Photo: Loren Kerns
Amy Selwyn is a storyteller, writer, and dog mom. The views and opinions expressed in this article are hers and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Matador Network.
Last Tuesday morning, I cast my vote for the first female president of the United States. At 57 years of age, I was alive to bear witness to the night we voted to shatter that glass ceiling by electing Hillary Clinton as our next leader. I voted for Hillary because I believed in her, I believed in her agenda for social progress and I believed in continuing the work of the Obama mandate.
Leaving the polls, I felt euphoric. And so, so hopeful and excited.
By 10:30 pm on election night (8 November, 2016), my world foundation was destroyed.
Everything I believed about America — how we behave, how we shelter the vulnerable, how we hold as self-evident the truth that says all men and women are created equal — was in tatters. I was desperate, panicked and shaken.
That was five days ago.
Today, I am sad. I am disgusted. I am furious. I am outraged. I am shocked.
I am also wide awake.
This may be the hidden “gift” in what feels to me as the darkest moment in my country’s history. Namely, that a loud, clanging, horrid alarm bell has gone off and, in its unceasing insistence, is going to get me up and into active participation with democracy. I’m gonna work day and night to save it and preserve it.
(Let’s just say the craziest thing happens. Let’s say Trump and Pence turn out to be really progressive leaders who effect positive and radical change. Well, then I’ll rejoice and still be glad I woke up. For the record, I harbor little hope on that one…)
It’s early days. I’ve come up with five things I am committing to right now to help me — and possibly others — get through the next four years. And let me just say what I mean by “get through”. It goes way beyond survival. It means actively working to thwart every single friggin’ attempt to curb our civil liberties, to institutionalize racism, to resist turning inward and isolationist when the world is so obviously interconnected (and, let’s face it, where we’ve left huge messes around the planet). To stand up and speak out and not take bigotry and demagoguery lying down.
Here’s my opening list. Please, I welcome thoughts from others. It has taken on a sad meaning in the last six days, but let’s be what Barack Obama told us to be. Fired Up. Ready to Go.
1. Be civil. Show respect.
There will be many arguments, many discussions. Tweets, posts on Facebook. I will not devolve into Fox News-style screaming matches. I will call people, including my friends and people whose beliefs and opinions mirror my own, on it when they show disrespect. I will not ridicule another’s opinion; that is Trump-like. That is base. Instead, I’m going to say, “I disagree because…”. Social media allows and even encourages us to behave like bullies and a**holes. I will reject it.
When they go low, we go high.
2. Actively get out of my own filter bubble.
Here’s mine: educated, liberal, white, middle class, Jewish, Northeast, Ivy League, socially progressive, multilingual, well-traveled.
And just about everyone in my social media networks and friends/family group can be described in many if not all of the same terms. I know very few people who voted for Trump. I commit to finding some and listening. Speaking, too, but listening, most of all.
I also commit to reading views from “the other side”. There is much written and much available on why people feel Trump is the answer. I will read some pieces like this. And try to understand the deeper story, the human story beneath the facts and figures and use/abuse of statistics.
3. Be an architect of an empathy bridge.
Get friends talking. Get us discussing — arguing, yes, but with respect and civility — and get us listening. Work hard (and it will be hard, no doubt) to explore “the other side”. Not to reach consensus. We’re not going to and we don’t need to. That’s the whole point. This isn’t about uniformity. This is about learning to tolerate difference. To appreciate it. To see its value.
Understanding is the goal, not persuasion, conversion or agreement.
4. Double my support of organizations actively working to preserve human rights and protect our environment.
I am going to take whatever I gave last year (because writing a check was my primary form of involvement) and I will double that figure. I’ll aim to triple it, in truth. It will mean giving up something else, because the budget is already stretched. Supporting the groups that protect the vulnerable — African Americans, Muslims, Latinos, gay people, the disabled, Jews, religious minorities, women and refugees, plus our wildlife, our wilderness, the air we breathe, climate research, and on and on.
5. Speak up. Speak out. Don’t leave the speaking to others.
I used to wonder why people would “bother” with protests when all they could only muster were 10 or 12 locals picketing in front of the town hall. I defined protest as huge, vast and newsworthy. Millions on the mall in DC.
I don’t see it that way anymore. Because the truth is, I remember driving past those 10 or 12 locals. Their signs and their chants made an impression.
I’m going to do more than write a check. I’m going to speak up and speak out against every liberty threatened, every vulnerable person placed at risk, every assault on and affront to this Union and our beloved, precious Constitution and Bill of Rights.
These are my starting points. I welcome other ideas, respectfully expressed. How can we come together as a people — right and left, conservative and liberal, man and woman, black and white, you name it — and fight for what many of us, myself included, took for granted and always assumed would be preserved?
We can — and must — get fired up. And be 100% ready to go.
This story first appeared on Medium and is republished here with permission.