I woke around 3 a.m. to the news of Donald Trump winning the 2016 Presidential Election.
After crying for a short time in bed, I realized I may as well get up and use my time and energy more productively. I quietly made my way downstairs, popped some “stress away” in my diffuser, and turned on a salt lamp.
By 4:30 a.m., my Facebook newsfeed was roaring with a mixture of celebration, outrage, plans to leave the country (we crashed the Canadian immigration website), and blame towards those whose fault it is that we are where we are.
Half of my friends and family feel lost and devastated, while the other half are rejoicing over the outcome. My heart feels broken. I wonder if this is how my die-hard Republican mother felt both times President Obama was elected. I imagine so and, I have to tell you, it hurts. My heart is breaking and it isn’t just because of who we elected as our next commander-in-chief.
My heart breaks to see our country so divided when, at our core, we all want the same things. We all want equality. We all want freedom. We all want connection, love, and trust. We all want the best lives for ourselves, our families, and our friends. As much as I want to feed into the blame game and name calling, I simply cannot do so knowing this truth. I cannot continue to fuel division with more hate.
When I went to the polls yesterday, I voted with the future of my great grandchildren in mind, as did many Trump supporters. I believe that, no matter who they voted for, most people voted with the idea that their vote would better our country. I trust that most people voted with the desire for their voice to be heard.
We all want our voices to be heard. The desire to be heard is what drove me out of bed before the sun and that’s what encourages me to write now.
We are a nation of people fighting to be heard, while we cover our ears with an unwillingness to listen. When someone has an opinion or belief that is different from our own, we stop listening and start defending. We fight and wait for our chance to speak instead of trying to understand. We blame and name call when we feel challenged. This is what creates division and separation. This is what has led us to where we are.
I’m guilty of not listening and therefore contributing to the division and separation that is so heavily present in our world. I’m guilty of being defensive and closed-minded. I’m guilty of judging and labeling. Many of us are guilty of these behaviors.
Yesterday, a childhood friend of mine shared a picture of her youngest daughter along with her reasons for voting Trump. I found it ironic that many of her reasons for voting for him were the same reasons I had chosen Clinton. We were both voting for women’s rights, religious freedom, second amendment rights, and human rights, yet we voted for different candidates.
It hit me right then and there that although I knew she was voting Trump, I had never listened to, or been curious about, her reasons why. I never hid her from my newsfeed, but I dismissed nearly every political post she shared with a grunt and an eye roll. I never listened to her, so her voice was never heard by me. Instead, I labeled her as “one of them” and tuned her out. I’m ashamed to share that I also did this with family members, friends of friends, and the pizza place down the street with the Make America Great Again sign out front. I wonder how many people treated me as I treated them? With opposing judgement, hatred, and fear.
I blindly helped further division in our country and this morning, I witnessed many others doing the very same thing in response to the outcome of our Presidential Election.
By 8 a.m., I had already read posts about what to tell our children, I learned how to leave the country, and I’d seen far too many “not my President” protests. (Y’all, it was tacky when people did this when Obama was elected and it’s tacky now.). I’m mortified and ashamed, yet feel driven to speak up, in hopes that we all do better. At the end of the day, we do still live together, so to speak, and I’d prefer to grow in love rather than hate.
Growing in love requires us to own what we have contributed to create hate.
Together, we created the divisiveness that continues to exist in America and only together can we put a stop to it. We are stronger together and our recent election proved this true. In a free country, where suicide is the tenth leading cause of death and many brave people just want to be heard, we owe it to our people to listen. We owe it to ourselves to become better listeners.
Listening is one of the most powerful tools we have and many of us take it for granted. Each person we meet has a story worth telling and if we can begin to listen to one another from this space, I believe we will begin to connect on a more unified level. Small gestures, like letting people be heard, lead to big changes. When I feel heard, I feel more at peace and understood. When I feel heard, I feel connected and I want that feeling for more people. I want people to want to continue living on our planet.
Recently, I made small talk with a cashier at a local store and the conversation, though short, shook me to my core. When I said to her that I was grateful she was here, she responded, “I’m not,” with tears in her eyes. Though I felt uncomfortable with her response, I never wondered who she was voting for, nor did I care if she believed in climate change. I did wonder if she had someone to listen to her when she left work? I wondered if she had someone to hold her while she cried? Would anyone let her know it would be okay? I wondered if she knew she was loved? Leaving one of my cards with her felt like the smallest gesture to show I cared, yet it also felt like all I could do.
We can’t save one another, but we can love each other. When our initial reaction might be to run away, yell, or speak with anger, we must be open to listening. We must stop showing up to fight and kill, even if it’s in kindness, and we must instead empower one another to live our best lives. Look around, you made it this far and have accomplished many things. You have much to be grateful for and although it may look different from how you imagined, your life will continue to propel forward. Take a deep breath in and a deep breathe out.
Rest in the fact that what makes America great, right now, is our ability to choose. With all the information you currently have and the hope that you will still be around in four years, how do you choose to respond to what you have been given today? Do you react with hate or do you respond with love? I am in a constant state of learning and, as I move forward, I ask that you be patient with me. I will do my best to be better, to listen generously, and to love bigger. I dare you to join me and work to make America love again. We only have each other.
Author: Megan Howe
Image: Video Still
Editor: Nicole Cameron