As I look around me, it’s very apparent that most people in my inner circle and even on the news are quite thrilled with the title of President-Elect being used for Joe Biden. Like many others, I also feel relief and hope for the future. That being said, I haven’t forgotten what it felt like as I watched the 2016 presidential election results come in.
To say that Donald Trump’s victory was upsetting would be an understatement. I recall wondering how I could have failed to see that I am surrounded by people who were willing to overlook or even embrace what I saw as apparent flaws in his character. I was confused as to why such a diverse nation would elect a man who seemed unable or even unwilling to comprehend the struggles of anyone other than his own self and people who mirrored his skin color, gender, and country of birth. I was immensely disappointed in my own country for making me feel like a large portion of the people living here didn’t think I, an LGBTQ+ woman, was valued as a member of our society. I wasn’t truly even sure I belonged here or wanted to belong in such a place. I questioned whether this was actually a society I’d want to raise children in.
Essentially, when I look back at my Facebook posts from this time, I seem to have rapidly gone through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Make no mistake, the acceptance was not paired with joy by any means.
I said that most people I have seen feel relieved, hopeful, and even elated right now. This is true, but that doesn’t mean everyone is feeling this way. During all of this, I have come to realize that there is something that the Trump supporters and I have in common. We may not experience it for the same reasons, but we share the very human experience of grieving.
Right now, most of the Trump supporters around me are experiencing a mixture of denial and/or anger. I can’t say I’m surprised they’re in denial, Trump himself is refusing to accept the count. Even before this, I’m sure the Trump supporters were fully convinced there would be four more years, just like I was fully convinced we weren’t a nation that would elect someone like Trump. I’m also not surprised that they’re angry. They feel that they were cheated, and people tend to feel angry when that happens. I was angry, but for different reasons.
I’m sure there are Trump supporters in other stages of grieving as well. I can imagine that some have taken a hit to their faith that has essentially knocked them to their knees. Some are probably literally on their knees praying, maybe even bargaining. I’m sure some are crying, unsure of how they would go on in a future under someone else’s leadership.
I don’t agree with a lot of things that Trump or his supporters do. One of the biggest differences in worldview between myself and Trump is the willingness to look at those who are different from myself as equally human. I’m not going to approach his supporters as a school yard bully would, even if that’s how they may have approached others four years ago. I’m simply going to let them grieve.
To those this election has left in distress, or fury, or utter despair: Acceptance will come. It may not be quick, it likely won’t be easy, but it will come. You’re not going to die, even if it feels like you are. If you need someone to just listen, I’m willing. At the end of the day, whether we vote red or blue (or any other color), we are all humans who bleed the same blood and cry the same tears.
I want an America that heals and grows. I’m not going to rub salt wounds, because that isn’t the way.