people.
  3. Point three: Move on and come together. I see the wisdom in not spending my days posting on social media. I can’t be angry forever. I can’t cry many more tears. But I will not “move on” and “come together” under someone whose message was the exact opposite. Trump and his supporters drove a hard line of division into this country and his election lit a fire under all those who would hate and discriminate against people of color, immigrants, women, Jews and Muslims and LGBT -and I will NEVER come together under anyone who holds those views. Instead, I will do everything in my power to fight against the views and policies of Trump and those who support him, I will do everything I can to protect innocent people from falling victim to anyone who hates, bullies or tries to discriminate against them. Many think we are overreacting. Open your eyes, turn off Fox News and look at a variety of news sources both in and outside the United States right now. You will see exactly what I’m talking about. It’s ugly and I, for one, will not accept it.
  4. He’s just one man. Certainly. And we have a congress – now fully in control of the Republican party. Again, this isn’t about politics. While I am a registered Democrat, I have voted for Republicans in the past and I have many moderate Republican friends (most of whom wisely voted for Hilary Clinton) with whom I share both differences and similarities. I never felt the world was imploding when Ronald Reagan or George Bush the first were elected. Indeed, I was upset by the second election of George W. Bush and was horrified by the Iraq war quagmire, but I never thought our basic humanity, decency and all of the tenets our country was founded on were at stake. With this one man, they are. It’s possible that even without the checks and balances of Democrats leading the House or Senate, sane Republicans will curb Trump’s desire to radically change policy. But regardless of the policies – again – this isn’t just politics. It’s about human decency, equality, the way we behave with our fellow man and woman. I buy the argument that many good people voted for him because they wanted change or hated Clinton, but they still knew the full package they were getting and those who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for anyone or at least not for Clinton, knew what Trump brought to the table. They knew he was endorsed by the KKK. They knew David Duke rallied for his election. They knew Putin and the Russians were hacking the DNC and rooting for Donald Trump. They knew that Trump was guilty of saying and doing horrific things against women and people of color because they HEARD and SAW it with their own ears and eyes. And yet – they still elected or allowed him to be elected. He’s just one man, but he has changed the climate of our country for everyone – especially those who are not white males.

To quote Dylan Thomas “do not go gentle into that dark night”. Or to quote my favorite NHL coach, “We will not go quietly.” I will not go gently or quietly. I will speak up. I will use my voice. I will use my actions. I will watch where each dime I spend goes. I will fight against Trump and everything his election says about this country and everything he stands for. Most of all, I will fight for those people who are endangered not just by potential policy changes but by the horrifying change of climate in this country where it’s suddenly ok to bully, hate, exclude and discriminate. In short, Trump’s vision of America? This will never, ever be my America.

Upholding Freedom of Speech in Suburbia or Why We Shouldn’t Let the Bullies Win

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty opinionated. I have no problem sharing my views with anyone who asks (and, admittedly, sometimes with those who don’t ask). I have a healthy respect for the freedom of speech we all have as Americans which allows me to state my opinions freely and without fear of retribution, and I absolutely believe in the right of others to do the same, even when their views differ from mine. But as I found out in my lovely suburban enclave this past week, the unprecedented partisanship and pettiness in this country is threatening our ability to enjoy that freedom of speech without fear of someone trying to take it away.

I was walking with a friend the other day and she asked me what bumper stickers I had on my car and if I’d noticed any of them missing. I told her that one of our cars has three stickers – one promoting clean energy initiatives, the now-ubiquitous suburban sticker “My child is an honor roll student at INSERT YOUR SCHOOL”  and an Obama 2012 sticker.  I told her I certainly hadn’t noticed that any of them were missing and asked why. Apparently she was on a walk with her daughter in our neighborhood a few days ago and witnessed a man, late forties or early fifties, walking ahead of them, stop at our driveway, look at our car and then take something off of the car. My friend’s daughter stopped in her tracks and said, “Mom, it looks like that guy is doing something to the Hultin’s car!”  My friend wasn’t sure what was happening, but the man was at least ten feet ahead and by the time they reached my driveway, he  was gone and she wasn’t sure what he had or had not taken.

I told her I would check my car after I got home from our walk. Sure enough, the Obama 2012 sticker was missing.

Now, I realize that stealing a bumper sticker from someone’s car is not equal to stealing their actual car or a valuable piece of jewelry or robbing their home. But, in fact, I felt the same way and possibly worse; I felt completely violated. Someone trespassed on my property, touched my car and stole something from me.  The bumper sticker? We’ve already replaced it. What this bully really stole was my right to freedom of speech and the right of every American to have that freedom upheld and respected.

Personally, I cringe when I see someone with an old Bush/Cheney sticker on their car, or a McCain/Palin sign.  But I would fight for that person’s right to post that sticker or sign and state their opinion freely and without fear.  I hate to be cliché, but seriously: what is this country coming to?  I can’t have a bumper sticker on my car, in my own driveway, on my own property, without a neighbor walking by and ripping it off?

For the person who committed the crime (and again, making me feel unsafe and violated for expressing my opinion is the bigger violation here), I have a small bit of sympathy. I’m guessing this guy is too insecure in his own thoughts to have others freely express their opinions around him, too full of hatred and intolerance to uphold the freedoms we enjoy in America and at the end of the day, a good-old fashioned bully  – the kind that I teach my children never to be and never to interact with. Mr. Bully, I’ll just put another sticker on the car and every time thereafter that you decide to remove it and just remember – by removing it, you are not removing my right to my opinion and you’re not changing my opinion – in fact, if anything, you’ve probably made me even more steadfast and stubborn in my support for President Obama, given the way in which you’ve chosen to represent the other side.

I hate to think what this kind of incident says about my neighbors, my city, my state, and my country, but at the end of the day, I will keep expressing my opinion and keep teaching my kids to do the same – after all, upholding freedom in the face of bullies is really what our country is all about.