My nights are filled with the dreams of others, psychic and empathic currents of the human psyche. Immigrant mothers and children worried about their future, families wondering who will be forced to leave. Black and brown people restlessly toss and turn as the hoped-for revision of racism in America due to the nation’s first black president swirls down the drain. The “white-lash” of the 2016 election is blatant and frightening.
Children are confused: a bigoted bullying self-admired groper of women has been elected president. How does that square with parental teachings of not to bully, to be courteous to others, to respect one’s body and to speak out if someone “touches” inappropriately? And how can we tell our children that education matters when this new president decries global climate change and has said that he will negate America’s obligations to the world regarding the Paris climate change summit? Does science matter? Does one’s word matter? Does impact on others matter, and how about character, honesty, and composure? Children learn from examples. What example has been given them with this election?
While driving on Saturday, Ira Glass’s This American Life radio show played on NPR, and eight of the ten stories (or “acts) were like my dreams. I had been on a 6 day road trip, listening to NPR in multiple states and for hours each day. I wanted to gather information from a variety of thinkers, foreign journalists, and Americans that might be interviewed from both sides of the aisle. Yet, all of those hours of listening were summed up in one hour of This American Life.
The show was focused on people’s responses to Donald Trump elected as the new president. Two of the stories were with men, eight were primarily with women though a man might have been the interlocutor. As a woman, I was stunned at the distinctions of considerations that each had because they seemed gender-related. Story after story, the women (from a variety of professions) spoke of the effect on people, on the questions that his campaign statements raise for a variety of ethnic groups, and an overall concern for racism, sexism, and if wisdom and social responsibility still had a place in America. The men interviewed cared about the military being funded, police getting more power, and about themselves. As crass as that sounds, it was so.
One story was told by a Latino kindergarten teacher who had parent-teacher conferences pre-arranged for that day. Every mother who came cried, fearful for her family, her children, and her family’s future. Then, the teacher taught a day of class, with children afraid that they would not finish the school year with her and their friends because they would have to move (out of America).
Another story was by a black woman comedian who called her grandmother Wednesday morning in shock and to see how the elder was taking the news. Her grandmother said calmly, “You know where you live, right?” In other words, America is a racist nation and grandmother had seen some of the worst that racism could dish out. She was not surprised and told her adult granddaughter to behave cautiously.
A third story was of a Moslem woman in New York City who decided that it was unwise and unsafe to continue to wear her hijab. She bought hats to cover her head.
My heart imploded with what I was hearing. I am white, have never been accosted by a man, have had the freedom of how to take care of my body, and am a practicing Buddhist with Catholic roots. The sexism that I have experienced professionally through my life was obvious but also mitigated by the types of jobs that I held. Being white, I have never experienced the degradation of racism, and being a citizen by birth freedom to come and go through this nation as I please has been mine. Yet, for the last several days, I have been overwhelmed by the unknowns that my fellow human beings are living right now and am kept tossing and turning at night by their fears.
I meditate daily for the light of unity, of wisdom, and of decency and respect to guide America and the new leadership that is being put in place. Trump is choosing his cabinet; and who knows what will happen with the vacant Supreme Court justice and the current nominee. The world looks on. Nobody knows where this is going, how it will go, or what are the true intentions that have been set in motion by this election. It all smacks of Germany in the 1930’s. Let us all pray for light and guidance.
- This American Life: episode “The Sun Comes Up”: take some time. Listen to it.
** These thoughts are mine and do not reflect on any group or organization of which I am a part.