There was a historic level of voter turnout this time, for a midterm election. Many people have celebrated this as the “energizing” of the youth and minority voting blocs. My first instinct is to be happy about that. I am on the side of the democratic “good,” I am sure, if my party does better the more people vote. But then I think, yes, but what energizes them? Hate and disgust for the President and his supporters? A sense of moral superiority over their elders? The experience of racial and gender divides so deep that 97 percent of black women vote for the same party, while an only slightly smaller majority of white men vote for the opposite party?
This is a dangerous and violent time, and it often feels like it is running away from us—that even our most well meaning stands for truth and goodness are just giving the downward spiral more momentum. To start with, though, I think we need to acknowledge that we are flat out angry with each other. I am angry in a deep, personal way that people I know—people I love—chose the candidate that wants to blame immigrants for our problems over the one that wants to embrace diversity. I am angry that when I go on social media, I see so much implicit and explicit hostility to those of other groups. Just this morning, I read a post that ridiculed the people “crying” over the loss of the candidate I got excited about. Ouch. This was not a distant acquaintance: this was someone in my close circle. I am angry because I read posts trashing the “leftists” who conjure up fear so they can raise unnecessary taxes, and others that say Christians will have to “answer to God” if they vote for the group that defends abortion, and I know they are talking about me. I read other messages between apparent strangers calling each other “racist pigs” or saying to immigrants, “you’re only here for the handouts.” These comments are not just treating me—and those like me, and friends of mine—as ignorant or deluded; they are treating us as the cause of the problems in our country. So of course, I am angry. Who could stand this constant abuse and not feel angry?
But of course, those I am angry with, they are also angry with me. They are angry because “my” candidate publicly called them “deplorables,” with the characteristic dismissiveness of the highly educated, urban, self-righteous elite. They are angry because they hear the words “white supremacist” everywhere they go these days, and even though everyone in our country is more or less racist, in the sense that we think differently (and usually more negatively) about people outside our own race, the only people that can be called racists are white people. They are angry because the person they voted for—whether they voted eagerly or while holding their nose—has been more publicly reviled than any other president in recent history (just Google “Donald Trump Time Magazine covers”). They are angry because in their minds they voted to protect unborn children, revive the economy, and send an outsider to clean up the political quagmire in Washington, but according to the Democrats they voted because they hate Black people. They are angry because they believe most of the preeminent news sources and talking heads on TV are blue, blue, blue, and they are mostly right. Who could stand this constant abuse and not feel angry?
We are not each other’s enemies; we do not need to be so dismissive and hateful to each other. But we are angry. That cannot be talked out in one civil conversation, or one thread of Facebook comments. That cannot be purged by one more insightful, erudite analyses from another (blue-tinged) periodical. It also will not go away when the ban on Muslims is reinstated or lifted, when the border wall is built or torn down, when abortions are easily obtained or outlawed, when the police officer who gunned down an unarmed black teen is convicted or acquitted, when Medicare is expanded or the Affordable Care Act is repealed, when refugee quotas are increased or decreased, when we align with Israel or Palestine, when we end our overseas wars or “stand up” to Putin and Xi Jinping, when wedding cake makers of conscience are allowed to refuse same-sex customers or when the first gay governor is elected to office, when a woman or black person is President, when tax cuts are passed, when transgender rights are affirmed, when the Dow Jones goes up, when the minimum wage is raised, when the American pastor abroad is freed, when the asylum seeking families separated at the border are reunited, when a conservative Supreme Court Justice is appointed, when victims of sexual assault are trusted and supported, when this, when that, when right, when left, and round and round and round, circus and cake, circus and cake.
So, now that we have voted, the real hard work begins: what will we do with this anger, and all the empty crap we’ve been fed?