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Washington, DC, United States
I don't write here nearly as much as I should, but when I do, I'll try to make it count for something.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Election Fever Recovery: Getting My Anti-Establishment Groove Back

Just completed a very long work day and there were a lot of lows and highs. I woke up this morning feeling kind of miserable and panicky. To be honest, my initial reaction to this week's big news was somewhat calm initially. I mean I was angry in ways that were hard to articulate but I was still feeling pretty hopeful. Today I woke up and every bit of serenity I had vanished into thin air.

It's hard to truly explain where my head has gone and the weird sense of despair that keeps taking over me. The truth is I was never one of Hillary’s big supporters – never have been, never will be. And while I know so many people are probably ready to jump down my throat and start pointing fingers at me, saying people like me are the reason that Trump’s impending presidency happened, I need you all to calm down and understand that many people of color that I know and have talked to about Hillary Clinton agree with me. Every time someone sings her praises – for even I will admit that the Idea of Hillary Clinton is pretty good on paper – I will never be able to get past “super predators” and her (and the Democratic Party’s) dismissiveness of the Black Lives Matter movement. I cannot even get into the crime bill shit show of the 90s because that deserves its own separate post but I will say that Clinton did a lot to earn the distrust of people of color, particularly in poor black communities.

That being said, I realized something early on in this campaign season. Whenever I would try to say any of the above, I would get shut down – angrily and vehemently – mostly by my privileged white liberal friends. I’m just going to be as real as possible right now and I’m going to hope that I am not attacked for it. I love my passionate liberal friends and share similar ideals as them in so many ways. I understand why they gravitated towards Hillary and I didn’t hate them for it. But a weird shift happened at a certain point…. suddenly, somehow if you didn’t want to vote for Hillary, you were privileged and were considered part of the “problem.” I experienced this first hand so I learned to subdue my opinions and quietly express my reservations to like-minded friends only.  I allowed my voice to be squashed. And eventually a weird sort of acceptance happened – not that I suddenly loved Hillary, but I started to… think… maybe she IS the only option at this point?

And obviously so much of those feelings also come from a place where I have had to watch (first hand) the media circus lift up Donald Trump again and again, treat him like a joke, like entertainment. And again and again, he would do or say things so reviled that my anti-establishment brain softened and even I started to see Hillary’s appeal. And yet there was that nagging thing in the back of my brain that wouldn’t ever go away….

I’m saying all this because Donald Trump is a problem and I hate that he is the President of the United States because this country really MEANS something to me…. but I’m angry that no one wants to have a deeper discussion about why Hillary didn’t nail down the black vote and what her role has been to the black community. Even typing that now, I can already feel many of you getting fired up – outraged because OBVIOUSLY Donald Trump is worse and any other opinion is ignorant and short-sighted. But this is worth a complex discussion and we need to stop talking in terms of “this side is right and that side is wrong”. And honestly, I think it’s time we all really evaluated how this country’s “democracy” is really working out for us.

I’ve been ambivalent through a lot of this election, truth be told, up until about a month or so ago. Then, like with most people, election madness set in and I started to feel very stressed and constantly on edge. Election fatigue hit me really hard, guys. I mean, here’s the thing: I genuinely consider myself to be a patriot. I say this without irony: I am frustrated by this country a lot of the time but I have always felt pride in being an American. Or… at least I did?

Now this brings me to my point – the pain I am currently going through. Today I listened to the latest episode of Politically Re-Active (a fantastic podcast that I truly recommend to all of you out there) and it wasn’t until then that I realized why I’ve been taking these election results so hard. One of the hosts, Hari (my comedy love), mentioned recently that he was voting for Jill Stein. Flash forward: Hillary loses the election and everyone loses their shit. Since then listeners apparently have decided to blame Hari personally for Hillary’s loss and have attacked him and his character. Hari, a New York voter, felt confident about NY swinging to Clinton so decided to go the third party route in order to legitimize the Green Party, which is more aligned with his ideology – and he was CRUCIFIED for it. I hear so often from progressives that we need to start finding a way to dismantle the crazy two party system that we are strapped to but here is a person who takes a small step towards making that happen in his own way and he’s punished for it. And what were the stakes? Hillary won New York by a landslide. Just the IDEA of thinking differently and moving against the current is upsetting, I guess. ACTUAL steps toward progress are sneered at and there are always excuses for why "this isn't the time". And people are so quick to either forget or ignore the failings of our leaders and to continue to put our trust in systems that have largely worked against most of us.

And there it is – I became guilty of the very thing I spend so much time railing against. I allowed myself to believe in the system again, for just a moment in time, and it blew up in my face. Not because Hillary lost, not because Donald was elected president, not because America has too many angry white people holding our country hostage – the most damaging part was I let myself believe in the same machine that inflicted our horrific criminal justice system on us, that uses the housing market and unholy relationship with developers to wipe out communities of color and cultural hubs, that have put little to no accountability on the law enforcement that have waged a war against my black brothers and sisters, that tell women what they’re allowed to do with their bodies, that oppresses us from a very young age and teaches us the importance of compliance. There are a lot of terrible, frightening things about Donald Trump being President – things that have been swimming in my mind since yesterday, like his picking a Supreme Court Justice, his disregard for climate change and the environment, his rampant islamophobia and sexism – but it’s the system that we are all so easy to trust that allowed this to happen in the first place.

When the reality of our situation settled in, I felt betrayed. Deeply and soulfully.

But now that I’ve identified the source of my pain, I feel fired up. And also, I allowed myself to remember that this was the year of the most brilliant prison strike – events that showed us that resistance can accomplish such good things. There was also significant growth in the Black Lives Matter group. People became aware of the epidemic that is police brutality in a way they hadn't been aware of before (at least people not of color) and some amazing conversations have started to finally happen. And a diverse cluster of badass women were elected into a few of our country’s highest offices – which despite my feelings towards our government, I still believe is a wonderful achievement.

Anyway I’m not sure what my next steps are but I do know that I’m glad that I took a day to wallow about the state of this country because I needed it. However, I am gladder that I have gotten my perspective back and feel a certain optimism again – because you know what? We probably have some tough times ahead and there are some major setbacks but if we all become a little more organized, thoughtful and empathetic we can figure this shit out and we can continue to take positive steps forward. People are good and want to do good. And the angry white people – the Trumpeteers – who voted the Orange One into Presidency don’t speak for us and we shouldn’t allow them to drown out our voices.

And I, personally, will never allow someone to drown out my voice again – not even people whom I care for. It’s hard to push back when you believe in something that others don’t and it’s easy to just pull back in order to avoid causing any waves – but that is doing a disservice to yourself and to the people around you and to the society that you want to help build.

Kudos if you read all this. I don’t expect most people to agree with most of what I have to say but I do hope you can respect my opinions and the spirt in which they were given. Much love to you all and don’t worry… everything will be okay. Weed was legalized in a bunch of places. Bowie’s legacy still lives on. Nutella still exists. And I mean, fuck…. 2016 has to end eventually, right?

And I will conclude this never ending post with a quote from the ever-popular Hamilton musical:

Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.

Much love,
N

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