But what does it mean now to be an activist for love and acceptance and tolerance? I'm convinced by every strategy I read, by the pleas to withhold judgement of Trump supporters in pursuit of empathy for those who felt they had no choice but to vote for him and then, in the next minute, by the insistance that we not compromise our values to coddle those who turned their backs on their fellow (wo)man. Even if I had a game plan, though, I feel that I'm at a disadvantage because I don't know - I don't think I know - anyone who actually supports Trump. I know conservatives who voted Republican up and down the ticket but, as far as I'm aware, none of them were truly comfortable putting Trump in the White House. Changing the hearts and minds of people who don't understand why a Trump presidency is so dangerous means, for me, venturing onto social media, where the majority of people willing to engage just want to fight. They don't want a dialogue, they want me to give them an excuse to entrench themselves in the beliefs that led them to vote for Trump in the first place.
I probably would be that excuse without even saying anything, to be honest. Last night, while waiting for the talk to start, I looked around the room and laughed. We numbered nearly one thousand: liberals (predominantly if not exclusively) of all colors, ages, and faiths, gathered in a synagogue sanctuary to hear Cory Booker, a Black senator who went to Stanford and then Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and who is a rising star in the Democratic Party, in conversation with Trevor Noah, a mixed-race South African who replaced Jon Stewart as host of the Daily Show and who wrote an unflinchingly honest memoir about growing up under apartheid titled Born a Crime. (Under apartheid in South Africa, it was illegal for people of different races to have children together. For context, apartheid ended in in 1994; Loving v. Virginia, the case that struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, was decided by the Supreme Court in 1967 but, despite the percentage of multiracial children being born in the United State increasing rapidly, a majority of multiracial adults said in 2015 that they have been subject to racial slurs or jokes.) We all cheered when the staffer who introduced Cory and Trevor mentioned the Hamilton cast's message to Pence on Friday evening, and the applause when she referenced the senator's "I am the storm" tweet from a few days after the election was deafening. The people who consciously voted for Trump and for everything he openly supported - racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and the rest - would have seen that room as successful alt-right propaganda. We are why they voted for Trump.
At the moment, as unproductive as this might be, I can't help but feel that trying to make them understand the hurt they've caused and will continue to cause, if they're not already aware and unconcerned, isn't the best use of my energy, especially when I don't know who they are or how to talk to them. So it's on the people who unknowingly - however that's possible - voted for Trump or who didn't vote at all that I want to focus my efforts.
But how? I don't know yet. Like I said, in my post-result devastation I'm still so easily swayed by each strategy that's proposed. However, a few things from Trevor Noah's talk rang particularly relevant:
We tell our stories to help others who have been through similar challenges come out of hiding.
Hurt people often hurt others. Ask yourself, "Who bullied him that he needed to bully me?"
It's easier to heal if we acknowledge what the wounds are and how they were incurred and by whom.
Be careful that you aren't governed by your anger; be careful that your anger doesn't turn to hate.
It is the inches we give up that lead to the miles that are lost.this Instagram - thank you!) I can volunteer with groups that will protect those that Trump's administration want to assault. I can educate myself on my rights and the rights of my fellow Americans so that I will recognize injustice when it tries to invade the laws of our land.
And, on a smaller scale, I can support those who are or will be hurt by the hate that Trump's election endorsed. I can recognize marginalization, stand up for the harassed, be kind to the suffering. I can connect with my communities and I can love others who are different from me. No matter what stage of grief I'm in, I can do at least that.
It's a start. It's a mooring.
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