Last night, the citizens of the United States of America spoke up and elected Donald Trump president. The media was shocked, the pundits were speechless, and many people on the coasts went into a rage. As the news of a Trump victory settled in, his supporters cheered in triumph while the Clinton backers stared in disbelief. After months of hearing from the media that Clinton can’t lose, how did she lose?
During last night’s coverage, I talked and texted with several friends. All of them couldn’t believe what was happening. We were expecting a Hilary landslide, but got the Trump upset instead. And my social media feed is full of disgust, fear and confusion. People are thinking of moving out of the country (some may be serious). But just like refugees from the Middle East, Americans en masse would probably not be welcome elsewhere (ironic, isn’t it?) As a American-born citizen of immigrant parents, I refuse to give up on this country. But I think it is time for us to admit what really happened:
We have done this to ourselves.
Living in the liberal San Francisco Bay Area, home of progressive Silicon Valley and close neighbor of very liberal Southern California (with Hollywood as the center of a very left-leaning entertainment media empire), I am surrounded by a virtual United Nations. Just this week, I have interviewed a Brit, an Australian, and a Filipino. And my company just hired an Indian (East Indian, not Native American) and a Mexican to our ranks. At any given night, I can dine on Ethiopian, Burmese, Mediterranean, or Afghani cuisine, all within a half hour drive from my house. I enjoy a middle class lifestyle, owning a home in one of the most expensive areas of the nation. Both my wife and I have college degrees and work in white collar professions. We surround ourselves with like-minded people, friends from college and work, who believe in many of the same causes as we do.
That is the problem, not just for myself, but for this nation. We befriend people like us, talk like us, think like us. What we don’t do is hang out with “those people.” Everyone has “those people” in their lives. They may be in our schools, or workplaces, even in our extended families. “Those people” have different lifestyles… they have a different religion than us, or may be from another country, or have a different sexual orientation. But “those people” definitely have a different political leaning than us. It’s too difficult to talk about politics; it’s better to keep the peace (at work, or in class, or at Thanksgiving dinner) than to bring up divisive issues. We take everything personally, thinking that “those people” are idiots, blind to their own biases and ignorance. So it’s easier to shield ourselves from any backlash.
All of us are guilty of our own ignorance, which we were reminded of last night. Us bi-coastal liberals forgot that the center of the nation exists. Not everyone has friends from all over the globe, has access to a college education, or enjoys a middle class, metropolitan lifestyle. In fact, many people in the middle of the country are not enjoying the fruits of the new economy. But we have chosen to ignore this huge portion of our nation. We ignore these problems and watch our TV shows and sports teams and favorite YouTube stars and Instagram pets. Even now, many people are trying to distract themselves with viral videos and binge watching Netflix. But we can’t keep ignoring our American brothers and sisters. If we do, we are guilty of hating on others just like liberals accuse Trump supporters of hating women, immigrants and the LGBTQ community.
My wife is worried that hate crimes may increase in this nation, with the bigots emboldened by a leader who has been accused numerous times of misogyny and racism. But if we expect people to change and become less angry, how will that happen if the peaceful among us won’t befriend the intolerant?
The other night, I was playing Cards Against Humanity with some friends (for those of who don’t know what CAH is, it’s like Apples to Apples, but way more “extreme”). I won a round with a very funny combination, which I photographed with my phone and posted on Facebook. I didn’t realize it would be prophetic:
If half of America believes that this nation is damaged by a Trump presidency, then that half needs to start working to make America great again. There so much we can do, as Jenna Amatulli shares at the Huffington Post and Clara Jeffery implores at Mother Jones. We must be Brave Enough to love this nation and the people around us. It’s easy to champion a cause when your side is winning. But the progressive side is now losing. How will we respond? Will we become despondent and give up on the political process (and move to Canada)? Or will we steel our resolve and work harder for positive change? If we don’t, the problems in this nation will only get worse. And we will only have ourselves to blame.