I am not terribly interested in discussing how “they” got it wrong on the election predictions. I am very concerned about the potential reign of domestic terrorism the Trump victory is poised to unleash. Donald Trump’s scapegoating, misogynist, and racist words and deeds incite others to act. In my lifetime, the likes of David Duke have never considered presidential results as a victory for “our people”. To not remain vigilant and proactive to that reality is naive and irresponsible. These are not regional issues but involve the entire United States.
About half of the voters in the election cast their ballots for Trump. I was surprised, though I should not have been. I, like much of the U.S. population live isolated in my bubble where I can securely preach to the choir – this blog is perhaps an example. I can surround myself on Facebook with those who agree with me – in fact, I have intentionally unfriended some folks who posted what I considered unfounded conspiracy theories from the right. I am certain they were equally bored with my statements from the left.
A Modest Proposal
When I retired this past September at the age of 64, I made a decision to write one thank you note per day to a colleague or friend I had worked with in my career. I did not distinguish between those with whom I agreed or disagreed – only those with whom I had a professional relationship. Thus far I have written and mailed (hard copy not e-mail) over 80 notes. The process has become an integral part of my morning. I write my daily thank you note before I check email, drink a cup of coffee, or eat breakfast. Perhaps 20% of the folks I have written to have responded in some way. The responses have always led to an increased understanding of each other.
I intend to continue the daily note writing process, indefinitely. However, I will expand the list to include writing to those persons I suspect, or know disagree with me politically, and likely voted for Trump. The list will include friends, relatives, public officials, and those folks I unfriended on Facebook. I will ask that they join with me to assure that Trump’s rhetoric and direct calls to actions of violence and exclusion will not be tolerated. I will be prepared to engage in meaningful discussion about their visions for the next period in our country. I refuse to sit idly by and watch the logical conclusion of Trump’s hate speech unfold.
In 2008, like every year before, after the populace elected the first African-American President, there was no call to action until the time to re-elect him in 2012. Everyone could go back to their bubbles and preach to their choirs. I am convinced that we must break free of our bubbles of agreement and be accountable. I am also convinced that many of my friends and relatives who voted for Trump, while holding some values I do not share, are not advocates for acting on the misogynist and racist views he espouses.
I am a straight white male in my 60s. I can take the bumper stickers off my car, keep my mouth shut and blend in. The black youth walking down the street who are justifiably fearful of every police stop, cannot do the same. The Muslim men and women worshiping in their mosques, cannot do the same. My Hispanic friends and colleagues, cannot do the same. It is time for me and all others who share my privilege of birth to come out of our bubbles and be accountable. Remembering . . .
When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out. – Martin Niemoeller, 1946
Join me in taking whatever steps are necessary to challenge the violence and harassment faced by those living in the U.S. who do not share a position of racial, gender, or economic privilege. This means engaging beyond our comfort level with those whom we disagree. This does not mean engaging in discussions with the David Duke’s of the world. This does mean engaging with those who can be proactive allies standing up and saying “No More!” to actions based in violence against others. This does mean getting out of our bubbles and being in community with those with whom we may not agree on all things, but who can serve as voices of reason, regardless of political affiliation. The challenge is not for today, or tomorrow, but for the next four years, and beyond. A simple note can be a starting point to make a difference.