Looking back on election coverage over that last year and a half, I am embarrassed by the arrogance. Aaron Sorkin wrote a letter to his wife and daughter apologizing for Donald Trump and promising to do a better job of protecting them. I could write a similar letter but instead of apologizing to my daughters for not being a better liberal, I would apologize for being such an elitist asshole. And if you live in the same NPR, MSNBC, Late Night Comedy and New York Times echo chamber that I live in, you just might be an elitist asshole, too.
Eight years ago, on November 5th, 2008 I woke up elated. I took my car in to have the oil changed and there was an older black woman waiting with her grandson and she was showing him the photo of President elect Barack Obama addressing the crowd. “Yes We Can” was the headline. I caught her eye and we shared a smile. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel embarrassed in the presence of a black person. For the first time, I felt like the stain of privilege and implied racism wasn’t the first thing she saw because this white nation elected a black man to the highest office in the land. I felt pride in my country that perhaps wasn’t as racist and bellicose as I thought.
I was elated when the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed and when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. I even changed my Facebook profile picture to the rainbow filter when Same Sex Marriage became the law of the land. I smugly pointed to the stemming of the tide of widespread job loss and the slow but steady economic recovery as evidence of the superiority of the Democrats and the strength of the liberal agenda. The questions about the President’s citizenship and demands to produce his birth certificate were just indications that his opponents were ignorant racists.
While I still believe that questions about the President’s legitimacy are indicative of ugly racism, I also think we should have been much more gracious in our victories and worked harder to bring people along with us. Instead, a cottage industry based on making fun of poor white people in the middle of the country emerged. We have spent the last eight years reflecting the religious and cultural diversity that we on the left embrace and admire while mocking the people clinging to their guns and their religion. “Modern Family” wins Emmys year after year while “Duck Dynasty” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” are snarky punchlines and Tea Party favorites like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman are ignorant boobs on “Saturday Night Live”.
Over the past few years, more than a few of my right of center friends and family members have said, “This is not the America that I grew up in…” or “It’s time we take our country back” and silently rolled my eyes. Now that my candidate lost, I hear myself utter the exact same sentiments almost verbatim. I woke up disoriented and shocked on Wednesday morning, disbelief that a gaudy reality TV star who does not share my values will be the President of the United States. It’s like I woke up in the Upside Down from “Stranger Things” – everything is in the same place, but I’m on a different plane or frequency where everything is dark and ugly. But for many, the Upside Down for them is Obama’s vision for America. I don’t understand why they feel that way, but I would like to learn.
I find Donald Trump abhorrent and feel betrayed by my neighbors and friends who voted for him. I struggle to understand how anyone could vote for such a gross and venal man. I can’t bear the thought of listening to him for the next four years. What I have come to realize, though, is that there are many in this country who have the same sense of loathing for President Obama, Secretary Clinton and all of us “elites” who have been pointing and laughing at them for the past eight years.
There is a lot of work to be done to stitch our commonweal together but I would like to make a radical proposal: Let’s stop calling each other names and be willing to listen to each other and feel each other’s pain.