Today, I’ve heard many of you quote the words, “Tomorrow, we wake up and start again.” I disagree with that. For me, starting again means acknowledging that a mistake was made and needs to be corrected.
I don’t define the outcome of yesterday’s election as a mistake.
In his 1939 work The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck wrote, “In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” He penned these words as a metaphoric illustration of the anger of marginalized classes during a nation’s moment of economic despair. And, almost 80 years later, those words find relevance again today following the election of Donald J. Trump.
Donald Trump’s election was not a mistake that needs to be corrected, but rather an active decision made by voters across the country for reasons that are anything but trivial.
Bernie Sanders, who many of you celebrated throughout the election process, said that Donald Trump tapped into an anger of a declining middle class, helping him win the 2016 election. He did this in the same way that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders did for their constituency. For both groups, the grapes of wrath were filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.
Today, Donald Trump’s supporters found their concerns validated by the outcome of the election and rejoice at the prospect of change.
In response, those who opposed him have had varying, counterproductive reactions. Some decried an uneducated populace. Others spewed venom, words not fit for publication. No matter their reaction, though, all feared for the future of the country.
But, ultimately, both supporters and opposition want the same thing – a positive future for America.
Why negate the views of those we disagree with rather than trying to understand the underlying reasons why they feel that way in the first place? While some may articulate their views in hateful terms, it doesn’t mean their opinion is any less valid. Nor, should it negate those who agree with the underlying themes of Trump’s rhetoric, and yet don’t support the way he said it.
The multiplicity of views are the culmination of 87,787 days of American history, derived from a wide array of merging cultures and classes. With so many different experiences, who is to decide what is right or virtuous? Rather, shouldn’t we seek to understand the motivations behind what is being said so we can address the universal discomfort both parties feel but seek to address through distinct, and sometimes opposing, means? No one is innately hateful, they just haven’t found constructive ways to express the very valid fears or angers that they feel within them.
It is easier said than done, though. And, it is precisely what George Washington warned of in his farewell address, citing the danger of political faction. He says, “Political parties may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
While 2016 confirms the threat Washington claimed political parties pose to popular sovereignty, it is not due to the actions of unprincipled leaders, man or woman. Instead, it is due to the apathy of a disengaged citizenry which has fallen victim to the narcissistic tendencies cultivated by social media – A citizenry who reads nothing longer than 140 characters, receives their news from fragmented outlets rather than primary sources, and who can’t be bothered to understand contemporary current events if they don’t impact their immediate sphere of influence.
The grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy. And, while politicians like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders tap into that wrath, we as a citizenry are collectively responsible for the hate we saw grow during the 2016 election cycle, no matter what side you are on. No side is right. No side is wrong. No side is better or more virtuous. We are all collectively responsible and derive our actions from the same underlying discontent that drives our mutual desire for change.
Hillary Clinton said today, “This is painful and will be for a long time.” While she may be referring to her loss, I see it as a reflection on the rebuilding we have to do as a nation – A rebuilding of an engaged electorate that can develop a dialogue of opposing viewpoints in a culture of mutual respect.
<h2?We need to rebuild a culture where we seek to understand rather than negate and blame. All opinions are valid because the underlying motivations are cultivated from the most real of human emotions – emotions that we need to recognize and address.
So, tomorrow, I will not wake up and start again. I will wake up, knowing that Donald Trump is my president, and continue on, trying to be more actively engaged in public life. I will wake up, knowing that Donald Trump is my president, and continue on, trying to collaborate with those I disagree with because, ultimately we collectively agree we want the best for our country. We just need to figure out how to do that together, not trying to prove who is right or wrong.
Tomorrow, I will wake up, knowing Donald Trump is my president, and I will continue on, working with others, educating myself, and sharing my views to help build a more perfect union.