I’m in Brussels this morning, half a world away from my home country, where almost all of my friends are going to sleep in shock over what they have just witnessed.
At 4am Brussels time (10pm EST), I woke up to check the results of the presidential election and had the first pangs of panic and confusion over what was happening. By 5:30am, after feverishly scrolling through websites on my phone and playing a game of “wtf?!” with a friend back in the U.S. via text, it was clear that Donald Trump was going to be the next president of the United States. And all I could feel was sick. Sick to my stomach, yes; but mainly, sick at heart, sick in my soul.
The shock has worn off now. I’ve had several hours to let what just happened settle in. What I’m starting to see now, and expect to see more of, is anger and disgust, blame and accusations and name-calling … and more anger. I understand. I get it. I could easily go there too.
But something is stopping me. I know how easily pain and fear and confusion can be woven into something that makes us feel less vulnerable, less exposed. How we reach for anger, disdain, contempt, ridicule, sarcasm and a host of other tools to cover over how much something hurts us. But hurt is what I feel. Hurt for my young adult children who just voted in their first presidential election and are feeling distressed over how their fellow citizens can elect someone who traffics in misogyny, racism and bullying. I hurt for my country that is looking at itself in the mirror for the first time today and realizing that yes, this is what we really look like. I hurt for all of the people who are going to be victimized and marginalized by this new administration. And I also hurt for all of the people who voted for Trump out of their own fear about their country and their place in it; for those who voted for him out of frustration and anger over their own experiences of disenfranchisement and disempowerment; for those who voted for him because they have felt mocked or ridiculed or put down and this was a chance to punch back; and for those who voted for him because they’ve been manipulated, fooled and used by slick media personalities and politicians who prey on them to line their own pockets or feed their own ego.
I want to stay with this hurt until it teaches me compassion for and makes me curious about all of my fellow citizens who cast their ballots for Trump. I don’t want to flee into my own safe enclave alongside my own kind who feel betrayed and confused, where I can vent my anger at those others who caused all this nonsense. I don’t want to add to all of the negativity and dehumanization that created the scenario where a Donald Trump can be elected. I want to feel the full force of this hurt until I am so wrung out that I can appreciate the depth of the brokenness, pain and fear in others that led us here — and from it, cultivate compassion and courage.
I’m not naïve. I know that some chose Trump for wholly bat-shit crazy, psychotic, self-serving reasons. But I don’t believe that the vast majority of people in my country fit that profile. There is something else going on there, and I want to be curious about what that is, understand it, talk to it and about it with respect and tenderness, and then help to transform it.
Our nation doesn’t need more brokenness, pain, fear and division. I don’t want to get trapped in that narrative of us vs. them, where the “them” are just evil nutso whack jobs delighting in the chance to wreak havoc and to be blamed for whatever shitstorm Trump unleashes in the coming term. I’ve had enough of that storyline. Maybe this is where that story ends. Not because of Trump’s election, but as a rebuke to it.
Something good needs to come out of this.