November 8th was tough.
As the numbers rolled in, my Facebook feed became filled with disbelief, then despair.
Black friends, gay friends, genderqueer friends, sexual abuse victims, white parents of black children—all of them were feeling betrayed by an America they thought they knew.
“I’m scared,” one of my gay friends messaged to me. “I’m sobbing, and I can’t stop. I don’t know what to do.”
He is not the only one.
The 2016 election results are in, and we are mourning. For many of us, the last eight years have represented a time of inclusion and equality. President Obama won hard-earned battles that moved America forward toward equal access to healthcare, equal marriage rights, racial and religious equality and a more accountable justice system, to name a few.
Now as the book is closed on another election, all of those issues, as well as the health of our environment, reproductive rights, education funding and foreign affairs feel like they are teetering over a cliff, and the inevitable fall cannot be stopped.
But something can be done.
Even though those of us in the “anyone but Trump” camp lost the general election, we still have just as much power today as we did before November 8th. We still have our voices. We still have our strength in numbers. And we still have our love.
When I woke up this morning, I replayed the reality of what has now happened in our country in my mind. It felt like something critical had been shaken and shifted. But when I opened my eyes, the sun was shining, my partner was beside me and my son was safe in our home. Outside my door, my neighbors were still the same, and the businesses and schools were still opening their doors as usual.
Nothing has really changed. The people who have been kind to others all along are still kind. The people who have been fearful or hateful are no different than they were before. The only difference is that now we know who is who.
Anger and sadness are warranted, and we should give ourselves the time we need to feel those things. But after they have gone, the only way to battle hate is with love, and love is an action.
Here’s what we can do:
Say kind words to a stranger, a friend, or better yet, to someone who has been unkind. In a world where discrimination and insults are now normal, a pick-me-up and a smile can go a long way.
Listen to the voices of the disenfranchised and seek to understand their underlying fears. Beneath their words are genuine insecurities about their safety, their finances and their way of life. We can disagree with them and still recognize that they are valid concerns to that person. We may even learn that we share some of the same underlying concerns.
Commit random acts of kindness. Mow the neighbor’s lawn or shovel their walkway. Pay for a stranger’s coffee or groceries if we can. Hold the door for someone. Do it without expecting anything in return, and do it anonymously as much as we can. Spread kindness like cupcake sprinkles whenever and wherever possible.
Be mindful of what is happening around us. Apathy is the ultimate act of violence. Failing to speak out when we know what is happening around us, or refusing to pay attention can no longer be the status quo. Our eyes are wide open and our power is strong (that is why so many came out to vote in opposition). We are the only ones who can give up that power.
The world around us may be shifting, but the important things remain. Through kindness, we can heal. Through love, we can win.
Author: Amanda Christmann
Image: John Silliman/Unsplash
Editor: Caitlin Oriel