Did Diversity Die on November 8?

A couple of people have asked me when I was going to write about the election. Frankly, my mind has been too jangled up lately to say anything remotely coherent. While I certainly don’t have my feelings and thoughts all sorted out yet, a few have come into focus of late.

Like so many of us, my immediate reaction was complete shock, followed shortly thereafter by profound heartache. I never thought Hillary was perfect, but some small piece of me did think that perhaps the day had come when we would have a woman president. I did not realize just how important that was to me until she lost. (There is a throw-away line in the movie Strictly Ballroom where Scott Hastings’ mother laments, “It was our year! It was our year!” That was me on the Wednesday after the election.)

I spent the next few days in kind of a haze watching posts on Facebook get angrier and seeing people who supposedly were on the same side spew vitriol at each other. Comments from those on the right were at first confused, then annoyed, and then occasionally a little cruel. Everyone was furiously posting articles to prove their point. Like a hideous car wreck on the highway, I could barely stand it and at the same time I couldn’t look away. Meanwhile in “real life,” my friends and I talked and talked and talked about nothing but the election and what it meant for the future of our country. Questions were aplenty, answers were few.

I started wondering if my friends were still my friends, on the left or on the right. Was I going to be an activist enough for the left? Was I now too radical for the right?  It was as if the country cracked in half on November 9 and you had to pick a side and immediately jump over to your selected edge of the cliff before falling into the chasm.

But my personal beliefs did not change between “before” and “after” the election. I am fortunate to have friends from all walks of life. There are plenty of things we didn’t agree on, but somehow we managed to coexist. In some cases, they were mere differences of opinion. In other cases, my feelings were profoundly opposed to theirs – in which case, we agreed to leave those subjects alone. Why, if we weren’t any less different today than we were a week ago were these people now supposed to be the enemy?

I am uncomfortable with blanket-labeling anyone I knew who voted for Trump as a racist, misogynist, xenophobe. On the other hand, I see the genuine fear in the eyes of my LGBTQ friends and my heart has simply broken in half on their behalf. How can anyone reconcile those two realities? The truth is that you can’t.

But here is the realization that came to me today. How does pointing and screaming “Other!” help anything?  Will it convince the other side of your side’s “right-ness?” (Not if Facebook posts are any indication…) From my perspective, all that kind of thing does is reinforce the rhetoric that we need to be divided. It serves Washington, DC’s interests, not yours or mine.

And can we really divide ourselves neatly down the middle? I am very much against a Muslim registry, but I am also for women’s rights and the Muslim faith is not always so kind to women (although, then again, neither are the Southern Baptists). I am currently a Methodist and they are not so friendly to the LGBTQ community. And I can’t know what it is like to be pulled over for driving-or walking-while black, but I also abhor the idea of people running around randomly shooting at the police. Do I have to be anti-police if I am pro black lives?

Perhaps I am naive, but I have to believe there can be a world in which we have different ideas and ideals and can still figure out how to live with each other.  And I’m not so sure I am all that naive. I went to high school in Memphis (aka The South) and watched a woman tell her daughter after a basketball game at an all-black school, “at least we are the WHITE minority.” I had a boss tell me “maybe you don’t think you are smart enough to get a MBA” and watched this same boss come to town and take my male colleagues to strip clubs. I have always known it’s a messy world out there.

Look, I am a straight white woman with a good paying job and health insurance and I know I have won the birth lottery several times over, but I’m not totally ignorant of the ways in which people can be cruel to each other.  I have made my own mistakes that caused others pain and I have not always been proud of every choice I have made in my life. My thinking on many subjects has also evolved over time as I have learned and lived more. None of us is perfect, but I think more of us than not at least strive to tip the scales more towards good than bad. The thing we often don’t agree on is how to get there.

I will still fight for what I believe is right, as I would expect anyone to do, and I will cherish the places where we agree. Whether you are a Liberal or a Conservative, I know each of you love your families, that you want your children to be healthy and safe, and that everyone who has lived long enough has suffered pain and loss. I know that being in community (whatever your community may be) is what gets us through this life and brings us laughter and joy. We run races, climb mountains, start businesses, or start families – all with hopes and dreams of success. We lose loved ones, fight cancer, fight fires – all with prayers that we’ll get through it.

Truthfully, we also hurt each other and fight each other and sometimes start wars. So what do we do? In spite of our human potential for darkness, I am choosing to stay true to myself and focus on our light. I am a lover of people. I love your stories, big and small – happy and sad; liberal and conservative. I seek to understand and to learn. I do not always agree with you, and I don’t expect  you to always agree with me, but I, for one, hope we’ll keep talking.