Once the dust settled after the recent presidential election, revealing an America that backed President-elect Donald Trump, those who did not support him were astonished and taken aback, surprised to find themselves in a country where half of the voters were more willing to vote for someone who upholds racist, sexist, homophobic ideals than to risk losing their piece of the pie. As in any election, the losing side cried out in outrage. Messages like, “if you voted for Trump, delete me as a friend,” and, “I don’t have to respect your political views if you don’t respect me” spread like wildfire through social media, side-by-side with campaigns and petitions to try and change the democratic process and put Hillary Clinton in office, after all. This time is different, the messages read. We aren’t just upset about losing; people’s rights are at stake. And that is true. The election of Donald Trump brings into the spotlight a segment of America that many wanted to pretend did not exist. Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist misogynist. However, they did see a man who supports xenophobic, sexist and homophobic ideals, and decided that he was an acceptable person to lead our country.
However, in all of the chaos spreading throughout social media right now, we must remember one thing: xenophobia did not win the election. Sexism and misogyny did not win the election. Fear won. A mass of painfully fearful people went out and voted, and fear won; fear of not being able to provide for their families, fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, fear of losing what they have worked so hard for. Most did not, I sincerely hope, vote with hatred, sexism or racism in their hearts. People do not vote in hopes of harming others; they vote in their own best interest.
So what now? Now is the time to take this fearful momentum and turn it in the other direction, to turn it into acceptance. It is not time to go into a liberal box and relate only to those who share your views. That plays into the same extreme, polarizing mentality that created this situation. It is not time to lash out at conservative friends or third party voters or religious communities or any of the myriad other groups who are so easy to blame. And especially, it is not the time to sit back and complain, or worse, to panic.
In a recent interview with The New Yorker, President Obama shared how he discussed Trump’s win with his daughters, and his message can provide guidance for all:
“What I say to them is that people are complicated. Societies and cultures are really complicated … This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop … You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”
It is not time to escape; it is time to accept and to believe in our inherent goodness, and to radiate kindness. Stand for what you wish had been stood for in the voting booths, and spread it in any way that you can. Hate did not trump love. Fear did, but only for a second. This is not the end, this is not time to despair and collapse and give up, this is not permanent. It is a beginning; a time to do better, try harder, be kinder, fight stronger, and to forgive. Feel the fear and shake it off; do not let it take hold of you. And think. Notice the movements sweeping the social media world and consider their implications and potential consequences. Make every move a conscious one, and never act out of fear. Here are a couple of movements, spreading across social media right now, to carefully consider before clicking “share” or signing your name:
- All women should go out and get an IUD. This article has flooded my Facebook newsfeed since the election, urging any woman planning to engage in sexual intercourse in the next four years to seriously consider getting an IUD before Trump’s inauguration, before the repeal of insurance reform, and before the reversal of Roe vs Wade. One caption even made the point:
“IUDs can last over 5 years, which should cover you until our country elects someone who cares about reproductive health and women’s rights. Do not take risks with your sexual health.”
While understandable, to encourage women en masse to go get any form of hormonal birth control, each with its own potentially serious risks, is irresponsible, extreme, and potentially dangerous. It will take time to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and even longer to overturn Roe vs Wade. Checks and balances are in place to protect us from sudden decisions and to assure that multiple voices are heard. Fear needn’t rule our decisions.
- Urge the electoral college to elect Hillary Clinton. This petition currently has over four million shares on Facebook and Twitter. While it sounds like a good idea, consider this: The electoral college does not vote until Dec.19, just a month before the presidential inauguration, and Congress does not accept the results until Jan. 6, just two weeks before inauguration. Congress is controlled by Trump’s party and is unlikely to accept any new results. Imagine the Constitutional and logistical crisis this move would create regarding the peaceful transition of power. This move could turn the country on its head, potentially without any pay off.
This is not to say women should not to consider birth control options or that we should not explore ways to update our election system to better match the needs of our contemporary era. It is simply to ask each of us to carefully consider the messages we spread in the world. We do not need to spread more messages of hate, panic or fear. It is time to stand up for love, for acceptance, and to move forward as a nation, as united as we can be.