Like most parents, I too talked to my son about the outcome of Election 2016. However, different than many would expect, our discussion of Election 2016 was not a pretentious oblivious lament about the current State of the Union. Instead, our conversation centered squarely around the fact that the outcome was the one we long expected.
Contrary to Naeem’s nickname (Supaman) and my twitter handle (@Supamans_Dad) neither he nor I possess psychic powers although our clairvoyance about the election might cause some to think otherwise. The only power we have is one called “keeping it real”. Naeem and I know America and on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, America was exactly who we thought she was.
WHO IS AMERICA?
America is many things. Among those many things, America is complex, optimistic, and duplicitous.
On the one hand, America professes all the possibilities that any nation would admire. Her songs and historical documents are full of patriotic expressions and promises of a nation of people woven together by the belief in the full extension of absolute humanity for everyone.
In her prized nationalistic songs, citizens sing lyrics such as “sweet land of liberty”, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave”, and “This land is your land, this land is my land”. In her long-established documents, citizens marvel at the beautifully written guarantees such as “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
If only America had just the one hand. Alas, America, like most complex beautiful women, has two hands or perhaps more accurately two faces.
America’s other hand is the hand adept at eviscerating the strings counted on to pluck the harmony of her patriotic songs. Her other hand is also skilled at shaking its index finger at most Americans – like Dikembe Mutombo after blocking a shot. And the wagging of her index finger happens constantly – just as it did on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 – to remind us that those “self-evident truths” and the full extension of absolute humanity are not intended for everyone.
AMERICA IS WHO WE THOUGHT SHE WAS
Not once during our conversation did Naeem or I ever ask the question tens of millions of Americans have been asking after Election2016 – “how did we get here?” For us, that question was the unnecessary, unauthentic query of a nation of delusional strangers and self-absorbed chameleons. We know why Donald Trump is the President-elect; America is who we thought she was.
The sad truth is that individual hubris, personal lack of self-awareness, and intellectual simplifications of Americans – particularly those on the losing side – are preeminent reasons why Donald Trump won the Election 2016. Even after a political upset the likes of which this country has never seen, most of us (not with Trump) have spent little to no time examining our culpability for Tuesday’s outcome.
Instead, we have taken up the time-honored American tradition of pointing our fingers at “them”. They caused this. If they had only voted. If they weren’t racists. If they weren’t sexists. If they weren’t homophobic. If they pressed him for truthful answers. If they investigated his businesses. If they weren’t religious zealots. If they, if they, if they…
STOP BLAMING OTHERS
It’s time to stop blaming others. For example, instead of blaming folks who chose not to vote, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that we should have done more – worked harder – to give more people faith in the political process.
For years, voters have been begging for candidates that they could believe in and people who they believed had their best interest in mind. The numbers of people who chose not to participate don’t lie; we did not give enough people what they needed – a candidate who inspired them and a trustworthy process.
For a growing minority, voting has become like asking a starving vegan if they want steak or fish. On the surface, choosing either option seems better than starving but the consumption aftereffects are disastrous. On Tuesday, November 8th, ninety million Americans, 43.2% of eligible voters, elected starving over constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach pumping.
Maybe it’s time to stop dismissing the inaction of nearly half of the electorate and cease labeling them as degenerate unpatriotic Americans. Perhaps it’s time to recognize non-participation in the political process as a vote for something better – like the vegan holding out for something that meets their dietary requirements. Just maybe, it might be time for those of us who keep consuming a political system that neither works for all or appeals to all to join our starving fellow Americans in a fast against unworthy candidates and an unhealthy political process.
STOP ASSIGNING LABELS
Naeem and I surmise that America is a commune shared by apathetic strangers. The truth is that when we look closely at ourselves – we will discover that even among those “not with Trump” – we have only a passing interest and lukewarm enthusiasm about the depth and breadth of the lives of anyone outside of our own historic homogenous demographic.
So rather than being so quick to assign labels like racist or sexists to everyone who chose the other candidate or elected not to vote, perhaps it’s time to examine what our own deliberate daily interactions say about us. We could start our self-examination by doing things which include but are not limited to the following:
- Inspect the diversity of the five people we spend the most time with;
- Inspect the diversity in our places of worship;
- Inspect the diversity in our school districts;
- Inspect the diversity in our places of employment;
- Inspect the diversity at our dinner parties and nights out with friends;
- Inspect the diversity and inclusiveness of the companies whose goods, services, and stocks we own;
- Measure the number of times you complained to management about women’s pay inequities, the unemployment/underemployment of minorities, or LGBTQ concerns; and
- Count the number of times you wrote your governmental representative about the mistreatment of Muslims and immigrants?
The list of things we could do to measure our own deliberate participation with the totality of the group is vast. And in case you were wondering about the significance of our responses, our answers provide insight into just how much we know and care about one another.
This cannot be understated. No one wants to join or remain a member of a team, a community, or an organization where the members barely know one another and express only the minimal amount of empathy for anyone outside of their historic homogenous subgroup.
As the results of the election have proven, either everyone is considered or everyone is dismissed. Congratulations President-elect Donald Trump!
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Just before we hung up Naeem reminded me of the motto we have applied to all the sport and academic endeavors he has ever embarked – “control what you can control”. If America is to progress over the next four years, Americans will need to embrace the maxim my son learned long ago.
We may not be able to control who governs the country for the next four years but we can still control many things. We can control the outcome of future elections by creating an improved political system and by raising future public servants that the entire populace – not a quarter of the populace – can believe in. We can control the quantity of compassionate heterogeneous personal relationships. We can control the authenticity of our humanity. We can control whether we will be a better America than the one Naeem and I knew we were.
What did you think America learned about herself after Election 2016? What did you learn about yourself during and after Election 2016?