Hate must be met with love. I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. Silly. I must be incredibly naive to write those words. Honestly, I question them even as I type them. But, perhaps because I am indeed a hopeless optimist — a dreamer, a romantic — I believe them.
There is a churning in my soul this morning. An election has never caused me to weep before. I have never seriously been afraid for the future of the United States and for our place in the world like I am as I write this on this November 9th, the day after the 2016 American Presidential elections. I am fearful because the world is fearful — as shocked as half of Britain must have been when the vote to leave the EU sheared toward ‘Yes”; a world whose stock markets are currently dive bombing because of the uncertainty of what’s to come; a world wondering if our wars are about to increase in number and intensity — but mostly I am fearful because my friends are fearful. My friends who had just started to feel like they could step out of the shadows and make their marks on the world without being judged by the color of their skin, their sexual identity, their political leanings. Those friends.
Right now, as I write, social media is ablaze. Donald Trump supporters breathe a sigh. Is it a sigh of relief? Of jubilation? I’m not sure. It’s the sigh you release when your team has battled hard, brutalized and been brutalized, and by the narrowest of margins fought its way to victory, seemingly against the odds. We all, I think (even Indians fans) sighed a bit like this when the Cubs won the World Series this year. But, unlike in a sports — or reality show — competition, the ramifications of this win will be far reaching and, currently, unknowable. Meanwhile, those who opposed Trump’s unfathomable rise to become the most powerful person in the world are outraged at the slightly more than half of voting America who voted for him (the possibly-more-than-half — the popular vote hasn’t been completely tallied yet; President-Elect Trump has won, at this point, on electoral votes). That half is outraged and fearful.
Here’s the thing, though. Given the way the numbers went, even had Hillary Clinton won the election, there would STILL BE NEARLY HALF the voting populace who voted for Trump.
“Who are these people?” ask those of us who cannot understand. Well, you know them. They are your neighbors, your family members, your friends. You know them. And here’s something you know about them: they are not bad people. Oh, sure, some of them are. C’mon. Uncle Freddy? Total wack job. But most of them aren’t bad people. Just like most of the people who voted for Clinton (or against Trump–not the same thing) ARE ALSO NOT BAD PEOPLE.
To this, some of you will say, “Of course we’re not,” while others will say, “Of course they are,” especially in regard to those who opposed Trump. “Trump voters voted for a misogynist, a racist, a hate-monger,” they’ll say.
Well, yes those voters did. But most of them didn’t feel like they were voting for misogyny, racism, or hate. Some were. That can’t be doubted from listening to some of the attendees of a Trump rally. But, like many in Britain didn’t (and may still not) understand exactly what pulling out of the EU means, I don’t think most of those who voted for Trump understand what Trump represented to many (nearly half) of the United States. To that half, he doesn’t represent spitting in the face of authority/government/entrenched bureaucracy, or making America great again (whatever that means. What, exactly does ‘great’ mean, here? The same to you as to me? The same to you as the person in front of you who voted Trump? Unlikely). To them he doesn’t, more importantly, represent economic overhaul and strengthened national security.
To that half of America, he represents hate — all the hate that has ever been associated with being a woman, with being a person of color, with being an immigrant (illegal OR legal), with being LBGQ and/or T. The hate that is associated with being different, with being told that you aren’t good enough, that you are, somehow, in some way, an abomination.
That’s why there is fear among your fellow Americans. They fear — not fear of President-Elect Trump; no, a president has limited powers and can do damage, but nothing irreparable, usually — but because of how they interpret that vote for Trump: not as a vote FOR economic, governmental, and international changes, but as a vote AGAINST them — a vote against acceptance, a vote against equality, and a vote against inclusion.
If you voted for Trump, I implore you to try and understand that, and, if you know someone who fits into one of those categories I mentioned above, please, please, please, go to them and say to them that you still believe in them, that you still support them, that you still care about them. Because right now, they don’t believe it. They may not believe it after you say it, either. So you’ll have to show them. You’ll have to stand with them when the laws that have protected them are weakened or no longer exist. You’ll have to stand with them when the true hate-mongers, bolstered by a belief that there are far more of them then there really are, come to hurt them. You’ll have to sacrifice for them because you can and because hate must be met with love.
For those of us who opposed Trump, whether that was by voting for Clinton, voting for a third-party, or, yes, by not voting at all, we must do the same. We must continue to stand with one another and where we see hate, we must oppose it. We must continue to raise our voices against it. We must continue to argue for equality, and justice, and for each of our rights as individuals to pursue happiness wherever and however we can find it. We must also try to understand — and it will be hard, I know; trust me, I know — that for most of those who voted Trump, they truly did not believe, they truly did not understand, that they were voting against you, that they were voting for you to feel fear again, to fear still. We must explain this to them.
Because they are not ‘they.’ We are neighbors, family, friends, the person next to us in line at the grocery store.
Perhaps I’m wrong. I’m sure that many will tell me so in the comments section. I’m sure I’ll have to delete lots of those comments because they will be filled with vitriol without the balm of seasoned thought. But here on this November 9th, even now, I must believe it. I am compelled to believe that hate must be met with love.