Over the course of this presidential campaign, I have watched a narcissistic man with no political experience, no accountability, no respect for humanity, and no desire to unify a nation push and bully his way into a position usually reserved for a leader who embodies the exact opposite. This man, ethically and morally bankrupt, has managed to ignite hate and bigotry that has long been forced into hiding. By tapping into that fearful deep-seated hatred, he has managed to divide the country both on a large scale…and on a smaller scale…dividing friends, families, races, and cultures in a manner so toxic, so charged, that I worry about our ability to rebound.
I was confident there was no possible way this country would elect a man to lead us who admitted to avoiding paying taxes for his entire adult life to the very government he now wanted to represent, who bragged about sexually groping women simply because he “could,” a man who is a known playboy with his hand in the cookie jar every chance he gets, a man who (while running for president) had the audacity and ignorance to propose and encourage violence to get his way, a man who repeatedly sounded like a tantrum throwing 5 year old nearly every time we saw him debate. I just never imagined that someone like Trump would ever stand the remote chance of obtaining a respected role like the presidency…I had more confidence in my country than that. Especially with his contender being Hillary Clinton. While not perfect, she had long standing political experience, she had devoted her life to standing up for women, and she could complete an educated thought with responsible, thought out responses…whereas Trump jumped from one fourth grade word to the next, from one self pat on the back to another, from one half-brained thought to yet another self pat on the back, from one easily triggered childish backlash to the effortless throwing around of bombing threats. The man left me utterly speechless during his debates. I was sure that he was far too off base to ever actually win. So I laughed it off.
Like so many others, I thought Hillary had this one in the bag. And like so many others, the result of this election has left me feeling like I’ve been gutted, like the country that I took pride in…had faith in…had somehow been hijacked by hate. When election night began, an ominous feeling lingered. But I pushed it away. Convinced myself that the polls and political predictions were dead on and knew far more than I. However, as election night marched on, I felt the dread grow. It was a nightmare that wouldn’t end. Each time another state was given to Trump, I felt another sliver of hope vanish. And the dread in my gut ballooned. Once I finally realized it was over and he had won, I cried. Hard. I cried for my country. I cried for its people. I cried for what felt like the sudden death of growth and progress that had been fought for over so many years and tears. I cried for children who were watching a bully be granted the biggest prize of all. I cried for aspiring girls, for ambitious women, for all the “fat, ugly pigs” and “nasty women” out there whom he’d made to feel worthless. I cried for the uncertainty of our planet if led by a man who dismissed science and global warming as a hoax. I cried for the looming instability of peace when left in the hands of someone so egotistically and irrationally trigger happy and unwilling to listen to advisors on world issues.
But mostly, I just cried. Because it felt as if the racist hate of the world had come out of hiding and raped America of its love and unity in an unexpected, and unprecedented night raid. But I wasn’t alone…far from it.
It’s now being said that Trump’s campaign was just that…a campaign…nothing more. That he chose a target audience and played right into what they wanted to hear. I know this. But I also know that my gut feelings on character are rarely wrong and that if people show you who they are, it’s usually because that’s who they truly are. How often do people put great effort into faking despicable characteristics, while hiding their best traits? Deception typically takes the opposite route.
For many of us, shock is our companion now. Shock and despair. Psychologically speaking, human beings, when facing uncertainty and shock, will grasp for some sort of rationale, some kind of self-soothing peace of mind to convince themselves that all will be ok. It’s basic self preservation to do so. I suppose shock will give way to self preservation. We can only hope that self preservation doesn’t give way to complacency.
I truly hope that his campaign does not foretell his presidency. I hope, for the sake of our country, that this hate that has been unleashed will be somehow rectified…that the division upon which his entire campaign was based was merely a con man’s tool to be elected…that there is some aspect of hope in him that I have missed.
Regardless of how he got here, or how we feel about it, or what his campaign tactics were…this is where we are…treading dangerous waters. He will be our president for the next four years. It’s our responsibility to put our differences aside, to make every effort to come together, unify the nation, and just be grown ups. We must be our own life raft in the treacherous waters to come.
If we are to resist the division that has so quickly and easily reemerged, we must do so either with Trump, or despite him. Either way, our children are watching. They are looking for guidance…for hope…for unconditional love and acceptance.
Despite all of the ways we are different as people, we all share the most basic biology. We are one species…one humanity. Let us not use hate to self destruct and reverse progress. Let us rely on love, compassion, and unity to light the way into the future. After all, it is the path of least resistance to survival.
To be human is to love humanity. To love humanity is to know no hate.
~ Chick Hughes