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.