How did this happen?

So I wasn’t going to work on this post today.  I took almost two whole days off from reading about the election.  I focused on work, my family, my friends, and football, and it felt kind of good.  I don’t think we have the luxury right now (or probably at any point in the near future) of not thinking about the meaning of these results, but it felt good to take a break, and I feel reluctant to return.

I embedded this video because I like it for a number of reasons.  I agree that hate is what was voted for on Tuesday, November 8th.  In my last post I describe how this might have be unintentional on the part of a great many voters, but regardless, that IS what they voted for (and I find this deeply troubling).  In this video, Jay Smooth points out that there may have been a complex web of reasons for why this choice was made but it was made nonetheless.  It is this complex web of reasons so many pundits, analysts, and citizens are trying so hard to understand.

The outcome of this election has been described by the media as shocking, a major upset, unprecedented, and so on.  I was as shocked and confused as those anchors and analysts. My friends were also baffled.  And we were also, of course, by turns saddened, angry, and scared.  There were however, a decent number of tweets in my Twitter feed blaming those of us who expressed surprise for our own ignorance.  Blaming us, essentially, for being kind of naive Pollyannas.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>continuing my &quot;all academics required to take a sabbatical outside their bubble&quot; initiative. This result should not surprise you this much</p>&mdash; Kristin Arola (@kristinarola) <a href=”″>November 9, 2016</a></blockquote>

Reactions like this, certainly made me think hard about my expectations and beliefs leading into the election.  On the one hand, as an ardent Bernie supporter I really get (a subsection of) the kind of thinking that could lead to this result.  I knew our country was firmly divided with race issues and hatred toward Muslims (and anyone “other”) making up a significantly scary part of the division.  I am aware that while I read fairly widely, I don’t truly wander very far outside the filter bubble.  In fact, my Facebook (which I no longer have) feed tends to carry the mosts diverse set of voices, since it is made up of friends and family whom I love (most of the time) despite political and ideological differences.  My other SMSs are comprised of a much more selective make-up.  So while I acknowledge the kind of echo chamber I created for myself, I also don’t think I had my head totally buried.

It actually makes me a bit uncomfortable when I think about the similarities between the Trump voter base and Bernie voter base.  Those similarities were pointed out by political analysts a number of times, and I kind of just rolled my eyes or closed my ears.

My understanding of the election results is/was that they are very much based on the idea of a disenfranchised populace, sick of the establishment and politics as usual.  A segment of the citizenry that feels their voices and needs have been ignored by the likes of career politicians like HRC, and that they’ve been lied to, misled, cheated, and so on.  These sentiments, I believe, were held by Bernie and Trump supporters alike.  Michael Moore very much predicted the outcome of this election.

But as, Jay Smooth points out in the video (admittedly in a very brief, passing way), the reasons are complex — more complex than just a large contingency of white, blue-collar, middle-aged workers who truly believe there was a time when America was actually “great.”  While Smooth’s vlog, is essentially saying the why and how don’t matter so much, it’s the what to do next that he wants to address, I am still obsessing over the “how.”

So here is what I have come up with so far:

  1. We have the disenfranchised middle of the country, working class whites
  2. We have the alt-right/white nationalists (these folks are often college educated)
  3. Whites (in general) — in particular:  those without a college degree (some of these are probably in category 1 of this list) and older (over 65)

    White non-Hispanic voters preferred Trump over Clinton by 21 percentage points (58% to 37%), according to the exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool.

  4. But also important to the way this tide turned were all of those who did NOT come out to the polls for Hillary.  Hillary did not get the younger voters that Obama got.  And while she won the black and Latino vote, she did not gain the same advantage among these voters that Obama did in the past two elections.

[U]ltimately, this was Clinton’s election to lose, and Democratic Party officials should reflect on their eagerness to nominate her in the first place, despite the clear longing of so many young liberals and older conservatives for an anti-establishment figure motivated by more palpable indignation against “the system.”

Now I truly have no idea if Bernie would have fared any better as so many of his supporters are arguing.  I have to think that most of category one above (white, working class, middle of the country) were too scared by all the “socialist”/”commie” rhetoric that surrounds Bernie to have voted for him.  Or am I not giving them enough credit?  Bottom line is that we just don’t know.  I did read an interesting tweet the day after the elections stating that it is “ignoble” to “blame” the election outcome on the poor and disenfranchised.  By looking at voter demographics and pointing out who voted for whom, I certainly hope I am not being condescending or unfair.  But that tweet has stuck with me, and I want to be very careful about blame placing.  In the days following the election I really blamed the GOP for allowing it to get to this point — for giving Trump the nomination (though, admittedly, without superdelegates, I don’t have a clear road map for how they would have avoided doing this). Certainly, some of the blame falls to the media:  for both constantly showcasing Trump’s antics but also for screwing up the predications, the data so badly.  But I do think there is something to Stephanie Coontz’s opinion, which I quoted above.  While we simply cannot know how Bernie would have done as the Democratic candidate, we also cannot deny that there is a strong message that the people (across the political spectrum) are trying to send to Washington.  A message about Wall Street; a message about Citizens United; a message about keeping jobs domestically; a message about distribution of wealth; a message about corruption, fraud and lies; a message that says “it’s the economy, stupid.”  And if Washington continues to ignore these messages, these needs of the people, then I fear we are in for a far worse future than any of us are able to imagine at the moment.

So after the how did this happen (!?) comes the what do we do now question.  In the vlog, Jay Smooth talks about resistance.  The next step is to resist.  And I think too often people automatically think of protestors, violence, people shattering shop windows and setting fire to things as acts of resistance, which they are (and there are many historical moments and movements globally during which they have arguably been effective acts).  However, in Toi Derricotte’s words, “Joy is an act of resistance.”  Love too, I believe, can be an act of resistance.  These things are particularly effective acts of resistance in the face of hate.  If a culture of intolerance is normalized by the presidency, then doing just the opposite is certainly a form of resistance.  MLK and Malcolm X both practiced resistance just in different forms.

There is also the #notmypresident move as an act of resistance.  I’ve talked with others who insist we need to accept the decision and give our POTUS-elect the respect that the position (they manage to separate the position from the person) deserve.  HRC and Bernie and Obama have also said as much in various ways, all agreeing that they have to find a way to work with Trump for the sake of our country.  While I agree that we all have to do this kind of “suck it up” work for the sake of our jobs, so those in Washington might need to strike some kind of balance, I disagree that I as an individual citizen need to respect Trump or accept him as my President.  The President is supposed to be a representation of the people.  There is absolutely NOTHING about this man the represents me.  And while I just went on and on about practicing love in the face of hate, I cannot seem to muster up any kind of good will toward Trump (at the moment).




Be Excited, Not Stressed

The Holiday Season is nearly here — that most wonderful time of year.  I am not being sarcastic or sardonic here.  I truly love the holidays. I love that people feel differently, act differently, and even look different for a whole month or so regardless of how artificial a construct it is.  A number of folk in my Instagram feed already have trees and decorations glowing and shining in their perfect-social-media-feed-ready homes.  It’s inspiring and exciting and gives my heart a little jolt.  Now the jolt part is where is gets complicated.  It’s both a jolt of excitement and joy but also one of fear and anxiety.  The holiday season, of course, coincides with the end of the semester (this year it also coincides with the due date for my sabbatical application).  This means that while I want to enjoy down time with family, decorating, choosing gifts, attending parties with friends, cooking lots, and so on, I feel the stress and pressures of work acutely.

So I have set my intention for this holiday season 2016: be excited, not stressed.  Sounds great, right?  The problem being that I haven’t figured out how to achieve it.  Now setting intentions doesn’t necessarily require having the exact path to their attainment in place.  It’s an intention after all.  But it’s me, so without planning I have no idea how anything happens.  And that is where I am stuck:  On the one hand, I feel safety in my usual motto of “planning is best,” and believe firmly that the only successful holiday season is one that I plan the ever-living-crap out of.  But another part of me wonders what it might be like to just let things kind of happen.  Do things as we feel like doing them.  Wander through the holiday season like tourists without a guidebook (Who does that!?!).  As with most things in life the answer probably lies in a balance of the two.  The problem being that once you start planning, it seems to kind of snowball, and like a Jenga tower, if all the pieces aren’t placed just so, then the whole thing is at risk of toppling.  For example, yesterday I started planning December, and all three weekends before Christmas have plans (plus work), and I haven’t even factored in getting the tree!  In fact, I am willing myself right now not to click on iCal and start clicking and color-coding madly….

In the end, I’m just counting on Pandora’s Jazz Holiday Radio to save me and my sanity.  Oh, and the Christmas lights…those make it all worth it.  🙂

Happy start to the holiday season to all!!

School Picture Day

Today is picture day at Levi’s school, and I am feeling this small bit of thrill over it.  It is a strange feeling since I never pictured (ha!) myself as someone who would have any kind of feeling at all over such a seemingly mundane event.

Yesterday, while I was at Levi’s school, I picked up a copy of our local Parent Pages.  Now I’ve been a parent for nearly two years and admit that I’ve never before picked up this free publication.  I am not sure why this is, but as I flipped through it very briefly, I was struck with the thought that I’m totally out of touch with the subculture of parenting.  Perhaps this is because my child is still a bit on the young side to really participate in a lot of activities designed for young children.  I feel like a lot of that begins after the age of two.  We tend to opt out of a lot of activities (trick or treating, for example) because of the fact that he is still too young to really understand, appreciate, and/or remember what is going on.  However, he is quickly approaching the age when this will no longer be the case, and I just discovered there is a lot I have to learn.

(Granted, Dawn did just tell me about a local band, The Zucchini Brothers, who describe themselves as the Beatles of children’s music.  So at least I now have that knowledge!).

I just find it interesting that we have yet to make any major shifts in what we do, where we go, and what we see since having Levi.  That’s not to say our lives haven’t changed drastically and that the distribution of activities isn’t different.  For example, I see a lot less of the inside of the gym than I once did, and a lot more of the inside of the Kids’ Korner at the gym than I ever imagined.  We still go to the library, but most our time is spent in the children’s section, while once in awhile I race through the nonfiction aisles grabbing books on potty training.  And we’ve added playgrounds to our life, which is a fun new dimension.  Beyond that though I really didn’t think about the world of possibilities for family/kid specific activities that exist out there.

Does that make us lame parents?  The jury is still out.

So yes, picture day!  There is just something about having official pictures taken of your kind, of receiving the overpriced prints and passing out wallet-sized versions to friends and family who don’t know what to do with the small, posed picture of your child with the fake smile to make you feel like a real parent — a feeling I don’t often experience.

With her or without her…

My tears all day yesterday were not about Hillary Clinton.  I haven’t been a Clinton fan in many years.  While I don’t think they are evil people, I’m not sure we can entirely trust them either (sadly, as we know, so few politicians are trustworthy).  I do think they are both super smart and capable politicians (sometimes this can also mean cunning). And I do believe Hillary has had to work harder than men to create the incredible career she has had.  She has done a remarkable job at shattering glass ceilings, and all women should be thanking her for that.  So while I never once used an #imwithher hashtag or put on a nasty woman t-shirt, I felt quite confident that she was the person for the job — at the same time that she certainly wasn’t my first choice for POTUS.

My lack of campaign slogan hashtags and lack of excitement over madame president left me feeling like a bit of an outsider in my SMS feeds leading up to the election.  It was/is no secret that I was a diehard Bernie supporter and dreamed for years of a having him as president (I had long thought it was a simply pipe dream.  Side note:  the term “pipe dream” comes from the fantasies brought on my smoking opium…).  Under no circumstances would I ever describe myself as “with her,” although there was no question that I was voting for her.  And while I was excited about the prospect of the U.S.’s first woman president, I would much rather that person be Elizabeth Warren (or even Michelle Obama, though she says she isn’t interested.  Or, here’s a pipe dream for ya — Zephyr Teachout, even though she was unable to win a Congress seat this election cycle).

Also, I want to make clear that despite my lack of enthusiasm for Hillary as the democratic candidate, I also was sure to steer far clear of all the “lesser of two evils” rhetoric.  As I stated earlier, I don’t think Hillary is evil (or at least not any more evil than politics in general are evil, in which case it becomes a necessary evil that we (the people) try to work with each day to improve upon and make more ethical and more effective).  And I certainly held full faith that she could keep this ship afloat without inflicting a whole lot of harm for the next four years.  Trump, on the other hand, is evil.  He’s dangerous.  He puts our country at risk on a global level, and he puts our country at risk internally by normalizing (even glorifying) hate and violence toward women and minorities.  Obviously as a queer woman this scares me, while I simultaneously recognize the safety that my place of privilege (white, can pass as straight, educated) affords me that many other of Trump’s targets don’t have.

So back to those tears….  They were for myself and my family, certainly (Dawn said to me in the middle of the night that she fears we will have to take money out of savings to pay for an adoption in case DOMA is reinstated), but they were for my country most of all.  Now here is where it gets weird:  I’ve never uttered the words “my country” before, as I’ve never identified as patriotic (a concept that I feel often breeds violence and separatism.  It gets even more uncomfortable because indeed, a growing white nationalism is part of what got us into this ugly president elect predicament).  So, you might imagine, it was a very weird and uncomfortable feeling for me that I couldn’t stop crying all day over “my country” and a candidate whom I didn’t even support initially.  I didn’t cry in 2000.  I didn’t cry in 2004.  I wasn’t jumping for joy, but I wasn’t crying.  So why were so many of us crying yesterday?

The obvious answer is we were crying over the election of a bigoted, misogynistic, egomaniac into the White House.  A terrifying bully as the head of our country.  That is worth crying about for sure.  But of course I wanted to look at the tears more closely.  I had a great and very candid conversation with my students about the election, and we were all nodding our heads about being so sad over just how divided our country is, but if we look back over the elections for the past 16 years, we can see that nearly all of them were just as split down the middle (Obama pulled out ahead of Romney in 2012, but even that was damn close to 50/50, as 2008, 2004, and 2000 all were).  So this close to 50/50 outcome is technically nothing new, but this divide feels very different, because it feels as though on one side of it lives hatred.  That kind of divide feels much more difficult to overcome.  Hatred is not a disagreement on policy; it’s not a disagreement on how the money gets allocated; it’s not a bipartisan issue.  It’s not politics as usual, for sure.  It’s something much scarier and more awful.

I like to think that 50% of the country is not comprised of racist assholes.  I can support this with anecdotal evidence of folks I know (family members even.  We all have them, right?) who voted for Trump.  But what bothers me so much is that even if they aren’t outwardly racist or misogynist or just general assholes, those are the things they chose to vote for.  And they either don’t know that’s what they just did (which points to — WOW — a whole slew of issues around education and civics/government that I cannot get into here).  Or they don’t care.  And I find both of those possibilities so deeply troubling.  In some ways I find them more troubling than those who voted for Trump because they are white supremacists or xenophobes or whatever.  I guess this is because I can wrap my head around understanding hate more easily than I can around making the effort to vote without realizing or caring about what you’re choosing to vote for.

Gosh there is just so much to say about this election cycle.  There is a shit-ton of material out there arguing about how this happened and how we (lib/dems) shouldn’t be so surprised.  I have been thinking a lot about these comments (as one of the progressives who was caught off guard for sure), and I will write about them in part two post.

Stay tuned….