Dear Senator

Dear Senator,
I hardly know what to say.  I am writing this from Norway, where I now live.  I have voted in most US elections since moving away, and followed politics from afar.

I am now fearful for my friends and family in the US.  They are diverse, of all races, all religions, and sexual orientations. I most especially fear for my Dad and Stepmom, who are elderly and frequently ill, my friends and cousins who are minorities, and family and friends who are LGBTQ or just in non-traditional relationships.

I guess that I am mostly writing to say that I support you, and to ask you to stay strong under the onslaught of executive orders and proposed legislation.  I know that senate Democrats will face some very, very difficult choices in the next four years.  Don’t give in.  Stand strong.

I want to say don’t give a single inch that isn’t hard-fought.  But I also know that as with all things political, there may be opportunities to make trade-offs.  To gain something in one area, when you give in another.

And so I say to you, whatever you do, whatever happens, please, please work to preserve civil rights. Civil rights should absolutely be your number one priority.  Because if we can keep our civil rights intact, we can recover from nearly anything the Trump administration does.

I am very sorry that your job has recently been made infinitely harder to do, but I am very glad that you are there to do it.

Sincerely yours,

“Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” Coretta Scott King

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

It has taken me a while to digest what has happened in the US election. I have lived away from the US for 14 years, now, and watched from afar as the country seemed to become increasingly divided over some issues that I feel pretty strongly about.

Some of the posts I see, though, still come from a place of privilege; from the mind of someone who has clearly never experienced discrimination.  Like this one http://billmoyers.com/story/farewell-america/#.WELow0aYswx.facebook from Neal Gabler on BillMoyers.com, where he says, “Who knew that so many tens of millions of white Americans were thinking unconscionable things about their fellow Americans? Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities?”

As a woman working all of my life in fields traditionally dominated by men, I knew it.  I lived it,  in having to prove myself again and again, when my male colleagues’ expertise was simply accepted until they messed something up.  I lived it when I was ignored in meetings.  I lived it when I was given a poor performance review for speaking my mind, or disagreeing with a manager or supervisor, or doing something my boss couldn’t. I lived it when rumors went around that I ‘liked black guys’ when my only crime was having a diverse group of friends. I lived it when I hit the glass ceiling.

Anyone who couldn’t see this was merely blind to it.  I have heard too many people say things that were clearly based in bias.  Some shocked me.  Like when I moved to a Hispanic district and a colleague said I shouldn’t live there because it was full of ‘gang-bangers’.  I think it’s sadly that so many things like this have merely been given a veneer of acceptability by the election outcome.

Most of these folks don’t believe that they are prejudiced.  They simply have never self-critically examined their world views. Or their understanding of the order of things is so deeply embedded that they are incapable of doing so.  That’s not to excuse it, especially those who are doing the stupid crap that I see facebook posts about.

But, most are like my colleague who criticized my move to a Hispanic neighborhood.  He didn’t see any prejudice in his assertion.  I suspect that he felt he was warning me of a potential danger.  Looked at objectively, the crime rate was slightly higher than the surburban areas where many of my colleagues lived, but that crime rate was no worse than other city neighborhoods, and rather better than most.  I never had any trouble, nor worried for my personal safety.  On the contrary, I enjoyed the advantages of being able to ride my bike to work, or walk to local shopping that had a broader diversity of goods than would have been available in most suburban areas.

I am sad for the division I’ve seen growing in the US, and I fear what it means for my friends and family, especially those who are people of color or ethnically mixed, LGBTQ, or simply have high medical care needs.

While we cannot let racism and bigotry go unchallenged, unfortunately, I think that it is, in part, the form this challenge has taken–labelling Trump supporters as uneducated, racist, bigoted, misogynist, or whatever–that has lost the election for Democrats.  Making other people out to be the problem, name-calling, or merely implying that they are gullible, lost the election, as much as anything else.  How can someone who earnestly believes that there is no longer any such thing as racism, feel anything except insulted when you call them racist?

I won’t waste too much space on this.  Frankly, I am kind of sick of explanations at this point.  Explanations that excuse bigotry, and explanations that blame Comey, or the Electoral system.  Explanations that say Hillary Clinton was the wrong candidate, too moderate, too female, or whatever.  I am sick of Hitler parallels.  The world is a different place than it was when Hitler became Chancellor in Germany.  For one thing, he depended heavily on the lack of communication between countries and communities.  The world is a connected place, now.  That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, but it does mean it’s less likely, and harder to fool people for so long.

Although the Democratic party clearly didn’t do their homework in some key states, I don’t think it much matters, now.  What’s lost is lost, and no the Electoral College isn’t going to elect someone else.  And no, the Electoral College isn’t going away, either.  The Electoral College exists to check the power and influence of the states with the largest populations.  Like all things written into the US Constitution, there is more reason than just a convenient way to vote in the time of horse & carriage.  Even if we decide the Electoral College has no place in a modern USA, getting enough support in both houses of Congress, or enough states to independently ratify the constitutional change will be next to impossible.

The United States has become what it is because of diversity, because the American Dream means the chance for anyone to be and become whatever they want to.  Including President.  If now is not the time for a woman to be president, I can accept that.  It will happen, I hope within my lifetime.

What I cannot and will not accept is the reversal of the gains made within my lifetime for civil and political rights.

I hope that President-elect Trump is a better president than so many people expect. I hope that, despite his initial appointments, he really does challenge the establishment and help the ‘forgotten’ people. I hope that he, as so many of his predecessors, settles for pragmatism.  I hope that he does not do so at the expense of vulnerable citizens or ethnic and religious minorities; or at the expense of peace.

If nothing else, we have to remember that there are still a great many senators and representatives from all parties who will oppose bigotry, and the erosion of rights.  There are those who will do the right thing:  John Lewis, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and others of their colleagues who will stand beside them or go down fighting.

One of the reasons for this post (and my previous lack of comment) is that I’ve really had a hard time with all the hate going around.  You know what I mean:

Racist…

Libtard…

Idiot…

In my sheltered existence, I didn’t even know that ‘libtard’ was thing, much less that I was one.

I didn’t know that there were people in the world who didn’t believe in racism.  Or who thought that racism doesn’t exist anymore in the USA because it is illegal; or because the president is black.  Maybe these were things I needed to know, but it aches my heart to see people whom I care about in slanging matches over it.

Not so long ago, another child said to my son, ‘I hate you.’  My son had the right answer.  He said, “I love you.”

That is what we have to do.  When someone says hateful things, we must reflect love, else we become what they name us.

By all means, call out racism when you hear it, call out bigotry when you see it; but don’t call people racist. Don’t call them bigoted.  Love them instead; show them the hurt it causes.

The late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, said, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Images and text copyright 2016