… Then a clarification is needed: People are not protesting a Republican win via the electoral college. People are afraid and their fear is real and legitimate. What they are in fact protesting is the hate speech, the bigotry, the racism and the sexism that Trump’s campaign communicated, endorsed and even promised in policy terms. They are protesting exclusion and acts of discrimination against marginalized and vulnerable groups (read: women, African-Americans, disabled people, LGBT, Mexican-Americans, Muslims, etc). There are large groups of people, huge groups of Americans, who feel legitimately afraid for the lives, their liberties, their families and their futures.
That’s ridiculous and overreacting. Why would they feel that afraid?
Because the President-elect told them, expressly and explicitly, that those things are all in jeopardy. It’s been pretty spelled out and continues to be signaled with a white nationalist Anti-Semite named his chief strategist yesterday. And then, when his more vocal supporters at his rallies shouted out even nastier and more hateful vitriol, he didn’t tell them it was inappropriate or not tolerated. He often laughed and egged them on. Unlike John McCain’s beautiful example here of disavowing hate speech and racism from supporters during his 2008 campaign.
So Trump is President. 26% of America elected him President and that was enough. The protesters, the people speaking out in pain and fear are not arguing that. We are in a post-election world now. And it really doesn’t matter who you voted for anymore.
Let me stop here and say clearly: If you are in my life and voted for Trump, I don’t believe you are a hateful bigot or a racist. I don’t believe that the mocking and demeaning language of his campaign about people of color, women, families with gay parents, a Muslim veteran KIA, and the disabled totally resonated with you and made you want to high five Trump. Rather, I think you just overlooked xenophobic, homophobic, racist and misogynistic rhetoric because something else must have mattered more to you.
And all that matters right now is that if you believe in the equal value of all humans, in their basic human rights and liberties – then will you make your voice clear and tell them you will stand by those values and uphold respect for other humans?
What does that look like?
- It could look like finding a way to tell a Muslim citizen who has been told they will have register and carry ID cards because of their faith or a hard-working immigrant who might face deportation, who fear violence or ridicule, (whose children are already facing shameful actions in the past week) that you want them to be safe. Can you agree to stand by their basic human right to feel safe?
- It might look like telling my brother who’s on disability and Medicaid and might need a heart transplant in a few years – but won’t get it if he loses his health insurance – and millions of other lives that are similarly, truly on the line that you do care about the health of your fellow citizens, even those that can’t secure it from private insurance.
- It might look like you telling my nephew who is so distraught because he identifies as disabled, and he watched the video clip of Trump crudely mocking disabled people, that you find that horrendous too and that’s not your America.
- It might look you telling my friend’s neighbor whose crotch was grabbed Thursday by a man while he told her to “get used to it,” that that is unconscionable and wrong and you are so sorry it happened.
- It might look like you telling my brilliant Indian-American doctor and actress friend, who faces discrimination in the South, and now says that she gets the message that America doesn’t want her – that we do want her and need her. … Or another dear Southeast Asian entrepreneur friend who was told by a yelling passerby on Saturday to “go home to her own country” … that she is home.
- It might look like you telling my friend who is legitimately afraid her marriage will be legally overturned, her family destroyed, her child confused and brokenhearted that that is not okay and you will speak out when and if the vote comes.
- It might look you telling my African-American friend’s brother who drives around with his license in the overhead visor so if he’s ever pulled over maybe he won’t be shot for reaching for his wallet – who now sees KKK celebratory rallies planned in North Carolina and racial epithets and swastikas painted all over Philadelphia – that his life matters.
We are not protesting the election. We are not wearing safety pins because Hillary didn’t win. We are expressing solidarity and strength and protection for these stories, these many many brothers and sisters. And for ourselves and our own basic humanity. Do you have friends like these? I’d wager you do whether you know it or not. Have you heard stories that have unfolded in the past 4 days? The sharp rise in hate crimes since the election is being reported. Can you close your eyes and remove the colors red and blue from your vision and try on any one of these stories, like pulling on a sweater, to imagine what that kind of fear might actually feel like? And if you don’t know particular people in your own life facing these issues, then maybe you could just make a blanket statement to say that your America is not one of discrimination, hate and exclusion. That you stand with those who believe in respect and dignity for all.
You could say it as simply as Richard Rohr does: “For the vulnerable who have now been rendered more vulnerable, I lament and pray and promise to stand with you.”
This is beyond politics right now. If you are reading the protests as being about the election result itself, as sore losers, you are misunderstanding. We would not be speaking out and on the streets were it a McCain win, a Romney win, hell – even Rubio or Jeb Bush or maybe even Cruz. This is different than an Obama win in ’08 or ’12, or even W.’s wins in the two terms before. Americans’ basic human rights were not in direct threat in any of those scenarios.
If you want unity, if you want us all to move on, then try to understand what the protests are and are not about. Find in that understanding some empathy for the most vulnerable among us. And maybe find a way to say that demeaning, mocking, advocating for violence or a stripping down of personal rights and civil liberties is not what you endorse, and it’s not the person you are.
You don’t have to denounce your party or your vote. But if you want credibility in telling us to move forward, you do need to reaffirm that everyone has a seat at the table (especially the many who were told during the campaign that they didn’t) and that you will actively help those who feel fearful and threatened.
Then call for unity. Then call for us to march forward. Unity means everyone.