About a week before the election, I sent some of my family members a private message. I wrote things like:
“Most of us surround ourselves with people who affirm our beliefs – – and yet within our family we perhaps have the best opportunity to try to understand the philosophy of people who believe differently and to do so from a place of love and mutual respect.”
“I believe strongly that controversy only exists where there are two GOOD opposing arguments. Therefore, I know and understand that there are GOOD arguments for voting a different way…In our family, I sometimes feel a little bit like a “black sheep” (or perhaps the “rainbow sheep”), [but] although we may disagree, I am not leaving this flock!”
I was rational. I was magnanimous. Then on November 9th, I wanted to shear off all my wool and lie in the corner of the pasture “baa-baa-baaing.”
I have gone through the five stages of grief:
- DENIAL – I woke up every hour to check election results on my phone and then walked around in a cloud of confusion.
- BARGAINING – I read all of the crazy “faithless elector” pieces.
- ANGER – I called members of my family racists and bigots and contemplated what it would mean to leave the flock and be written out of the will.
- DEPRESSION – Nothing happened due to psychomotor slowing.
- ACCEPTANCE – I started writing this post.
During my depression phase, I looked up and found Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook post at the end of sheloshim after her husband’s death.
(TO BE CLEAR: I am NOT comparing my grief over this election to the grief of losing a spouse. There is no comparison. I am not making one. Some of her wisdom, however, can be applied broadly to all kinds of scenarios.)
“I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer…Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not.”
For me, the post-election “acknowledging what is not okay” part of things has been the hardest.
Men are batting 100% in every presidential election since the birth of our nation, but volumes of research indicates that when women succeed, everyone benefits.
- When women are given increased economic power in the home, less money is spent on luxury consumption and more money is spent on food and healthcare.
- When India began requiring one-third of villages to have female chiefs in the 1990’s, the villages run by women ended up with better water quality and their leadership methods were less corrupt.
- A 15-year analysis of 1,500 S&P companies showed that having women in top management was positively correlated with market value gains.
In Genesis, the biblical account of creation says that God created Eve because He saw ‘it was not good for man to be alone.’ I believe that. The world was not made to be governed by men alone. When M.I.T. economists studied 12-member teams of students running businesses, they found that the optimal gender mix for success was 55% female.
We have a long, long way to go before we reach an “optimal” mix of women in government. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg (The Notorious RBG) said:
“People ask me sometimes when do you think it will it be enough? When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is when there are nine.”
If that seems outrageous to you, consider the number of years there were nine men and how that didn’t seem strange to hardly anyone at all.
I have heard fellow patriots say they wanted a woman to be president – just not Hillary. Regardless of your thoughts about Secretary Clinton, this election offered a glass-ceiling shattering opportunity and I am saddened to still be staring up through that ceiling at our soon-to-be 45th male president. Women have been on the losing side of representation in our government and the post-election calls for unity are asking me to be okay with the perpetuation of a male-dominated society. They are asking me (as a woman) to continue to be okay with being less in the world. And that’s not okay with me!
The other “not okay” part is hard to talk about, but I’m going to go there. The day after the election, Liberals started calling Trump voters bigots – which was wholly unfair. I know most Trump voters are not white supremacists. But here’s a hard truth: I don’t think some of the people in my family are sexist/racist/Islamophobic because they voted for Trump. I think some of them are those things because they ARE those things. I have sexists in my family who would be uncomfortable with ANY woman leading the country (ever). There’s at least one racist in my family who still think blacks and whites shouldn’t inter-marry. And I have an Islamophobe in my family who sends me stuff like this:
Because if this person had taken even ONE MOMENT to do an internet search, he/she would have found this (and many more like it):
Prior to this election, I said things to myself like: They’ll never change, so what’s the point? But running in terrified circles after this shotgun blast of an election, I found myself saying, “What the flock?!” about my own people. I was ready to jump the fence and let my loved ones chew their cud in homogeneous peace. Then I read this article: “Research says there are ways to reduce racial bias. Calling people racist isn’t one of them.”
I realized I have some apologizing to do from the anger stage of my grief and I learned that studies have shown that non-confrontational conversations about bias (even between white people) can improve tolerance. The article ends with these words:
“The key to these conversations, though, is empathy. And it will take a lot of empathy — not just for one conversation but many, many conversations in several settings over possibly many years. It won’t be easy, but if we want to address some people’s deeply entrenched racial attitudes, it may be the only way.”
I believe this research is applicable to biases involving gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. So we are right back to the words I sent my family before the election:
“…within our family we perhaps have the best opportunity to try to understand the philosophy of people who believe differently and to do so from a place of love and mutual respect.”
Post-election, I have changed my mind about being a black sheep or a rainbow sheep or any kind of sheep at all. I am a border collie, and the Good Shepherd saw fit to put me in a field of white sheep that like MAGA trucker hats. So – if I don’t get pushed over the fence by my family flock after I apologize for all of my post-election howling, I am ready to engage in some meaningful conversations from a place of love and mutual respect. I am convinced the process of making America greater than it has ever been begins with civil conversations, over steaming mounds of gravy-drenched mashed potatoes, about what it means to be historically disempowered.
To all my fellow border collies, good luck herding your flocks away from false news sources, political wolves in sheep’s clothing, and the bramble bushes of bigotry and hate. Remember: Empathy first. Then do what you were born to do: round ’em up! Together we can make America greater than it has ever been.
P.S. – My novel is over halfway complete! It’s called The Wonders Wrought. The title is from a line in my grandmother’s favorite hymn: “This is My Father’s World.” I look forward to sharing it with you after it’s published.
AND – If you’re interested in another post about the holidays with family – try “An Often Missed Self-Diagnosis.”