Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Note Written in Some Haste. How Do We Respect This Outcome?

3am, Wednesday, November 9th, 2016.
Hillary Clinton concedes. Donald Trump is elected President of the United States.

This election was a test of character and America just failed.  What is before us is no less than an American tragedy.  To measure it against other failures of the American spirit may not be premature but we are in uncharted territory.  America has chosen a narcissistic demagogue wholly unprepared for the office of the Presidency and his election wasn't even close.  

I am not sure how to respect this outcome because this is the first time in my life that I am honestly embarrassed and ashamed to be an American. Does democracy always succeed because the will of the people has spoken? Must we admit wisdom to the people when everything in our hearts tells us that what has happened is more than a mere mistake, more than a poor judgment of policy or ideology? I am afraid of this majority that will soon control our polity because they have given us every reason to be. I can't be hopeful because I know too well what it is they are hoping for. And I am not sure we can know just what to do because power now belongs to those who've told us they don't know or that their plans are hidden. The plans they have revealed are a true cause of my horror.

What can we do to resist enough the kinds of tyranny with which we have been explicitly threatened?I don't know how emboldened our opponents will be but they have surely promised retribution. Those they have threatened by name--- immigrants, LGBT communities, the lists go on--- have every reason to be afraid, for their lives, for their rights, for their very existence. What we have not been told is only half the matter. What they have told us is wholly sufficient to bring us to a living terror. I'm inclined to take them at their word, as I always have. That's enough worry for even one breath. And in four years? We can only be prepared for what to do next. That may not be much of a plan but it is what we will need to do. Now it is in their hands, what they choose to do with this power and what they claim as their authority over the rest of us. For our part, we can stand our ground and do all we can to make our case.

What will happen when they are our sovereign leaders?

The world will undoubtedly become more dangerous. Let us not fool ourselves, much of the progress won over the past 75 years will be in peril ---and all of the more immediate gains regarding human rights during the past eight years of President Obama---for same sex marriage, for transgender, for women, for the poor and healthcare and the ret--- all of these they have promised to erase or throw backwards. We lost the argument. We failed to persuade. We are a minority opposition, no matter how many of us there are.  We must stand for American ideals, the experiment of equality, dedicated to a proposition that today seems more distant than it has been in generations.

So what more can we do?

First, we come closer together for the sake of more conversation. We need frankness, not recriminations. We need candor and clarity, and more, not less, healthy debate. We must not capitulate or allow ourselves to lose our compass. We need to do good and to be good. No retreat, no surrender. But make no mistake about it, President-elect Trump is not qualified for a job that requires every last bit of qualification and the world will not wait for him or tolerate his incompetences. We are all in this with him and we're in very serious trouble.

Let us take seriously the evidence before us. Less wishful thinking, more even handed and one day at a time facts on the ground. The storm we find ourselves in is real and life is going to become far more stormy. We'll need our resources and when we don't have a direction, we'll need to weather these storms and they will not likely abate. So we'll need each other more than ever. And we will need serious and sober reflection and conversation. We will need more stories from which we can learn, more practices we can share, more insight and care. We will need to take care of each other and each other's needs and feelings. We will reach out, look inside, and help one another in ways we have not yet imagined. We won't give up on anyone.

Then we will need to prepare for what Trump and these Republicans will bring. The republic was not built to withstand well the kinds of changes they are proposing, revolutionary changes that were understood at our founding to be the forms tyranny takes. The government was built to resist suddenness and to respond to it with collective effort. There is no reason to believe our ideas and values, our contributions and hopes will be included. They have already told us as much. Surely the Republicans will over reach but we must not underestimate their fervid religiously, their zealotry and willingness to impose their will. They mean what they say and have meant it all along. If we think about it, it's been only President Obama who has stood between us and their agenda as they have clearly stated it. So what do we do? We resist, we speak out, we use every instrument of government and civil disobedience we can to do everything we can to hold our ground.

Hold fast. We will not gain ground in this environment. We will not progress. But we must try to prevent them from taking back our progress, even as we refuse to diminish our ideals or abandon our values. We must get better at explaining, educating, and working together to make our aims clear. We must win people over and invite them to our shared commitments. We must remember that we failed to make our case. We too have failed this test of character. So what are we going to do about that? Admitting our mistakes will not guarantee that we have learned anything about their making.

And we must do our best not to take this out on each other. We must compromise with each other even as we resist being bullied, railroaded, burnt down, and oppressed by those who want nothing to do with our visions of progress. We must admit to ourselves that progress is incremental. The call for revolution plays only into their hands. Authoritarians want nothing more than to claim us the rabble. We are outnumbered because we have failed and we have been beaten by those more passionate, more committed, and more serious about winning. What are we prepared to do better? We stand at present no chance to change the "system," so how do we work within it in so diminished a form of power? We must hold our ground and create more common ground together. It's time to rally, not to retreat, and certainly not to surrender.

Part Two

We should never underestimate the role of the shadow in our lives and what happens when our fears and disappointments, our dashed hopes and desire for blame takes hold. We humans have only the most tenuous hold on our humanity, because self comes to mind and we know not what to do. Every other living thing relies on nature, its instincts, the pre-made messages that guide and direct life's choices. But we humans, we have to learn to _be_ human.

Learning to think more lucidly, cope and compromise with more empathy and compassion, create dignity and purpose that includes differences, these are not simple matters. We need culture and family, we need education and effort; and everything that is of value demands more than we expect and often delivers less than we'd hoped for. We need _each other_. And when we fail to create circumstances and the culture that calls forth our better nature, we easily succumb to the easier paths of fear, selfishness, and delusion. It's hard to tell honest stories, and the kind we need seem crowded out by fantasies and false consolations. Are we prepared to be more compassionate and more honest about what it takes to live with our differences too?

We'll need to stand fast, stay close, and when it is necessary resist with all our might the injustices and forces of tyranny. We going to have to go deeper into our own conversations, be better friends to each other, and rise to the occasion to act, to compromise, to include. We're going to need more stories that help us tell our stories and less fear about what we might learn when we go into those shadows. But that is where we must go, into the shadows together, and do what we must to face what we find out about each other and ourselves. What we do to bring those shadows to light and how we do that will make all the difference. In the meantime, more ksanti, more forbearance, and more "as if" so that we can carry on. For carry on, we must.