Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I Still Have a Dream

It's been a difficult few months . . . for me, for many people I know, for our country, for our world. The result of the presidential election was a shock, partly because it seemed so clear that Hillary would win, but mostly because it seemed so ridiculous to think that Donald Trump could be president. Who would vote for this lying, libelous, filthy rich con artist? Who would vote for a man who denigrates women with his actions while saying nonsensically that no one respects women as much as he does? Who would vote for a man who worked so hard to destroy Obama by purporting the lie that he was not born in America, then later denying his actions and blaming the entire birther escapade on Hillary? Who would vote for a man who worked to keep African Americans out of his apartment buildings, made fun of a disabled person, ridiculed John McCain by saying he prefers people who don't get caught, and on and on and on? Who would vote for someone supported by the Ku Klux Klan?

But people did. Lots of people. Enough to get him elected.

I've been asking myself these questions, and many more like them, for months. I was quite convinced that Trump couldn't possibly be elected. But I was so wrong.

Happy in my cocoon in Maine, I missed what was happening in this country. As a child of the 60s, I grew up with peace signs and peace marches, women's liberation and the rise of reproductive rights, Martin Luther King talking about his dream that seemed to have some hope of becoming reality, and music that made everyone want to move and groove and "love the one you're with." I grew up in a family with little education and little money but lots of hope for the future, for my future. I would go to college, I would not marry the first guy who came along, I would make something of myself. I had options, something no other generation of women ever had in this country. The future looked so promising.

But not everyone saw things as I did. Not everyone saw excitement and hope. Some saw what they were losing, not gaining. Some saw "sin" and destruction, not freedom.

So, the future chugged along, a few steps forward, then a few back. The Civil Rights Act, Affirmative Action, Rodney King, Voter Restriction Laws . . . Roe v. Wade, the Equal Rights Amendment (in case you've forgotten, it didn't pass), Title IX . . . Don't Ask Don't Tell, Marriage Equality, so-called "Religious" Freedom Rights, Matthew Shepard . . . the decline of the middle class, the mortgage crisis, corporate welfare, tax cuts for the wealthy. There are many more examples of the battles that have been fought in our country in recent decades for equality, fairness, civility, and decency; some won, some lost.

For the past eight years we've had an African-American president, and this year we had a woman presidential candidate. These are major social accomplishments that cannot be overestimated. But another setback, a clear indication of the backlash to the changes of the last half century . . . the election of Donald Trump for president. I can make sense of why some corporate wealthy people voted for Trump . . . they have a lot to gain from a Trump presidency, but it's inconceivable to me that so many of our country's poor and middle class individuals voted for a man who is likely to do them such harm . . . raise their taxes (directly and indirectly), destroy the economics of health care in favor of business profits, cut social security and medicare. Sadly, they were won over by Trump's aggressive, braggadocious, tough-guy demeanor, the perfect antithesis to what Obama and Clinton represent.

I saw a Trump voter interviewed on a news show last night who readily admitted to seeing all of Trump's failings: sexism, racism, xenophobia. He even said that he didn't want to see anyone, not even "illegals," rounded up and deported. So why did he vote for him? "He's not Hillary." He may as well have said, "He's a man, a white man."

Women suffragists picketing in front of the White house, 1917
I still have a dream. That's just the way I am, ever hopeful, ever looking forward. But the future now is uncertain, perhaps even volatile. One can feel the volatility like the first rumblings of an earthquake. So we must steady ourselves, seek shelter when necessary, but never forget that as a society we always pick up the pieces and rebuild. That's what we do. That's what I do.