Compassion and Forgiveness Will Save Us

This was supposed to be a column about what Hillary’s election means to the country. It was supposed to be a sentimental post about one day giving my granddaughter my “I’m With Her” button with my “I voted” sticker on the back of it.

But it isn’t. I’m grieving for that “might have been.” I will grieve for a long time, as I would grieve for a lost lover who I met at the wrong time of my life, or for a classmate who died too young.

And much like how we would react in the aforementioned situations, we are asking: “why?” Everyone is seeking answers, and no one seems to have any. Even my father, the wisest person I have ever known, was at a loss for words. Maureen Dowd and Roger Cohen offered only the explanations we’ve already heard: this is the revenge of middle America, of people who’d rather have a racist be president than another Washington insider.

Sure, maybe that’s why it happened. But what the hell do we do now that it has happened? This morning I put out a call on my Facebook, asking people to send me enlightening or hopeful articles if they find any, but none have come.

So, naturally, I had to write one myself.

We have seen this before in America. In her book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander writes about Bacon’s Rebellion: a joint effort among poor whites, indentured servants and slaves to overthrow the “planter elite.” The elites responded to the threat by turning whites against blacks. They stopped using indentured servants and relied more heavily on slaves, and they let poor whites in militias police slaves.

The white elites maintained their power by directing anger away from themselves and against people of color. The same thing happened as a response to social upheaval in the 1970s; the result was mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes and the system of mass incarceration.

Donald Trump’s campaign strategy came right out of the history books. He exploited the anger and fear of working class whites and made Latinos, immigrants and Muslims the scapegoats. He won with the same old tricks white Americans have fallen for again and again.

And so the first thing we must do is protect each other. When we see our neighbors, our coworkers, our classmates, or our fellow commuters being harassed for their religious beliefs or ethnicity, we must intervene. We must offer support, and tell the harassers their behavior is unacceptable.

Throughout this two year long election saga, as I have watched people criticize Hillary Clinton and other Washington insiders for not doing anything to help the disenfranchised people of this country, a question has continuously risen in my throat: “But what are you doing? What have you done today to make the world better.”

That question is even more applicable now. It is not enough to intervene merely when the trouble happens to appear before you. You must go in search of those who are in need and offer your support to them.

Every Wednesday I volunteer with the Coalition for the Homeless in NYC. I didn’t want to go today, because I just wanted to stay in bed all day and cry. But as the day went on, and I searched my soul for the answer to the question, “What do I do?”, I realized staying home was the one unacceptable answer.

If every single person who stayed in bed and cried all day today went out tomorrow and did something to make the world better, the world would get better.

You want to know what you should do? Here’s what you do:

If you’re worried about immigrants being deported, join an immigration activist organization, or volunteer at a firm that helps immigrants get legal residency. If you’re worried about global warming destroying the planet, do everything in your power to reduce your greenhouse gas footprint—stop driving, cut meat out of your diet, compost. If you’re worried about people of color being killed unjustly by the police, march for Black Lives Matter, and go to your local town hall meetings and demand police reform. If you’re worried about men getting away with sexual assault, volunteer with a victim’s advocacy organization or a sexual violence education campaign.

In short: Don’t think the government has all the power to shape the world. It doesn’t.

The third thing we should do is believe the legitimate criticisms of Hillary, and ensure they are levied against all politicians. I was a Hillary supporter from the get-go, and I stand by my assertion that her email “scandal” was blown out of proportion and the lengthy investigation into the Benghazi attack was completely politically motivated.

But when people accused her of being bought, my response was, “She needs all the money she can get to win, otherwise she can’t change anything.” It should have been, “You’re right, she should win without that money.” Even if her primary motivation was always serving the public, which I believe it was, if there is no trust in our leaders, the government cannot work. We need to get the money out of politics to instill that trust again.

I will continue to call out hypocrisy where I see it. You can’t hate Hillary because she’s been “bought” and love Obama, because the truth is he got more Wall Street donations than any previous presidential candidate. Know how to discern real criticism from media spin. You owe it to yourself, and to your country, to read critically.

The final thing we need to do is quit the blame game. I’ve seen a lot of people today pointing fingers—blaming people who voted for Hillary in the primary, blaming people who voted third party in the general. This is just another form of scapegoating. We who seek justice are not each other’s enemies. Donald Trump has proven: anger and hatred set us back. Only compassion and forgiveness will move us forward.

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