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[personal profile] cislyn
A few years ago, after the disastrous recall election here in Wisconsin failed, I wrote that elections are meant to be messages. And I was pretty bummed at the time about the message being sent by the electorate of the state I'd chosen as my home.

And here we are, once again. And I have the same kind of feeling.

Elections are meant to be messages. They are meant to say, with the voice of a people, "we support this", "we stand for that", "we will not stand for this", and so on. Today, I'm trying to figure out the message.

As a nation, we have elected the person who campaigned strongly on building a wall, over the person with the slogan "we are stronger together". We chose the person with literally no governmental or military experience. We spoke with our voices to support the person who started the birther movement. We are choosing to "make America great again" - which strongly implies that it is not great now, was not headed in good directions, and backwards is the way to progress. We have given a seat of power and prestige to someone who sexually assaults women and then brushes it off, believes climate change isn't real, is supported by the KKK. I could go on, in this vein. I don't think I will.

I feel a little bit like the comments section - you know, the ones you should avoid? Because it's a cesspool of hate and vitriol and the worst elements of human nature and nobody really means it anyway but that doesn't mean it can't do so some real damage if you read it - is smirking its way into the White House.

But the truth is that the message of this election is different than that - it's not as simple as "we support this guy!" and "we like the things he claimed to stand for" and "fuck the people who don't agree". Nor is it as simple as "we reject the other candidate!" and "we cannot support the things she stands for."

As of right now, a bleary but clear 9:52 am CST the day after the election while numbers are still coming in, I'm seeing that Trump got 47.5% of the vote, and Clinton got 47.7%. 59.354 million people voted for Clinton. 59.188 million people voted for Trump. 59 million people supported "the other person". From any angle, from every perspective, the message of this election from the people who spoke is that the United States is a deeply divided nation. We want conflicting things. It's not that we don't want this, and we do want that. It's that a helluva lot of us want one thing. And a helluva lot of us want something else entirely.

And the way we do elections, and the way this election in particular played out in the media, it's a narrative of division. Because it's a narrative. Elections aren't just messages - they're stories. And stories sell best in the press when they're simple - villains and heroes and this guy and the other. And when they're close. That's a tricky thing to manage - making nearly half the people think polar opposite extreme things. Very tricky. And very profitable.

I'm not conspiracy mongering here. I'm not saying there was A Plan or anything like that.

Mostly, I'm trying to make sense of this world, of this country. Here we are. And half of us are terrified and half of us are elated and half of us are grieving and half of us are jubilant and half of us are sure the other half want us dead - wait, maybe that's all of us? Just about?

I'm just looking at the numbers and shaking my head. 59 million people voted for this. 59 million people voted against. There are 200 million registered voters in America. That's a lot of people who just plain didn't vote. A few other million voted for third party candidates. And here we are.

So. What now? These are our neighbors and our friends and the people we're going to sit across from at Thanksgiving dinner. These are the checkout clerks at the grocery store and the other drivers on the road with us and the person you see every day at work. It's hard to be grateful, when you feel like The Other Side doesn't care about the things you care about - hell, maybe doesn't care about your life, period. I'm worried for immigrants, for people of color, for LGBTQ folks (and that B in there is for me, as well). I'm worried for the poly families I know, and the people trying to navigate hatred and fear and balance that with coming out and being true to themselves and the lives they want to lead. I'm worried for the folks who are different. For the ones who have less, and so have more to lose. I'm worried for the kids who watched along with this terrible election who are now realizing just how divided we are. I'm ridiculously worried for adults who are looking around and feeling like half the people in this place they call home don't value the same things they do, at all. And maybe don't value their lives. I'm worried for friends with chronic illnesses and I'm worried for people I know who might lose their health insurance and not be able to get any more. I'm worried about the economy tanking and I'm worried about people I know and care about losing jobs, losing their homes, losing each other. I'm worried.

But worry doesn't cut it. I think today I'm going to take some time to just step back, and try to find my faith and hope in humanity again. I'll also be reaching out to friends to make sure they're ok, to talk and vent and try to figure things out. I've already seen some folks on social media saying things like "get over it", "you're whining", "don't be a baby", "typical libtard overreaction". That's... well, that's not very gracious, and it's not very nice. And it doesn't much take into consideration those 59 million people who really, really, really, didn't want things to go this way.

You know what? If you're inclined to say anything like that - to anyone, not just me - please just step back, and don't. People were invested in this, and still are - and that's a good thing! I want people invested in the participatory democracy that we have here. People pinned hopes and dreams and fears on this. They believed and still do believe, that all of this matters. Being disappointed doesn't begin to cover it for some folks - I know a lot of people who are legitimately scared now, and if you think that's an overreaction, well, that's your business.

But maybe keep this in mind: telling someone who's frightened and depressed that they're acting like a baby does nothing other than bolster your own sense of superiority. It doesn't help them with their fears, or help you understand their perspective. You can believe that people shouldn't be afraid all you want, but maybe instead of indulging in that it would be better to think about those numbers. 59 million this way. 59 million that way. Think about that. And think about empathy. And try, in some small but measurable way, to make the world a better place for someone today.

Be kind. Think, before you speak. Be generous. Be nice. Get the order for the person in line behind you at the coffee shop. Give someone a hug. Adopt a pet. Donate to a library. Tell a silly joke. Read some puns and share them. Post cat pictures on social media. Send a card to someone you've been thinking of. Rake leaves in someone else's yard. There are a lot of little ways you can say to the people around you - even people you don't know - that you care. That you want to make the world a nicer place. Do them. And keep doing them. We need that.

Because one way or another, we all live in this bucket. It's a really big bucket, and it's got a lot of room. Maybe we can do something together to make it a nice place for all of us, and not just 59 million who spoke one way, and not another.

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Cislyn

December 2016

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