First, I have to address my conservative friends who may not understand why I have not called them, blocked them on Facebook, or otherwise ignored their sympathetic and (sometimes) sincere advances to tell me it’s going to be ok. I have not been willing to listen. I cannot stand their smugness. They think this election was about politics — that I am angry about policy differences. Ha! I would pay thousands of dollars to have had Romney or even G.W. Bush elected instead. I could write a short novel on how they are wrong. The people who voted for Donald Trump may not be racist, misogynistic, or hateful, but they were ok voting for someone who is. They are enablers, and the true, tragic cost of this election is not in having a different party in the White House but in the different way I see my fellow Americans. I had such faith in us before this election, and that faith has now been thoroughly dashed.
And so, I am conflicted. I vacillate between listing all the people and groups that should eat a dick and then turn to the understanding that we need to do better for a broader swath of people in this country. There is blame enough to share. It isn’t as simple as pitting rural vs city, but that notion can serve in effigy for my purposes.
But for all the moments of anguish and hours of depression — for every Facebook argument sure to be won with the right fact — there were just as many times when I just wanted to feel better and to not to feel what approached hate. It ate at me.
However powerless I felt about Trump, the incoming Congress, the Supreme Court nominees to be, or the countless other calamities that have or soon will befall the United States, I know I need to make things better for myself.
No amount of Schadenfreude can help. Even though it can feel good, it’s simply a redirection of those same feelings that are only hurting me. I need to enact a plan of action. So here it is:
1. Understand and articulate the things about which I care most so that I know where to focus my energy. There are a lot of things I care about, but when I look at it, those about which I care most deeply can be broken down into three broad categories:
- Ensuring Equal Human Rights (equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness)
- Protecting the Environment
- Reforming Campaign Finance and Improving Elections
When I take myself out of the picture (we progressives are great at advocating for others), I realize that none of these will really affect me much in the short or long-term. I’m a well-educated, white male. I have skills that are applicable to several aspects of a vibrant sector of the economy, and I have been fortunate with past technology startup experiences. I’ll be fine. And in the really long run, I’ll be dead. I don’t have children. I don’t believe I’ll be reincarnated. So anything after, say 2075, won’t really affect me in any way.
Progressive causes have a tendency to, well, progress. And that won’t change. Sure there may be reactionary steps back from time to time, but these will tend to be short and corrected. People won’t get fewer rights over time. We aren’t going backward for long.
Let’s be clear: the environment is screwed. But it is probably not so screwed that it won’t sustain my life for the next 58 years. If I live that long, I could likely have what’s left of my consciousness uploaded to whatever the cloud is called then. What’s left of the environment after that time won’t really matter to me.
Campaign and election reform: I am unsure how we can compel the powerful and rich to give up some of their power and wealth, but something has to give. We have never witnessed disparity on this scale. I don’t know how we can vote people into office who will choose to diminish themselves, but if we should succeed we will speed progress on issues of equality and slow the decline of the environment. I’m inherently impatient, so this seems like the place where I can at least make a mark while I’m here.
2. Meet more of my fellow Americans. It’s trendy and also awful to talk about breaking our bubbles. I dislike the language but believe that good things happen when we know more about others — their hopes, and challenges, and lives. I’ll use these encounters to learn and adapt. I’ll seek to make myself better by knowing more and adjusting my views. Sure there will be the occasion where I attempt to share a different perspective or change someone’s mind but I’ll do that differently too.
Which brings me to…
3. Be kinder to people. I’m going to try to treat people how I would like to be treated. I’ll offer courtesy and respect. I’ll withhold judgment. I’ll be tested when I meet folks who don’t seek truth and resist facts, but I’ll try to come up with tactics for handling those situations too. I’ll extend this commitment to my online interactions. I’ll resist snark and instead be considerate and compassionate. I’ll look at things from the other’s point of view.
To be fair, I don’t know if I’ll wholly succeed. But I do know that alternating between reading Trump’s tweets and deliberately ignoring the difficult years ahead isn’t working for me. At least now I have a three-pronged approach directing my energies — reforming who gets elected and how in order to best serve all the people with whom I meet and with whom have nice civil conversations.