Thursday, January 19, 2017

Facing Tomorrow

So, here we are. Tomorrow, we inaugurate a new president and embark on whatever comes next. I am not planning to watch. In fact, I think I'll close out of Twitter and stay away from the news and try to just focus on doing some work. I'd thought I might go for a walk on the beach and ignore the rest of the world for awhile, but it is going to rain. So my plan is to stay in and work and try to get a lot done so that I can take the weekend mostly off, even though I went for a rollerblade yesterday (I usually "buy" my weekday rollerblading time with some Sunday morning work time).

Anyway, I do not want to watch the inauguration. After spending far too much time on the fence about it, I finally decided to go to the San Diego Women's March on Saturday. It may rain, but right now the forecast shows Saturday as a break in the rain. So we'll see if I get soaked or not. Either way, I'm going. I have never protested or marched before. I don't really like crowds, which was the reason I spent so much time on the fence about this. Mr. Snarky asked me why I'm going, and I said I just had to go to show that I am not OK with this.

I am also hoping to gather back up the shreds of my faith in my country.

I have been experiencing an intense desire to just leave. I couldn't really explain it. I love my life here in San Diego, and don't want to move farther away from my extended family. Rationally, I think my family will make it through the next four (or God help us, eight) years OK, barring anything truly catastrophic like a nuclear war. I really, truly believe it is my duty to stay here and try to make this right, because I can do so with relative safety. Besides, this is my country, too, so why should I let a bully like our soon-to-be President force me out?

And yet, I keep thinking about leaving. Would we sell our house or rent it out? (Probably sell.) What would I do in New Zealand? (Probably try for a project management job.) How would I respond to the inevitable grief Americans abroad are going to get for the next four (or God help us, eight) years? (Probably cry a lot.) How would I help my kids adjust? (They'd probably adjust just fine.)

I couldn't really figure out why I was doing that, but today, I think I cracked it. I saw this thread from Toronto Star reporter David Dale, in which he talked to Trump supporters who are at the inauguration. Like many people, I read their words and wondered if we were living in the same reality. And then I remembered the interview one of the incoming administration people gave about why Kanye West wasn't asked to play at the inauguration. Their response was so revealing. They put together an event in which the entertainment was "typically and traditionally American," you see. And apparently, that's not Kanye West.

And then I thought back to that set of interviews with Trump voters, and the one young woman who said she didn't vote for Hillary Clinton because Clinton talked about Black Lives Matter protesters, and DREAMers, but not "regular" people like her. (Nevermind that Clinton did talk about white working class people, too, even had policy proposals to help them, but that didn't get reported on much. It wasn't newsworthy, I guess. Presidential candidates are just assumed to talk about the white working class. It is news when they acknowledge the other people struggling in the country.)

I realized: what is making me want to flee is this careless, thoughtless assumption that only white people are "regular Americans." It is the casual dismissal of so many of my friends, and my kids' friends. It is the treatment of the last eight years—which felt like welcome progress to me—as an aberration.

I didn't feel like I'd lost my country on the day after the election. I figured I'd always known that there was a lot of racism and sexism here, and that we had more work to do to overcome it.

But as I read attempt after attempt to make me understand Trump voters, and saw repeated examples of them just not even acknowledging that there are "regular Americans" who don't look and think like them, my hold on my country seemed to slip. As I read successive think pieces about rural and small town America that failed to recognize that there are people of color who live in rural areas and small towns, my grasp slipped further. And when I saw people tell me I should "give Trump a chance" even after he'd appointed a white supremacist as a key adviser, I think I lost touch altogether. Someone who wants advice on how to govern this country from a white supremacist is not someone who has any chances left with me.

The country I love is diverse and while still working towards really embracing that, at least aware of that diversity and the strength it can bring. It is trying to get to a place that celebrates Americans of all backgrounds and creeds. It fails in that goal often, but at least keeps trying. But I realized reading all this post-election coverage that a lot of people don't even know my country exists. They think America is their country, and theirs alone, and everyone else is an illegitimate interloper. And that broke my heart.

I have read several comments from people of color about how this alienation I am feeling is something they have long felt and already had to work through. I think that is a fair criticism. I have never before had to confront so directly the chasm between the country in my heart and the country out there in the real world. I knew the gap was there, but thought we were making our way across that gap. Now, it feels like we've turned around and are headed the other way.

Now that I am forced to confront the gap, I know I must learn how to make peace with it, so that I can work to bridge that gap and continue to advance towards a more perfect union.

I am determined to do this work, because I really want to stay. I know that the country in my heart is the country in the hearts of lots of other Americans, too. In fact, based on the popular vote numbers, it is probably safe to assume that there are more Americans who want a country like the one in my heart than not.

So I guess I am also going to the march to remind myself that my country is still here, and worth fighting for. We're all "regular Americans" and someday, if we work at it, maybe we'll all recognize that fact.

6 comments:

  1. I have actual diagnosed ochlophobia and it never occurred to me not to go to the march, which for me will be a 2 hour drive very early on Saturday. I'm taking DH and the kids too. My sister will be coming the night before.

    I find with crowds outside it is best for me to be on the edges so I can take a break if I start panicking. There are also often gaps I can find that give me space. Outside is easier than inside.

    Yes, it is definitely our responsibility as privileged white upper middle class citizens to fight. We have this privilege so we can give back and fight so that everybody has the same advantages.

    Great post, thank you.

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  2. I'm going to the march for similar reasons, and a few others. I'm nervous, but not nearly as nervous (terrified/horrified/petrified, pick your word) of what's to come if those of us in a place of privilege don't start showing up to do the work.

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  3. think you really hit in what has been the most devastating result of this election: as awful Trumo is, he's not the worst thing to come from this. It's the sickening realization that so many people in America share his views. Keep fighting! Your version of the USA should be reality!

    There is a march in my smaller Canadian city to stand in solidarity with the march on Saturday. I haven't decided if I'll go or not, but just know there are millions of people all over the world who believe America is the one you imagine too.

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  4. What keeps me going is the knowledge that we ebb and flow our way through progress, but over time we do more flowing than ebbing. The tide will turn. That's what it does. In the meantime, we look for what we can do, and we do it.

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  5. Alexicographer7:43 AM

    This post is beautiful, and I think it's exactly right. Though truthfully, I (personally) don't feel that tied to this country. Like your DH, my mother is from elsewhere, and at present my first cousins + sibling are scattered across 5 nations (including the US), 4 as permanent residents/property owners (and mostly, though not entirely, citizens) where they live and just one of the families because it's where military service has landed them. So truth be told, I would/will leave, but I don't want to need to, and I certainly object strongly to what's afoot and have been fighting it and will continue (that's true even if I leave, for that matter). Also, many of the nations my extended family lives in are facing similar challenges/problems within their political systems. It's not like the US is alone in this.

    A few years back, someone in the family ran across a letter written by my (late) grandmother who was living in London not long before the start of the Blitz. At a time when many still believed in appeasement, she was (per her description) frantically running around the city trying to get the permissions (visas and such) to move herself and her children out of Great Britain (She succeeded. Make no mistake, that reflects class privilege, just as my own relative non-anxiety about Trump does. Not that I'm not anxious. But I don't kid myself that my anxiety is the same as many others', because it's not.). Although it's obviously not directly analogous to the contemporary situation in the US, for some reason -- perhaps my own anxieties -- what she wrote in that letter keeps popping into my head.

    I'm marching in my state capital, with my mom, two friends, and one of said friend's kids, and have many other friends who are going. This will, I guess, be my 3rd march -- 2 pro-choice marches in DC when in college, and one anti-war march in the second Bush administration in NYC. I don't feel more anxious about this one than I did about those (and I didn't feel anxious about those, though the anti-war one, to which I went solo, was a bit tense in moments), though I think I would for the DC march.

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    Replies
    1. Alexicographer8:04 AM

      Haha, math. My 4th march...

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