I am what some call a bleeding-heart-liberal. I see the value in social programs and gun limitations and gay marriage and immigration and environmental protections, among other things. Like many liberals, I surround myself with people who think the same way. Like many liberals, I was more than shocked in November when Donald Trump was announced as the president-elect.
I've been an idiot. I've been living in a very beautiful but very fragile rainbow-colored bubble.
At Christmas dinner I talked with a family member--I'll call her Y-- about what is going down in the United States. She's black. I'm white. Y and I have both been living in Europe for years, both having come here for love. And though we adore where we are, and most likely will stay here until we die, the word "home" for us means the USA.
Even though we aren't currently there, it was impossible to not discuss the recent turn of events with the election and Trump's cabinet picks and the upheaval throughout the country. Y and I are both truly terrified about what the future might bring. But (and this is what I find interesting) Y said that she was almost glad it happened--almost.
You see, while I was spending the days after the election in a state of total disbelief, she was nodding her head. While I was saying, "How could this happen?" she was saying, "See? Told you it could happen. Open your eyes, my friend."
For years, people like me have admitted that racism exists, hatred exists, bigotry exists, xenophobia exists. Sure. But we don't come face to face with it every day. And we don't frequent people who might say or do things we wouldn't approve of. And so we thought it existed, yes, but in small pockets somewhere in the deep backwaters of the country. We thought that, overall, things were getting better and that, overall, the nation was full of good people.
We thought that the nation had a nasty little sore under that Band-Aid, but that the sore was starting to heal.
Like I said, idiot.
This is why Y is almost glad for the election results. Almost. Because it finally revealed something she always knew: that under that Band-Aid, the sore was not healing at all. In fact, it was festering, an evil pus oozing from all sides, and that the infection had already spread throughout the bloodstream.
Perhaps, Y thinks, this is what the white majority needed to Wake The Hell Up. Once we've scraped our chins off the floor and rubbed our eyes clear, we can no longer stay the same. We can no longer put on rose-colored glasses, no longer claim ignorance or innocence. We can no longer believe that everyone thinks just like we do.
It is time we step up, or the infection will get worse. Gangrene will set in. Limbs will certainly be lost. And death may ensue.
It is time for aggressive empathy. It is time for fierce compassion. It is time for merciless unity. It is time we brought evil to its knees, instead of always trying to soothe it into submission.
The question is, of course, how?
There are people out there who have real ideas, real solutions that will make differences when it comes to policy and plans and people. We need to follow them.
But before that, the very first steps are these:
Open your eyes.
Open your mind.
Stop thinking with your wallet.
Start thinking with your heart.