Yesterday began with such hope and promise. The sun shone brightly; New Yorkers flocked to the grave of Susan B. Anthony–with their “I voted” stickers–to celebrate a century of progress on women’s rights culminating in the promise of a bright victory and a new era of hope. But as the electoral map began hemorrhaging red throughout the long awful night, my phone first filled with anguished texts from friends and then eventually fell silent. All around me my world was crumbling: my sense of fairness, right & wrong, and justice; my boundless faith in the American dream and the wisdom and sacrifice of the founders. The worst loss of all for me was that hope of every parent that our legacy to our children will be a world a little better, bolder, and brighter than the one we inherited from our parents. Alas, that will not be the gift of our generation to our children.
Instead we will bequeath to them an America that fears rather than welcomes the stranger, that rejects differences, that fails to celebrate diversity, that cares not for the widow and orphan, that dictates who may love and marry, that measures success only by ledgers, that elevates self above service, that is enclosed behind a great ugly wall, and one that turns away the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. That was how we collectively voted yesterday: we rejected our chance to make history and embraced a dark and selfish view of America.
As Christmas Carol‘s Belle bade farewell to her fiance, Ebenezer Scrooge, she said, “May you be happy in the life you have chosen.” I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that all voters will eventually regret last night’s choice. But it will be a hollow victory indeed for Hillary Clinton and her supporters; by then it will be too late.
All I want to do today is curl up in the fetal position, read a good book, and withdraw from the world. But my daughter–away at college–called me sobbing this morning when she awoke to the devastating news. Ever since she was a baby I’ve tried to fix whatever was wrong, with a hug, a kiss, or a cookie, a solution, an encouraging word, or at least moral support and outrage against whatever injustice she was currently battling. But today, I had nothing. We ended the call when my students were arriving but agreed to try to come up with at least one happy thought each before we talk again tonight.
I typically try to work out my problems through writing, so that is what I am attempting here. Is there ANYTHING to be happy about today? Any hope? “Can we sponge away the writing on this stone?” Is there any bright spot in this dark endless night? Is there any way that freedom-loving progressive Americans can start to pick up the shattered pieces and begin to rebuild? Here is the very meager beginning of that process for me:
- People who need people: I dreaded coming to work in a very right-wing conservative setting this morning, and yet the very first person I encountered was a dear international Muslim student–from Iran–who hugged me and said “I’m so sorry, Dr. Nick….Did you know that Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote at least?” I had not known that and so he pulled out his phone and showed me. There was something about being helped by a bright young immigrant that made me feel slightly better.
- Christmas is coming, the Grinch did NOT keep Christmas from coming, somehow or other it came all the same. As we think about how we will keep Christmas this year, we would be well served to remember that the Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were poor refugees. If the new president and Congress do not show kindness, welcome the stranger, care for the downtrodden, and protect the innocent, then it is all the more incumbent upon the rest of us to do so. Make a new friend across race, religion, and class lines. Give. Donate. Share. Support. Love.
- Children are our future: The third bright spot I came up with is my kids, and all young people in general. As they have done since birth, my kids give me the motivation to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other even in the toughest times and to keep trying to be a better person and to be worthy of being their father. I’ve been blessed to have wonderful, caring, committed, and smart children, far beyond what I deserve. To a lesser and yet still significant extent, my students also motivate me. As a social studies educator, I was reminded in a sobering and powerful way yesterday that we have our work cut out for us in shaping a better-informed electorate. My sister shared a powerful graphic with me today that cheered me considerably. If only the 18-25 year-old vote were counted there’d have been a Democratic LANDSLIDE (https://twitter.com/EByard/status/796317753749729280)
I am in despair over an all-Republican government which will diminish and checks and balances on the president, especially by these same leaders that lacked the fortitude to stand up against a disreputable and unworthy candidate. And yet our system was established on the basis of the social contract; our government serves at the will of the people. Now, more than at any point since 1775, we must stand vigilant over the boundaries of government that the founders insisted upon for us, including the right–no the obligation–to alter or abolish any form of government which is destructive of our natural rights. Having fought a bloody war to rid themselves of one tyrant, they were adamant about avoiding another. We are the heirs to that struggle. Stand guard! Write letters, protest, vote out members of Congress who do not uphold the American ideal, and if necessary…to the barricades! The battle goes on, the sun still rises….
….It’s waiting right outside the storm; why don’t we cross the bridge together, and find a place that’s safe and warm? (from “There’s Got to be a Morning After” by Kasha and Herschorn)