It’s been three weeks since the 2016 Presidential Election results. While we at Multiamory have touched on the subject in previous blog posts and podcasts, I wanted to take a moment to address some thoughts that have been on my mind since that eye-opening November evening. I’ve run the gamut of emotions since that night and experienced everything from fear and depression to hopefulness and resolve. I’ve talked to many of our patrons and seen many friends and family members act truly frightened and lost in the wake of Trump’s election. I’ve also seen many people become motivated to stand up for what is right and to enact change within their country and community.
Eight years ago, I was attending college in Cincinnati, Ohio when I got to vote for the first time. To this day, I am still proud to have had the opportunity to cast my ballot for Barack Obama, a symbol of hope and progress that stands out as one of the most profound political and social experiences of my adult life. I’ll never forget waking up the next morning following his historic victory. In a town known for racial tensions, there was a sense of calm and a joy in the air. People of every gender, race, and economic background were cheering and hugging in the streets and shaking one another's hand. It was a profoundly moving moment that I’ll always remember. I took pride in knowing that I, as a voter, had a part in it. I was confident that we were at the beginning of a progressive and forward-thinking movement. It made me feel as though I was a part of a unified country. I marveled at how far we had come.
The dread that filled me the day after the 2016 election could not have been more different than what I’d felt eight years prior. I witnessed something that night that I truly never thought would be possible. In watching Donald Trump be elected president, I realized that living in California, surrounded by artists and progressive thinkers, had made me ignorant to the anger, pain, and fear that grips much of the country. This is an anger, pain, and fear that crosses economic, racial, and gender lines. That day, I felt ashamed of my ignorance. I felt fearful for my friends who might be disenfranchised because of their race, sexual preference, religion, or gender. I felt terrified for my rights as a woman. I was deeply fearful of the possibilities of what might take place over the next four years.
In the last three weeks, the media and Facebook have rarely reported on anything apart from Trump, his newly appointed cabinet, or the election results. I’ve seen so many angry political posts, rants, name calling, virtual fights, and accusations being thrown every which way. I understand why: people are emotional and frightened. I’ve chosen not to engage in this behavior, not because I don’t believe there are things to say, but because I have no desire to fuel the fires of discord. Shouldn’t we instead be trying to heal the wounds, each side’s feelings of oppression, disenfranchisement, and misunderstanding? After all, not every Trump supporter is inherently a bad person, just like not every Clinton supporter is inherently good.
The brilliant and talented Jon Stewart made a great case for this argument when he spoke to Charlie Rose immediately following the election. I’m sure many of you have heard what he said by now, but I wanted to remind of you of the point he made regarding both Trump and Clinton supporters:
“...But there is now this idea that anyone who voted for him is -- has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric,” Stewart said. “Like, there are guys in my neighborhood that I love, that I respect, that I think have incredible qualities who are not afraid of Mexicans, and not afraid of Muslims, and not afraid of blacks. They’re afraid of their insurance premiums. In the liberal community, you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don’t look at Muslims as a monolith. They are the individuals and it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country.”
Despite my first instinct and the insistence of many of my facebook friends, it is not fair to characterize those who voted differently than I did as racist, homophobic, or xenophobic. Many of these people are single-issue voters. Many of them did not want to support a political system or an establishment candidate that they felt did not represent them. Many of them were angry at feeling that they had spent their entire lives not being seen or heard.
I’ve had an urge to refuse to take notice of the plight of these disenfranchised individuals. Instead of dealing with their anger and despair, couldn’t I just crawl back into my progressive echo chamber and hang out with all of the awesome like-minded people I’ve met through this podcast, and the community with whom I’ve come to know and care for? Wouldn’t it be easier to chuck this whole thing up to an absurd alternate reality that may affect some people’s lives but not my own? Can’t we all just have a do-over?
If I’ve learned anything in the past few weeks, it's that the world only spins forward. Nothing has stopped, or even truly changed, yet. But, despite the insistence of the polls and pundits, the blogs and the news stations that claimed that there was simply no way that Donald Trump would get elected, the man who many thought of as a joke ultimately prevailed. Despite the fact that Trump ran a campaign of hate and fear, people chose to ignore it, or even vote in favor of it. We gave it our attention, our time, and our money, and now we have found ourselves with an incredibly underqualified and chaotic man-child on the brink of running the highest office in the land. I can’t shut my eyes to that fact anymore. It’s high time I woke up.
As a co-creator of the Multiamory podcast, and frankly, as a woman who presents primarily as caucasian, I am in a unique position of both privilege and authority. I therefore have a responsibility to help my community change and grow. There’s an urgent need to educate people who are driven by fear and hate. In the coming months and years, we will work to spread messages of acceptance, freedom, and love. We will work to ensure that everyone retains the rights that our government has pledged to support, and to ensure that those rights, many of them hard won, will never be taken away. We will work to stop killing this planet so that there will be something left for our children and for theirs. We will continue to work to be better for the next generation, and the next, and the next after that.
We in the polyamory community are fantastic at acknowledging and embracing change. We are skilled at the art of communication and understanding. We have the capacity to love deeply despite our differences. We all have the opportunity to be leaders in a movement towards kindness and acceptance for all people, despite their religion, race, cultural, or economic background, and regardless of who they voted for in this election. I challenge you to offer empathy instead of anger the next time you encounter a person who upsets you on the internet, or who opposes your way of thinking. I challenge you to stand up for what is right when you see someone bullied or belittled, regardless of the reasoning behind that bullying. I challenge you to have healthy debates rather than turbulent arguments. I challenge you to choose kindness and love first. And I hope that you know that whatever you are feeling, whether it be fear or joy or pain, we love you and accept you as you are, and we are here for you no matter what.
Emily is a vegan, feminist, and non traditional relationship advocate. She is the self-described 'funny bone' of the Multiamory podcaster trio. She loves singing, cats, and Nintendo and will beat your ass to the ground at Mario Kart. Bring it.