Mo Shah

Nov 112016
 

We’re a couple of days past Tuesday, so the initial shock has worn off and I’m starting to come to grips with the fact that Trump was elected. I posted something on my mindful parenting blog (thingsmydaughters.com) that tried to push back against that initial urge to close up and make it “us” vs” them”. I’m still largely there, but I’ve noticed such a range in reaction between  people. For example, a friend of mine posted something about how he couldn’t understand the “hysteria” surrounding Trump’s election. Here’s what I responded:

 

Let me see if I can explain the “hysteria” over it.

There are many levels to this, but mainly people respond on an intellectual one or an emotional one. Intellectually – depending on where you are on the spectrum – this is simply a referendum on particular issues (immigration, gun control, what have you). A loss here is disappointing, but you can shrug and move on and continue the debate and fight for those principals you believe in.

If that was it, if this were a normal election where two candidates got a little bit dirty but stuck to generally accepted decorum, I’d be fine. Disappointed, but fine.

But emotionally, for some of us, it *feels* so much different. Mainly because the way he won was to appeal to the basest, crassest, and YES – Xenophobic and Racist – elements of the population.

For those of us who are part of a minority (and I include women in this group), we’ve always felt a bit of an outsider. This is a white man’s world – and we’ve learned to work in it. I’m not lamenting that fact or blame or hold anyone accountable for that – it’s just the reality or being a minority. But for the most part, I’ve always had a sense that most people in the majority would never condone the actions and rhetoric of what I thought was a kooky fringe. That what I believe regarding religion, or what I look like regarding skin color, or if I had a pussy or not was generally accepted by most people on the street. Not only were there rules in place that prevented discrimination, but the general sense of right and wrong and inclusiveness precluded the bad stuff happening to me.

Now I find out that there was a sizeable portion of the population – a majority where it counted – that was willing to look past all of the invectives, all of the clear things that were said (blanket ban on a religious group? condoning sexual assault?). Not only willing to look past but actively lay in the same bed with him?

My “hysteria” is waking up to find that those that I thought were my neighbors either have always harbored these views or they don’t care. Or are cowardly about it. That I’ve been “tolerated” in my own country, but when push comes to shove I’m looked at as an “other.”

Fuck that. My disbelief is starting to turn toward anger. And I’m a reasonably well-off guy who only has maybe a dozen examples in my life where I can point to actively being treated differently. Those minorities that are less well off, those already feeling disenfranchised? This is confirmation of what they always suspected but was told for a generation that we’re “past that.” That their plight had nothing to do with race. I can only imagine the hurt and rage they feel.

I was asked yesterday if I really felt unsafe, like I would be taken away. The answer to that is No, I really don’t feel that way. But I do feel like when I’m out in public now, I better kowtow to a certain way of being, to keep my eyes open lest I make myself offensive to the wrong person, that a certain element in our country now feels emboldened Don’t believe me? Not hard to find videos already of kids chanting “Build the wall!” during lunch while Hispanic students cry. Or just here in Frederick at a gas station where a car full of men called a passerby a Nigger and confronted her as in “What are you going to do now?”

It’s happening. Because of a message we sent as a country on Tuesday.

So I’ll put my game face on when I leave the house and smile lest I offend, but I’m crying inside.

 

I’m torn between my more rational need to try to bridge this divide through keeping my heart and mind open, and my gut level reaction as talked about in my reaction to his post.  I don’t want to take away the many people that I have in my life that belong to a constellation of ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. I love my community. But it’s a subset of a broader one, one that I had always thought was accepting – as opposed to just tolerating – me.

When I was a young teen, I attended a friend’s Bar Mitzvah. After the reading and before the party, an aunt or friend of family approached me and asked me where I was from. When I said what neighborhood, she clarified, “No, where were you born?” When I said, “New Jersey”, she laughed like it was the biggest joke and then asked with seriousness, “No, where are you REALLY from?”

I had hoped that at least the country would have evolved such that my kids didn’t have a supposition of being an “other.” I’m being proven wrong.

After 9/11, there was such a surge of connectedness and patriotism that made us feel as if we were all part of a mutual community. We came together as a nation. But after a short while, we devolved into suspicion and fear. After many years, those scars have faded (never disappeared).

After 11/9, there was no such surge. Just that discord.  I suspect it will fade in time overtly and we’ll get to some level of “normal”, but this will have seismic repercussions for years to come.  Both politically and personally.

Note: I’m  keeping this post public. I suppose if I was smarter I’d keep it “friends only”, but I don’t feel like I should hide out with this.