It has now been a year since that strange and surreal day, the confirmation of my suspicions that we are deeply divided people in this nation. In the weeks leading up to the election, I began to volunteer for my candidate, Hillary Clinton, hoping she would make history and become the first woman President of the United States. After nearly 100 years with the right to vote, women were poised to break that final glass ceiling in the political realm.
But as I got out door-knocking and visiting with people who had been identified as “registered Democrats” or “leaning Democrats” I was surprised to find that the support was lukewarm at best. Almost all of the women I spoke with were enthusiastic and exciting to vote for Hillary. But many of the men who would talk with me were not happy about their choices. One man, returning from home after work, perhaps, saw me leave some literature near the door after I had door-knocked and nobody was home asked me angrily: “What are you doing at my house?” When I explained to him that I was door-knocking to ask people to get out to vote, he told me he had already voted.
In Minnesota we have early absentee voting, which allows you to vote by mail prior to the election day. It makes things much more convenient, especially for working people who find it harder to visit the polls on a work day. So he probably had already voted. I am fairly certain his aggressive tone indicated that he had not voted for my candidate.
It was a shock for many people, including the news media who seemed fairly amazed and shocked that the Republican candidate with no experience actually pulled it off, a victory with no political experience. But for me, that week before the election, I had been growing increasingly alarmed with the response I was getting from registered or leaning Democrats in St. Paul. Granted, I had not taken the “temperature” on the Republican side, but I had thought Republicans would be as appalled and angry with the sexist and racist remarks that they might defect, or at the very least, vote Independent.
So my reaction on election night was not one of shock, but actually one of grief. I felt deep grief for the direction of our country, for the state of consciousness that had brought us to this outcome. But oddly, I got very curious instead of getting angry. Don’t get me wrong. The anger was there, of course. It was just that I really wanted to understand how we got here, how we had all missed it. I ordered JD Vance’ Hillbilly Elegy and I started talking with a few people with whom I disagreed about the political situation.
I began to realize that my echo chambers were not the same as “their” echo chambers. We had been inhabiting different worlds all along. But as my conversations deepened, I kept realizing that our values were not all that different.
There is so much more I will write about on this topic, but for today, I will need to prepare for meetings with my team during this work trip. Suffice it to say that I am still grieving one year later, for the loss of civility that our country has suffered. I grieve for those who do not have agency and who’s lives are deeply affected by policies that will continue to push them into poverty and struggle. I grieve for the families of Latinos living in this country, including native born citizens and immigrants, documented and undocumented. I grieve for the ideal of America, which has been tarnished worldwide, and damaged by someone who is thoughtless with his words, and callous in his feelings.
Grief takes time and distance to process. And it is hard work, but it is necessary. We must allow ourselves the time and space for this, or we cannot get back to the hard work of repairing the rifts of this country, and the world. We are all connected to each other as people by a power greater than ourselves. Call it god, nature, or chi, it will always call us back. That is the faith I have, that we can somehow return. In this “death” of the ideal I thought we embodied as a country, I have a deep belief that we can be re-born into something greater.