Election 2016—A Father-Daughter Dialogue 1

If you subscribe to the humble blog you received a link to a post a few weeks ago about my eldest daughter and her friends who were still struggling to come to grips with the U.S. Presidential election. Compared to them, I wrote in the post, I didn’t feel sufficiently aggrieved. My elaborating on why I didn’t feel sufficiently aggrieved upset my daughter so much she asked me to take the post down, which I of course did.

A few days later, an important mentor of mine wrote me a tactful but poignant note asking me to consider how my privilege might be preventing me from empathizing with my daughter and people like her who were still bitterly disappointed with the election results.

When I started this blog I wrote that “I’d get some things wrong.” Turns out, I got that right. I deserved Alison’s and Richie’s criticism. Normally, I’m very cognizant of my privilege, but this is a case where I have not been. In hindsight, I should have gone full-Socrates with questions about things I need to understand better.

When I asked if she’d engage in a blog-based dialogue with me, Alison responded enthusiastically. So here’s “Take Two”.

Ron: What are you most angry about? More specifically, who are you most angry with? Why?

Alison: I am angry that, as a country, selfishness and greed were valued more than empathy and compassion. I am angry that the health and safety and dignity of the same people who have always had their health and safety and dignity denied was devalued. People of color and women and gay people and immigrants were told explicitly that their right to life and safety was less important than the distress of Trump voters. I am angry because so many people have fought so hard, have sacrificed and died to make the progress that is now being washed away. Because a group of people are now in power (Trump and his advisors and appointees) who are going to work to restrict women’s right to make choices about her body, to destroy the environment, to cut social services, to delegitimize LBGTQ relationships and identities, to deny safe haven to refugees, to enable the proliferation of guns, and to divide immigrant families.

I am angry because injustice makes me angry. I am angry because seeing my friends suffer and grieve makes me angry. I am angry because the results of this election go against what I believe to be most fundamentally true and essential and against who I was raised to be. I am angry because the elections results weren’t a fluke. I didn’t think it would all add up to a Trump presidency, but I was angry about the way the election was being conducted and reported – the motherfucking false equivalences – as it was happening. I am gutted because Trump was not held to the same standard that Hillary was. Because he was not criticized, was not condemned, was not interrogated. I am angry because Donald Trump is a perpetrator of sexual assault and was not disqualified for that. That his criminal, violent offenses were treated with less interest and gravity than Hillary Clinton using an email server set-up that was exhaustively investigated and found to have no malicious intent or harmful consequences.

I am angry because misogyny was at the core of why Hillary lost and it’s being written out of the story – either by not being addressed or by being denied as a valid argument. I’m angry because racism was at the core of why Trump won and it’s being masked under a veil of economic populism. After being confronted with the most horrifying and overt display of racism and sexism and generalized hatred for anyone not white, male, and straight, this country still does not have the guts to look at our illnesses for what they are. We can’t handle looking our own weakness in the eye. It would be too scary to admit the extent of our sickness, too daunting to face, so those of us with the resources to have strong houses are turning a shoulder against a wind that’s tearing everything else out of the ground and pretending it’s not as strong. This self-serving cowardice makes me furious.

I am fucking furious that poisonous hatred and violent misogyny and racism and xenophobia and homophobia found a stage and a microphone and were applauded. I cry because people who hold these beliefs had them validated on election night. Because they woke up on Wednesday morning strengthened and affirmed in ways that will result in the suffering of vulnerable populations. I laid in my bed on Wednesday morning, unable to get the images I’d seen and stories I’d heard of Trump rallies out of my mind, frozen and scared and horrified in a way that I had never been before. And now I spend my days ricocheting between trying to keep myself afloat, and fearing, above anything else, no longer feeling devastated, no longer being angry. It’s left me stumbling.

The Sunday after the election I went to church. I needed to sit next to other people who were grasping, inside a structure that was built to house prayer, and for someone to tell me that this was all awful, all truly, truly awful, but that we would fight it. The churches in Boystown are great for this. I had spent the night at a friend’s apartment and accidentally thrown away my contacts the night before, so I sat in a pew, unable to see, and therefore feeling less able to be seen, listening to the pastor’s impassioned, furious sermon, weeping. She said a thousand things that I needed to hear, but this is the one that has stayed with me: don’t break ranks with the vulnerable. The advantages of my privileged birth afford me the possibility to turn into my own life, into the comforts I can provide myself, but that is unacceptable. There are people suffering, without such an option for relief, who are shouting as loud as they can that they are afraid. Therefore, the only possible course of action is to stand with them, because we share the same sacred humanity, and because I can not accept that anyone deserves less than another. Do not break ranks with the vulnerableI’m aware I strayed away from the main question, sorry!

Ron: Thank you for not giving up on me! I better understand and appreciate the depth of your anger. In Arizona sometime in early October I think, Trump gave a truly hateful, anti-immigrant speech at a large rally. I challenge anyone to find a more hateful, unAmerican, anti-immigrant speech in the U.S. presidential campaign archives. Truly historic in the worst way imaginable. And yet, it got little play the next morning. Where we may differ is that despite that, I don’t think media coverage explains the election result. I think of the media’s coverage of the candidates like I do bad sports officiating, incompetent coverage of both sides tends to balance out. So that begs the question, what does explain it? Is it too soon to ask that question? If so, when can I ask my next, more analytical question? It’s Saturday, so church is out. Therefore, I’m going to watch the Bruin basketball team take it to the Ohio State Buckeyes while I anxiously await your reply. Despite the swearing, love you as always.


5 thoughts on “Election 2016—A Father-Daughter Dialogue 1

  1. I am, I guess, a privileged white male, and I don’t believe I am a homophobic, racist, misogynist, bigot. I did vote for Trump though, although for only one reason, and that is concerning abortion. I know Roe vs. Wade has been the law for a long time, but when I heard that Mrs Clinton stated she didn’t have a problem with late term abortions, that finalized my decision. (I know that may have opened up a BIG can of worms concerning women’s rights about their bodies, but I would rather hold off on that discussion for now.) Do I like Mr Trump? Not in the least. Did I have any other choices? Not really. I saw the media lean so far toward Hillary that all (most) assumed she won the election before voting had started. ( I didn’t not vote for her because of the email issue, but that certainly didn’t make me want to vote for her by the way.) So that makes anyone that voted for Trump evil and hateful and all that voted for Hillary angels and loving? So that means that virtually half the country is wrong? There are so many issues brought forth in this election that are not going to turn around the day after Mr Trump becomes President Trump. Fortunately, even with conservatives having the Senate majority, I believe there are many men and women in the Senate that are not going to rubber stamp any legislation that comes to a vote and that they are wise enough and open minded enough to make the right decision. I do understand some of the anger that is out there but it’s not the end of civilization because of this election’s results. I have not agreed with many of president Obama’s decisions over the past 8 years but I have never despaired that our country was being destroyed because of one person’s choices. Until a better way is discovered, we have a system where opposite opinions can be heard and said and nobody gets killed because of their opinion, or thrown in jail, or their lives destroyed. Does that mean every decision or law is correct? No way!! That is why discussions, opinions, and debates must continue. Using labels to define someone will not clarify or help the situation. Protesting in the streets and destroying property will not help the situation. Discussing specific issues will, in my opinion. So, none of us should give up or shut up, but work toward figuring out the answers to these issues.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this discussion. However, you seem to feel that I was condemning everyone who voted for Trump as being hateful and bigoted. But, I didn’t do that. I condemned Trump for his hateful speech and I condemned his openly hateful supporters for their hateful speech and mourned the validation they received. My dad asked me an emotional question – “Why are you angry?” – and I answered by sketching out my deeply personal, individual emotional response. It may not be the end of civilization, but I do believe that the safety and liberty of many Americans is threatened by this presidency, and I believe that that is worthy of my grief, anger, and action.

  2. ”I am angry because misogyny was at the core of why Hillary lost and it’s being written out of the story”

    I respectfully disagree with this view Alison. Being a woman had little to do with the outcome, IMO. Being the wrong woman however probably did. Hillary was a status quo candidate that would have perpetuated the neo-liberal policies that have hurt working class people for decades. That’s why a supported Sanders. I’m sure that had Elizabeth Warren ran instead of Bernie she would have had the support Hillary didn’t just simply because Warren has placed herself for the most part outside status quo politics.

    That being said though, I agree with you on pretty much everything else. I voted for Hillary simply because she was the better candidate of the two. I was shocked and sickened the morning I woke up and found the Donald would be sitting in the oval office.

    My resolve at this time is to expand my efforts at the local level. I am part of grass roots effort here in Denton Texas where we were able to ban fracking in our city. The first in Texas. Sadly the oil friendly state legislature over rode our efforts with a state law that essentially removed our home town rule.

    That took the wind out of me too but we have stayed united and continue to work our way around those who support special corporate interests over the general public welfare. We currently are behind expanding resources for a growing homeless population here and have recently expanded resources for an animal shelter.

    The satisfaction that comes from these efforts help assuage the pain Trump’s victory caused. But here’s one thing that gives me hope for the future. Trump’s self-serving, brutish way of behaving will turn things against him. Perhaps not with the hard core alt-right, but definitely with those who abandoned Hillary and the Democratic party this year to elect Trump. Once they see that he is all hot air and no substance, 2020 will be a big turn around

    • Thank you for your response, and thank you for sharing about your grassroots work – that’s always heartening to hear about.

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about who the best candidate would have been. But, whether or not Elizabeth Warren or Michelle Obama or anyone else would have been a better candidate, it is also incontrovertible that sexism did play a role in the election. Hillary Clinton has been a woman in politics under public scrutiny for her entire adult life and the reality of our society is that it is patriarchal, it is sexist. That does not mean that individuals can’t and aren’t practicing true gender equality, but it is a feature of our entire society. No one would say that she lost only because she was a woman, but the fact that she was a woman did make her candidacy more difficult.

  3. Pingback: Weekend Reading | Pressing Pause

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