the morning after

I am sitting at my desk in my office the morning after. I do not know what to say or do or feel. I know how I feel. Desperate. Sad. Angry. Uncertain.

That word isn’t strong enough, uncertain. Uncertain in the way that Edvard Munch’s subject in The Scream is uncertain. Uncertain because the world is changed, and I cannot even begin to comprehend what the next three months — let alone two to four years — will look like. I know there will be violence. There will be seemingly irreparable broken bonds between us. I cannot see the other side. I am uncertain.

I recall having a conversation with a friend during the height of the Bush years. We spoke of America’s diminishing reputation around the world because of the war on terror, among other things, and I suggested — naively — that perhaps the American Century had truly ended, that our years as the sole Super Power on the planet were near an end. I meant that reassuringly, saying, hey, look, we’re still a prosperous country, it won’t be that bad. We’ll be like the UK or Canada, right?

I didn’t think it would end like this.

My wife and I spent election night with friends. We gave one of their friends a ride home, a woman we’d just met that night. We talked casually — as if talking casually is a thing any of us can really do anymore — about what we were going to tell our daughter in the morning. I said — naively — she’s five, she has no concept of racism or misogyny yet. My wife said, she will when she’s nine. The weight of that hit me. It’s still hitting me.

At home, we watched the local news, and they showed a short interview with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. He invoked the 10th Amendment — “Thank God for state’s rights” — seemingly re-appropriating a part of the Bill of Rights written to support slaveowners which will now be used to protect their decedents from whatever madness the federal government dreams up. We’re on our own, I thought. I don’t know what that means. I am uncertain.

I dropped my daughter off at preschool this morning. A dozen or so three and four and five year olds ran, jumped, played, screamed, laughed as they always do, as if the world hasn’t changed. The grown ups were shellshocked. We made knowing glances at each other. Then we hugged each other. It’s all we can do in this moment, the morning after. I have this vague compulsion to go to the nearest BART station and offer hugs to strangers who may need them.

My wife told me that she’s going to try and stay off the computer today. Buy some dirt and plant some new plants. Organize some things around the house. Later, we’ll take our daughter to music class where I’m sure there will be more exuberant kids and shellshocked adults. Another chance to dole out hugs. My mom has signed off Facebook for the day. The thought of her last post, typed on a tear-splatter keyboard, hurts. She, too, will spend the day with this weird mixture of anger and sadness and then, she said, pick herself up, be as kind as she can others, paint, make some art, get some work done, and try to make a better world.

I want to believe that this country is worth fighting for. I want to believe that those privileged enough to have the means to escape to Canada are wrong, that we should stay here and fight. That it’s worth fighting for.

More importantly, I think it’s worth staying here and fighting for others. Folks like me and my family, we’re not going to be the first to suffer. My friends and loved ones, my colleagues and fellow citizens, who are of color, queer, immigrants, and Muslims, they are the ones who will suffer first. And I feel obligated to fight against that.

Make no mistake. The 47% who voted for this are motivated in large part by the basest kind of fear and anger and racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. Van Jones is right. This was a whitelash, and we need to be honest about that. But there is also an undercurrent of legitimate frustration at problems that affect most, if not all, people regardless of the racism used to divide us. These are problems our president-elect has no real plan or intention to fix, of course, which is why we need to avoid the temptation to reinforce this divide between “us” and “them.” We need to find a way to disentangle the legitimate fears from the racist bull shit. We need to talk with people rather than down to them. We need to get up and fight. And we need to do it together.

But not today. Not the morning after. Today. We, myself at least, need to lick some wounds. Need to dole out free hugs and laugh and giggle with five-year-olds and push the uncertainty aside for a moment. Dig in the dirt. Make some art.

Stay the fuck off the internet.

Which is what I’ll do. Stay the fuck off the internet to work through the stages of grief. And then get up to fight another day.

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