Opinion: Let not your heart be troubled
I’ve largely avoided commenting on the presidential election using my website. It’s not something my readers care for. They want me to give them the news, and don’t really care much about what I think.
But if you will indulge me, briefly, I’d like to speak to a large swath of my readers, people who I know are heartbroken about the outcome of the presidential election.
It would come as no great surprise to anyone that I don’t hold Donald Trump in high regard. He lacks the knowledge, judgment and the temperament to be a good leader of a complex and diverse nation. But here we are. He’s the president now, elected in a free democratic process. It’s unfortunate that he represents many of the forces that seek to undermine that process. However, there’s little that can be done about that at this particular moment.
He is our president. I will accept him as such. I will wish him the best. I won’t wish him success, because his idea of success is to further divide this country. He has openly advocated actions that would target people because of their race and faith. He has openly threatened to curtail press freedoms, something I take seriously for obvious reasons. And I am not oblivious to my white privilege and the insulating effect it has on my ability to experience the most dire consequences of a fully-realized Trump presidency.
What I do wish, and what I think is the best we can hope for at the moment, is for Trump to be thwarted by the political and practical realities of his most unrealistic plans. I wish for him to find some ability to moderate his rhetoric, to the extent he is able to do so. Most of all, I wish for him to be a president for all of us, not just aggrieved white people who believe their quality of life has suffered under eight years of America’s first black president.
That’s the best I can wish and hope for. I don’t have the endurance to hate unrelentingly those I disagree with. I hate their choices. I despise that many voters in this election were inspired by bigotry and racism. But hating people for being different than myself doesn’t make me any better. So I will try to tolerate them, as best I can. I’ll try to live with them. That’s what I can control.
What I cannot control are the consequences of the decision our country made tonight. I am terrified for my friends who don’t have the luxury of being born a straight white male. They will be the people most likely to suffer. I can only say that I stand with them and that I will always stick up for the values that made this country great. I will not sit idly by and watch people I care about be tossed aside and trampled. As a journalist, I have always made it a point to stick up for the people who can’t stick up for themselves. That’s even more important at this moment than it ever was.
I know the hurt is real. The pain is severe. The terror is consuming. But let not your heart be troubled. As a nation we have survived a Civil War, and persevered in the fight for Civil Rights. We are diverse, intelligent and proud. The bitterest hearts among us cannot quell that spirit. Although many of you are wondering if this country is even yours any more, I think it is as much yours as it ever was.
The task now, as I see it, is to find a way to move forward with the decision that the country made. We can’t do that by leaving the country, as many of you have suggested. That would be foolish. Abandoning the fight for equality ensures that the fight is lost. The only people who will be able to leave are the people who have the means and privilege to do so. That leaves the rest of us to fight with fewer people standing beside us.
Also, trying to understand what got us to this point is a worthwhile exercise. I will never understand the bigots who deny the basic humanity of others. However, there are many people who supported Trump who are not bigots, though their comfort in being associated with them is no less disturbing. Nevertheless, the perspective of people with an open mind is worth listening to. Before you deny the legitimacy of their decision, try listening to why they made it. Work to change their mind, because the election of this man shows the danger of living within our own thought bubbles.
I’m sorry, but I am no good at this. I’m speaking strictly from my heart, and my heart is broken, just like yours. I hate this for my wife, my mother, for all the strong women in my life who have made me stronger. I hate it for my friends who are the most likely to suffer the consequences of this election.
But let not your heart be troubled. This is not the end of America. This is just another chapter in a long story of our country with an ending that has not been written. There is a way forward, but we have to move forward together. America is bigger than any one person. Please don’t give up on it.