Okay. So I have waited a little while to write down my thoughts regarding the 2016 Presidential Election, AKA the day hate trumped love or, as I like to call it, that fucking day from hell. In case you didn’t pick up on it, I’m a little pissed, a fact to which I suspect my wife and children would readily attest. In the past three weeks I have winced innumerable times as I’ve said, “Oh, yeah, Alex, no—umm, that’s a grown-up word, okay? Please don’t say that word, honey.”
I know I’m not alone in my anger. I know I’m not the only one who feels like punching a wall or screaming into a pillow because our uninspired electorate voted into power an unapologetically racist, misogynistic, homophobic regime that demonstrates a little more every day why they are appallingly unfit to lead even a Walmart franchise, let alone the government of a global superpower. And yet, everywhere I go I hear people saying how shocked they are that this happened.
Shocked? Really? I’m not shocked. Disheartened, angry (again), frustrated, dismayed—but not shocked. For those who are, I would genuinely like to know: Are you new here? Is there some part of America’s racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic history that you missed? Because from my perspective, this is pretty much business as usual in the land of the free.*
(*Fine print: “Free” applies only to cis-gendered straight white males who were born here. Or, hell, anywhere else, really.)
I don’t usually let my rage escape its careful bounds like this. I usually smile and keep my finger-pointing at a minimum because that’s what we minorities find works the best in obtaining and maintaining our civil rights from those in the majority. Thoughtful disagreement, civil discourse, tolerance of other views, etcetera, etcetera. That’s why the gay marriage movement picked middle-upper class white people around which to build its legal cases—because assimilation wins you more friends in high places than justified and justifiable rage.
But underneath the calm, cool, collected exteriors? Yeah, most of us are pretty fucking pissed. Or depressed. Personally, I find anger the better way to go.
As people who know me will tell you, I am not one for optimism. I am, however, an observer of history. And all year, I have had a cautious eye on American history. DT’s decision to appeal to the lowest common denominator in our country, i.e. White Nationalists, alarmed me but didn’t exactly surprise me. After all, this is the same country that fought a civil war in which an estimated 260,000 Confederate soldiers willingly gave up their lives to defend the “right” of wealthy plantation owners to own human beings. This is the same country in which, between 1882 & 1968, an estimated 3,445 black Americans were lynched by their fellow citizens. This is the same country where police officers still harass and kill unarmed black women and men from every walk of life.
It’s not just people of color, of course, who’ve gotten the shaf—er, received unfair treatment. This is also the country where women did not obtain the right to vote until 1920, 144 years after the first American Congress famously declared “that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” This is the same country that has elected exactly 31 women to the US Senate out of a total of nearly 2,000 US Senators since 1787. This is the same country where American women still make 80 cents on the dollar when compared to men, and where only 4.6% of Fortune 500 companies are led by a woman. This is the same country where current statistics reveal that one in every five women will be raped in her lifetime.
This is the same America that, nearly four decades ago, failed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
Here’s what the ERA says: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” THAT’S IT. Equality under the law shall not be denied because of sex. Congress managed to pass the Equal Rights Act in 1972, but over the next ten years, only 35 out of the required 38 states—the three-fourths majority as specified by the Constitution—ratified it, so it cannot be included in the Constitution. And of those 35 states who voted in favor of the ERA, five later voted to rescind their approval. (Assholes.)
That’s right, fifteen states refused to ratify the ERA and another five withdrew their approval, thereby preventing the act from becoming law. Which states refused, you ask? No great surprise here: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. The five who rescinded were Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Most of these states were part of the Confederacy. And three weeks ago, seventeen of the twenty ERA hold-outs gave their electoral votes to Donald Trump.
Coincidence? Not even remotely. Thanks, Bible Belters. As one of my friends said recently, “So glad to see that my rights and those of other minorities are once again up for debate.”
The lack of inclusion of women and people of color in the Constitution, our lack of representation in the top echelons of government, our lack of leadership in the largest corporations in the country all signal a lack of power within our capitalist republic that persists even now, two and a half centuries of America-ing later. And yet, even despite the very clear signals from our collective history, I was as hopeful as the next Hillary supporter that she would become president of the United States of America. I thought maybe, just maybe our nation was ready to elect a woman as leader of the free world. I admit it–I was hopeful.
But as an American am I surprised that DT trumped? No. For fuck’s sake, this is still the country that refused to recognize the legality of my 2005 same-sex marriage for an entire decade. This is still the country where I can be LEGALLY denied housing, services, and employment because of my sexual orientation. This is still the country where, despite the fact my name is on all three birth certificates, legal experts recommend that I adopt my own children because my wife is the biological mom, not me. This is still the country where I am legally and culturally a second-class citizen.
So excuse me for not being surprised that hate trumped love. Again.
One bright spot is that our country has been America-ing for quite a while now. While we are admittedly a rather entitled lot, that entitlement will likely come in handy during DT’s tenure, for there is one thing we have grown accustomed to having over the last two hundred forty years: Our Freaking Rights. (“At least in theory; at least some of us,” one of my friends pointed out recently. And yes, I know it’s not perfect, obviously–see my points to that effect above–but we do have the longest-standing democratic government in the world, so I have to believe that part of our history counts for something, too.)
Our sense of entitlement when it comes to political freedom means that in the wake of the election we have seen responses like the statement from the ACLU and the declaration by the state of California; statements of support for immigrants and DACA from university and college presidents, among others; the formation of a new Muslim-Jewish advisory council to develop domestic policy proposals on issues related to immigration, refugees, and religious liberty; vows to fight for equality and the environment from progressive organizations and people–from those we might expect to stand up to hate (Harry Reid, for one) to those I wasn’t, frankly, expecting (Stan Van Gundy & Gregg Popovich, among others).
Only three weeks post-election and the dust has already begun to accumulate over the President-Elect’s actions, revealing a giant arrow pointing back toward our centuries of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. But I can tell you one thing: I am not prepared to watch my rights and those of countless others go gentle into the night. Nor are millions upon millions of my fellow Americans willing to do so. I don’t yet know in which direction our nation will move, but I do know that as entitled as we are, as accustomed as we are to calling ourselves the land of the free (however problematic the concept may be when applied to our diverse, real-life populace), we won’t back down.
As Shakespeare reminds us via Henry V:
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage…
And once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.