My bone deep terror in the face of the 2016 election boggles even me. I keep thinking of all these things I want to do – actually finish a novel, for example, and then the fear takes over. How do you create art in a world where Trump can be elected president? (I’m serious…these are things my brain does) It all came to a bit of a head, however, on Saturday night when I was trying to watch the Kingsman with Kelly and Taekia. I made them pause it twice because I was too distressed about the possibility of a Trump presidency to a) focus on the movie or b) let them stop discussing it with me.
Over the course of the conversation I could see Taekia working up to something, putting an argument into place before she said it, but I’m so very, very glad she did.
“It’s a kind of privilege, though, isn’t it? That kind of fear?”
Everything clicked into place then, so easily that I’m ashamed I didn’t realize this before. Everything about this fear comes from a place of privilege.
Let’s be honest. The foundation of my belief in politics comes from the West Wing, which is a show about optimism and possibility and the belief that government can be a force for good in the world. It’s an extremely flawed vision. Intellectually, I’m aware of this, but emotionally, unconsciously? Not so much. Trump has revealed that foundation to be unstable at best, rotten at worst, and the naïve part of my gut figured that if we could elect Hillary Clinton instead, we could dismiss Trump as a fluke.
But the genie will not go back in his bottle. The reality of a Trump presidency that I fear – the codified bigotry, the economic and environmental disaster, the gutting of public education, the violence, the police state – these are realities for so many people who live in our country, whose very existence is at the whims of current power structure that benefits me as much as it benefits so many people who support Trump. Just look at Flint, at Little Rock, at Charlotte and Tulsa. It’s an emotional, social, physical reality I’m only beginning to realize how much I don’t and can’t understand, even as I do my best to learn about it, to acknowledge it, to work to eradicate it.
Hillary Clinton, even as president, cannot fix this. No one person can, no matter what position of power they have. And Hillary Clinton herself is flawed, and votes and her support for past policies have grievously helped to uphold the systemic injustices that our country is riddled with. Given the state of things, I understand the impulse to burn it down. As Taekia stated so astutely later in that same conversation, this system we have, this unfinished symphony, was written by racist, sexist white men. And I can see the hopelessness that makes people think we can’t get from here to a much better there.
I have to start building a new foundation. That’s my job, the intellectual work that I have to keep doing. I have to read more widely, listen more carefully. An uncomplicated belief in possibility is as dangerous as an uncomplicated nostalgia. So let’s start at the beginning with a few things I’m surer of than others.
- No one, and I mean no one’s lives will be better under a Trump presidency.
- As tempting as the scorched earth approach might be, and I’m only starting to understand how tempting that is, I don’t believe we’re going to get there any faster that way. In fact, I think we might get there more slowly.
- If we’re heading toward a revolution of some kind, and I sincerely hope that we are, the politician I want in the oval office is one who has demonstrated an ability to listen to and respond to criticism. Hillary Clinton is not perfect, and she has policies and practices that make me very nervous (examples include but are not limited to the way pragmatism turns to compromise and any policy towards Israel that isn’t OH MY GOD STOP) but never have I seen a politician with such a beautiful learning curve. Nor a politician whose continued work to understand the nuances of our country, of race and gender and economics, go unnoticed and unappreciated. If we’re taking to the streets, I want someone who is going to read the signs and listen to the chants, and then act on that knowledge.
- We can’t change the world by electing a president. Every four to eight years we have this dumb Green Party/Libertarian Party conversation where two new presidential candidates will pop out of the wood work, talking about bucking the system and then go away. You want more than two parties? Great, so do I. You want revolutionize the system? Me too! But we can’t do that every four years or every eight years. We have to do that every day.Do you know who your city council members are? Your state representatives? Do you vote in the midterms and the primaries and the school board elections? Do you show up at Town Halls even if there is absolutely no chance you’re going to meet Obama? I don’t, but I’m going to start.
The president is important, and I firmly believe that our country is going to be a better place if we elect Hillary Clinton than if we don’t. And I also firmly believe that is the question that we should try to be answering when we go to the polls. So I’m proud to say that I’m unequivocally, enthusiastically with her.
I hope we show up on November 8th to vote for her, to give ourselves a chance to start to rebuild after this madness, to make things better going forward – not just incrementally, but revolutionarily. But more importantly, I hope you show up on November 9th too.
Image source – Texts from Hillary is, yes, a little droll for the topic of this posts, but how could I possibly resist?