We’re going to be okay

Look at this photo. It was taken on Sunday during a rally in Minnesota.

rope-tree-journalistSource: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

For me this image hit too close to home, both literally and figuratively: This man could be my neighbor; the people he would lynch could be my friends and former colleagues.

This photo represented the lowest point for me in a what has been a hostile, embarrassing, and infantile presidential campaign.

I’ve been disappointed in the mud-slinging. We’re facing some serious problems, and I’m pretty sure we won’t solve any of them with nasty tweets.

I’ve been disappointed in our politicians’ and political parties’ lack of moral courage, too. If the stakes weren’t so high, their posturing and jockeying would be comical.

But mostly I’ve been disappointed in my fellow Americans. Americans like the guy in this shirt.

rope-tree-journalist-twitter
Image via Twitter

I’ve been disappointed in Americans who demand their rights but who accept none of the responsibility. Americans who assert their liberties while aggressively denying the same to others. Americans who scream “FREEDOM OF SPEECH,” while calling for the murder of the very people who work every day to defend it.

These aren’t my people. And this is not the version of America I believe in.

In my America, all people are created equal with certain inalienable rights. Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.

So tonight — on election eve — I’m borrowing the words of another fellow who did know something about moral conviction and human rights:

Be the Change BLOG

I’m borrowing the words of Jenny Lawson, an author whose courage and authenticity I admire:

We’re going to be okay.

We will. Because no matter who wins and no matter who you voted for you will still have the opportunity to fight each day for what you want to see in the world. Fight for justice or kindness or acceptance or love or equality or whatever it is that is still lacking. You will not fight alone. You still make a difference. In some cases you make more of a difference than a President ever will. Either way, you’ll be needed tomorrow (and every day after) to promote joy and love and grace even if you’re tired. You will be better for it and so will the world.

And I’m borrowing the words of my friend Jim on Facebook, who always seems to get it right:

Facebook friends — family, school chums, semi-pro football peers, fellow ink-stained and gigabyte wretches, teachers and mentors, fellow travelers on this blue ball — I just want to say I love you. We have so much more that binds us than divides us. I am honored to have you in my life.

We may never perfect democracy in the U.S. (With some 320 million people, we may never even agree on what democracy means.)

But we can each influence it by being the change we wish to see in the world. Working for justice or kindness or equality. Remembering that we’re all fellow travelers on this magnificent blue planet. And by discovering that — although we do have divisions — we also have a lot in common.

If we can remember that united we stand, we’re going to be okay.

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66 comments

  1. There isn’t one thing about this election that hasn’t been deeply depressing..including the fact that this great country of ours couldn’t seem to put forth anyone more inspiring than these two morally challenged, old multi-millionaires.😕

  2. Well, this is what they do to traitors. They hang them. The penalty for treason is death. You’d be on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War. So I can understand your objection to being properly punished for treason and hating your would-be punishers! lol

    • Thank you for commenting, Patrick. You’ve given me much to think about.

      Your suggestion that I am a traitor and that traitors deserve to be hanged gave me pause, of course. (My life has been threatened before, but never by hanging — so the novelty alone caught my attention.)

      Curious, I followed the link to your Facebook page. The first thing I noticed was your many years as a Marine. So let me start by thanking you for your service. The ultimate patriot is one who would literally put his life on the line to defend his country and the ideals for which it stands. For that you have my sincere gratitude and admiration.

      Then I noticed that you live in Torrance. What a funny coincidence! I have family in Torrance. I think you’d like them. They truly embody the Christian faith; the joy they get just from being together is an inspiration.

      Next on your profile I read your favorite quotes. This is when you struck me as a thoughtful, curious, intellectual man. And when I saw that a couple of your quotes are favorites of mine as well, I wondered whether perhaps we have more in common than we might realize.

      In fact, I think most Americans have more in common than we realize. We have a political system that emphasizes our differences (because otherwise how would we know whom to vote for?). But when we sit down face-to-face over a cup of coffee we realize that the people we might demonize as a group are actually alright as individuals. They love their families too, and they’re also concerned about immigration and the economy. What’s missing in the equation is dialog. So that’s what I’m attempting to start here today.

      I’m not sure whom you pictured when you read my blog post, or whether you read it to the end. But here’s what you need to know: I love my country with every fiber of my being. I really mean that. I have lived and traveled all over the world, and can tell you that what we have here is special. Growing up as an American kid in Latin America I was SO PROUD of the beacon of hope our democracy represented.

      Growing up in Latin America also showed me the fragility of democracy, however. My family was lucky to survive and flee a government coup, but some of my parents’ friends weren’t as fortunate. One of them – a respected attorney – was gunned down in front of his family, simply for asking questions.

      This taught me how precious and unique our Constitution really is. From the get-go more than 200 years ago it guaranteed us so many rights and freedoms other countries still don’t enjoy (and maybe never will). That’s something worth celebrating.

      Because our Constitution is so precious and unique — and yes, fragile — it’s also worth defending. And here’s the part where I’ll respectfully challenge you a bit. The man I called out in my blog has every right to speak his mind. In fact, I will go to the mat to defend his right to free speech, even if I disagree with him. But he loses my support when he threatens another American with death simply for thinking differently. When that happens, we’re really no better than IS and their wholesale murder of anyone who doesn’t share their ideology.

      So you see, Patrick … I’m no enemy of the state. I *am* an enemy of hate, though. To paraphrase Nietzche, “in fighting monsters we must be careful not to become monsters ourselves.”

      All of that said, I acknowledge that my language struck a nerve. Sorry about that. But I want to emphasize that I don’t hate the man in the t-shirt. I’m just disappointed. I’m disappointed that our public discourse has been reduced to such hatred. To borrow one of your own favorite quotes, “If you look for the bad in a person, you will surely find it.” I’d rather look for the good in my fellow Americans.

      Look, either we’re a free country or we’re not. It really is a binary equation: Either all American citizens get the same Constitutional rights, or none of them do. We can’t start picking and choosing who gets to live based on whether they agree with us.

      Well, I’ve said my peace and will let you return to your day. Thank you again for giving me so much to think about, Patrick. I hope I’ve given you something to think about, too.

      Please keep speaking up for the America you believe in. We may not always agree on the fine points. But if you uphold our Constitution in its entirety and the freedoms it promises ALL of the citizens of our great nation, I’ll be right by your side working to defend those rights.

      With my deepest respect and all my best,

      H.

  3. Well, this is what they do to traitors. They hang them. The penalty for treason is death. You’d be on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War. So I can understand your objection to being properly punished for treason and hating the punishers! lol

  4. I don’t even live in the US, although the US has been responsible for so much that I value in life, but I am sitting here feeling gutted as the last few results of the US election trickle in and the last vestiges of hope for a stable and rational US government trickle away. How can America be great if its so-called greatness is to be built on hate and prejudice and vilification? My only comfort lies in faith that when this storm passes over, those reasonable Americans I know are out there will still be there to pick up the pieces and carry on.

    • I can’t speak to what anyone else was thinking when they cast their vote, Keith. But I promise you that this particular American won’t give in to hatred and prejudice and vilification.

    • There are more kind, considerate, and good hearted people here than our election suggested. Those of us who fight for our country to live up to its promises to its people and the world will continue to fight in every way possible for what is right and good in this world. The beauty of having a system with many levers of power is the ability to continue to shape positive change even when things look bleak and the leadership is awful.

      • You are so right that there are far more kind, considerate, good-hearted people in the U.S. than many around the world are imagining right now. One important thing to note is that fully 50% of our eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot (WHY???!!). Another thing is that not everyone who voted for Trump fully supports his ideals — and not everyone who voted for Clinton fully supported what she represented, either. So it’s a mistake to look at president-elect Trump and think that half the U.S. condones building a wall along the Mexican border. The important thing is that each of us continues to work for the things *we* hold dear — and holding our leaders accountable too. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your thoughtful comment.

    • Thank you for your kind wishes, Ian. It’s been a growing source of concern for me that most of the people I know — myself included — are fundamentally centrists, but we don’t really have candidates who reflect moderate views. As you say, it was a sad campaign. Thank you for stopping by, and especially for your thoughtful comment.

  5. Well said. We in America have been so blessed living in America, for me 71 years now. America has changed. I fear for her. We have fear and love. Last night fear and hate won. Melanie and I said to each other that we would double down on love and loving others. But we will love the easy ones and those closest to us. My heart goes out to anyone in America who is deeply afraid today: Muslims, Hispanics, African-Americans and anyone not white. I’ve been totally engaged in this election for a year. I still cannot believe that almost half of America thinks so badly. Be well my friend.

    • I thought of you last night as the results started rolling in, Tom — of your service to this great nation of ours, and the wild political changes you’ve seen in your 71 years. My hope is that soon enough the pendulum will swing away from fear and back toward love. Good for you and Melanie for starting that process last night. Take good care, dear friend.

  6. In this period of doubt and fear, your words are a blessing. In America and elsewhere, we’ll fight against this fear with hope and unity. I will make a poster in my classroom using the second picture and the words of Jenny Lawson that I find inspirational. I want my students to remember the message: we’re going to be okay.

    • THANK YOU for your beautiful and healing thoughts. And thank you also for sharing Jenny Lawson’s wise words with your students. It’s comforting to think that as the news of the election makes its way around the world it’s being accompanied by messages of hope and friendship, too …

  7. Thank you for your kind words, though I am not an American, in a way I believe America is the world and the world is a better place when love rules. The people of the world shall surely overcome any difficulties to come. Fear is just a distraction to our success, there is nothing to fear because where there is love there is hope.

  8. Well written, friend.
    I would proffer that perhaps I can apply a lesson from another area of life. As I’ve read more stories from the African-American community about race, privilege, justice, etc., I have learned a slightly different view and perspective. Maybe I should do the same here, to try (when my wounds aren’t so fresh) to understand the reason someone would wear a shirt like this, why someone would encourage violence, why this election happened. There is, I hope,something to learn, which can then be changed.
    I hope.

    • Wonderful point, Jeff. I suspect there are as many lessons to be learned as there were votes cast yesterday, but one thing is clear: We’re done with the status quo. Time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on solving some pretty fundamental problems. Like you, I hope we’ll be able to listen, learn, and change.

    • I hold America, in my memory, as a place of energy and hope as well, Elaine. I do hope we’ll be able somehow to recapture our collaborative, creative spirit and face our future together, rather than turning on each other to fight over the scraps of a past that never really existed. Time will tell. In the meantime, thank you for your kind thoughts and buoying words — and for sharing the BBC clip as well. They mean a lot to me.

      • You will. America is too conscious of itself as a single entity to allow itself to fall apart. There’s a web of identity that binds you. It has been stretched and tested in this election campaign, but, though it has been horrible, at least nothing’s festering in dark corners any more. A light has been shone on an unhappiness quietly simmering in individual homes and communities. People never consider their own poverty to be an ‘issue’ that binds them to fellow sufferers, because poverty is personal and shaming. They suffer in silence. Visited by a ‘famous’ personality who seems to speak up for them and has bothered to come all the way to their hometown to name their issues, in a big razzmatazz way that gets them into the national press – I can see why that’s attractive. UKIP’s Nigel Farage has the same effect here and I think Marie Le Pen has a similar effect in France http://bit.ly/2eRuxiJ

        I read that Trump was supported by a wide range of people, particularly conservative, upper income folk and that blue collar workers have become something of a scapegoat and an easy target (as they have here, blamed for Brexit).

        From my faraway viewpoint, I hope that this election is the health scare that shocks America into taking better care of itself. All of itself. In a nurturing way, not a negative way. More chicken soup than leper colonies (not sure that chicken soup has ever worked as a cure for leprosy, but you get what I mean!)

        This is a precious moment for America and I hope you’re able to darn the gaps in the fabric of your society with strong thread.

        • Your eloquence never ceases to amaze me. Nor your insights. Thank you for this pitch-perfect analysis, Elaine. May the wishes in your last two paragraphs come true (well, maybe except for the part about the leper colony, ha ha). THANK YOU.

          • It always feels a bit cheeky to make pronouncements on the inhabitants of another country, so thank you for accepting my comments so gracefully. My perception of America is based on living there, travelling across the country and being impressed by the kindness, hospitality and deep down goodness of the people whose lives I fluttered into for a moment.

          • I don’t find your comments cheeky, nor do they even vaguely resemble pronouncements. Quite the contrary, actually: Yours are encouraging observations captured by an open an perceptive mind.

            Thank you especially for your last sentence, Elaine. That is my impression too of the American people: Endlessly resourceful, kind and welcoming. May that spirit endure …

          • It will. Think of all the years that you, as a people together, have spent building America as an idea. And all those tired, poor, huddled individuals who’ve added their ounce of hope to that idea. It’ll take more than Mr Trump to sweep all that away.

            I was heartened by the way he seemed in the White House with Obama today. People can change for the better and I wonder if the responsibility of being President will force the best of him to the surface. I hope so.

  9. I’m ashamed of my country. I don’t think we’ll be ok. If a majority of voters chose Trump, then America is not worth saving.

    • Take a deep breath, 4sduane. Exhale. Now … remember that the majority of Americans didn’t vote for Trump. He won through our system of electoral votes, but more people cast ballots for Hillary Clinton than for Trump. Second, some of the people who voted for Trump were actually voting against Clinton or in favor of an issue that is particularly important to them. That doesn’t mean they support all of his policies, or persecuting people, or grabbing women by the pussy. Third, remember that there are 320 MILLION people in the U.S. and in spite of the ugliness we’ve seen over the past year, the majority of those Americans are good people. They’re our friends, neighbors and colleagues. People who work hard and who want to protect and provide for their families. The fact that half of them disagree on *how* that should be done is worth discussing, because the election results show a pretty clear division down the middle. But I don’t think we’re as deeply divided ideologically as the two parties make it seem. There are extremes on both sides, to be sure — but when you get down to brass tacks I think most of us are reasonable people who love our country and who value the principles set forth in its Constitution. If we disagree, we can talk about it. We can make small compromises. And then hopefully we can all take a step forward together. So please don’t give up! Please keep working for the version of America YOU believe in. You may not make a positive difference in all the ways you hope, but at least you *will* make a difference.

  10. Bless you, H. I knew I loved your writing for a reason. It’s a beautiful and kind spirit who comes through it. I’m completely with you on all you wrote here. This is not about one ignorant, hostile man – it’s about rising above this lack of humanitarianism, remembering human rights belong to all. This is a huge blow reminding us to stop repeating the dark parts of human history. Thank you for this entry, this blog, for you, and for others like you –

  11. Copy and paste your reply to 4sduane, to me. Because I almost feel the same way he does.

    Apparently, I’m a liberal coastal elite. But i still have one foot in beat-down, working-class white America and NOBODY I know voted for Donald Trump. So mestubbornlythinksbelievesfeels you give his supporters far too much credit. Furthermore, most of my friends who are people of color or gay would agree with you. But that’s because as a matter of self-preservation, for their entire lives they’ve never let their guard down and today is the same as last week. Some things will get better but it’s going to take even more generations for certain stuff to change. And there are lives to be lived, it’s hard to always wait for generations…….

    • You know what, Mr. T-Fir? Mereulctantlystubbornlywonders if she’s giving his supporters far too much credit too. While many have taken the olive branch, a few haven’t exactly been paradigms of positivity. And through that I’ve learned first-hand that there isn’t really an archetypical Donald supporter. Another thing to consider is that not everyone who voted that way is a *supporter.* Many had grave doubts but considered him the lesser of two evils. It wouldn’t be right to condemn someone who voted their conscience on a single issue that mattered deeply to them. Anyway … hopefully the thing we can all agree on is to work for the future we want for ourselves and our children. It may take many, many more generations before we get it right (if ever we d0). But in the meantime I’m willing to take a gamble that the majority of people are still mostly good.

      • You’ve really got it right, H. Thank you for not clunking me in the side of the head with one of those giant megaphones, which would be gracious and thoughtful (well, maybe just thoughtful). Particularly, I would want you to know that various discussions with my older son the past few days have gradually let in the light (like you have). So I really believe you know what you’re talking about. It was a worthwhile essay by Hugh Howey and I appreciate you sharing the insights from your father-in-law. They were received with an open, receptive mind. I needed the perspective. I continue to steel myself after this staggering blow. My faith in people is not so good right now (it’s not my specialty anyway).

        • I’m SO GLAD some of words I sent you were helpful! It’s easy to lose our faith in others, because people suck sometimes. But we have to keep looking for — and exemplifying — the good we wish to see in our species. If we give up that’s one less person trying to do good. And now that would *really* suck …

  12. I wouldn’t want to be in America now. I don’t think I would be welcome in America now either!

    But I know not all Americans are racist or misogynistic or close minded.

    Clinton was just as bad as Trump but on different issues.

    • I often forget myself how HUGE the United States are — and with 320 million people you’re bound to have a few who are racist, selfish, misogynistic, closed-minded, ignorant, and every other negative human trait you can imagine. But from my own experience I can tell you that the majority I’ve encountered have been open-minded, warm-hearted, kind, thoughtful, hard-working, and generous. I strive to be one of those. And if you were to come here in that same spirit of friendship, I for one would welcome you. Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment.

      • Comments like yours warm my heart. I would love to visit Los Angeles and San Francisco. LA looks like a dream to me haha!

        I grew up watching Disney Channel and still to this day, apart from the few decent British shows, I watch American TV. The xfiles is life!

        I look forward to reading more posts!

        • Greetings fellow X-Filer! 🙂 Although they lost me with all the conspiracy stuff in the later seasons, I sure did enjoy the stand-alone episodes about strange glowing lights and monsters at the circus.

          And I do hope you’ll be able to visit LA someday (and San Francisco too). I haven’t been to either since I was very young, but I do remember both with fond nostalgia.

          My very best to you, and thank you again for stopping by!

    • Hey there Brayden! I sincerely hope president-elect Trump will be able to help the people who are counting on him for financial renewal. And I do remain hopeful that we’ll find a way to focus more on the things we have in common as Americans than on our differences. Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment.

  13. I truly sympathize with your trepidation regarding the actions of some American voters attending Trump rallies during the campaigne. It was really hard to hear the rhetoric, the vile comments the negativity. I stopped watching near the end. It was affecting my so negatively. I believe, we’re now seeing the fall out here. Anti-muslim slogans were just spray painted on a mosque in Calgary. It’s shameful. Haters feel like it’s open season. Like somehow, they now have permission to be just as racist as Trump and his supporters. The plain, uninformed ignorance of some is astounding.

    • I know I’m a naïve pollyanna, but I’m hopeful this will all serve as a (sad) reminder that hate speech really *does* lead to hate crimes. We seem to have forgotten in my country that freedom of speech also carries an inherent responsibility. And I’m heartbroken to hear that this ugliness is cropping up in Canada, too. Sigh.

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