The faces I saw on November 9 were unfamiliar but unmistakable. I didn’t know anyone as I walked downtown. But I knew the subtext – the tired shock, the exhausted melancholy, the drained confusion, and the rage – the subtext wasn’t defeat, as the right believed to be the case, but it was tragic hilarity and authentic sorrow. I knew it because I felt all of it too. My loved ones, myself, nearly everyone wore those faces. There was a softness between strangers, one that sounded like “please, take care.”
The internet blew up: “WTF just happened?” and “This isn’t real,” and “[expletive].”
And what was life like on the other wing?
Sure, there was pound-on-the-chest behavior, showboating, and assholery. There were the expected black trucks with confederate flags. But there was also a profound sense of peace on the other side.
There was peace in the idea that someone (then president-elect) was going to take care of them. It is a childish longing (and I mean that with respect, not ridicule), to wish for someone to make everything better, a kiss on the scraped knee, make things whole again, make things right again, make things “great again.”
What I could not understand, and still don’t, is how people could be light-years away from establishing truly wholesome definitions of “better,” “healed,” “complete,” “great,” and, not least, “right.” The core of the value system that opposed Trump’s presidency was built around the idea of love; it was informed by centuries of narratives of traumas to the human condition, regarding ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, disability, and socioeconomic status. How, then, could anyone possibly find “goodness” (never mind “greatness”) in anything that would undermine love?
Said MLK,“No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.”
I was dissatisfied.
I briskly finished up my walk downtown and went home; I had stayed up until 3:00 AM waiting to hear the election results, I was tired of exchanging shared catastrophic glances with strangers.
There were bouts of silence in traffic, and out my window in nearby car radios I could hear Diane Rehm’s voice quivering.
Helplessness pervaded everything, and now we are in a stasis figuring out where our agency is.
We are human beings – remarkably beautiful creatures born with the capacity to love. But a disturbing percentage of the country couldn’t see that on that day.
But this is not new. We’ve seen this for decades, and centuries. So, we don’t look forward right now, because the implications are too grave. Right now we look back at the history of sociopolitical movements and progress driven by nonviolent protests.
We admire our past, we acknowledge how “great” those movements and energies were, and we replicate it.
Again. And again.