A Call to Arms

On election night 2016 those who are good at math were the first to realize that the “path” to being elected President was red and not blue. It became progressively clear that the math would not add up for Hillary Clinton. Even if she would wind up with more overall votes the state Electoral College advantage would declare Donald Trump President.

Math skills now are transformed to dealing with the aftermath of the election which for the majority of voters is “the consequences or effects of a significant unpleasant event.”

There will be countless interpretations and abundant analysis as to why the election turned out the way it did. Of course every outcome is multi-determined. One explanation arrived at in class today was a sense that many “white” Americans felt disenfranchised by the agendas of those who themselves had previously (and still) felt marginalized and disrespected.  From 2008-20016, collectives such as LGBTQ or African Americans were optimistic that their voices were finally having a different hearing. All the while there was a growing discontent and a feeling of being disenfranchised by many “white” Americans and the religious right who would vote Trump into the White House. Whether it was 2008 or 2016, the same malady existed—disenfranchised groups feeling their voice had been silenced. Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016 were the respective change agents for their constituents who felt silenced and wanted to be heard and respected.

So what is there to be done if we are not to continue in a cyclical sense of disenfranchisement? If there is one clear mandate in the aftermath of this election it is to get to know each other better and listen, especially to whom we experience as the “other”—to hear their concerns. This does not mean agreeing with their concerns and does not mean one-sided listening without a reciprocal expectation that the other is willing to listen to your concerns. For some this opportunity will occur next week on Thanksgiving. Family members have avoided each other or avoided “the topic.”

Taking time to listen in itself can begin to heal the divide and stop the cycle of disenfranchisement. Be curious first instead of condemning. Seek clarity rather confrontation. Find common cause rather than controversy. Then, following Stephen Covey’s advice, be firm in your own commitments and share them with conviction.

Of equal importance in the aftermath of this election is reaching out to those who are feeling especially vulnerable and need support to not feel disenfranchised yet again. How many African American, Latino, Muslim and other worried Americans, who fear that their voices and hard fought liberties and equalities will now not be heard or valued, are in your circle of friendship? One of our students wondered aloud if he would hide non-legal immigrants in the event of deportations. The thought had not crossed my mind—it inspired me to consider all that is necessary in the aftermath of this election. It is our words and especially our actions that will make a difference.

This call to connection crosses “party” lines. It is a call to expand our circle of concern and connect our own sense of disenfranchisement with that sense of disenfranchisement in others.

It is a call to arms.

1 Comment

susan kaplan · November 17, 2016 at 9:28 pm

I appreciate your courage to talk about difficult subjects, as we all benefit from practicing how to have authentic conversations. And I was somewhat taken aback to be categorized in a way that does not fit for me. I also am nervous when I hear “white” vs. “people of color” analysis, This more simple either/or no longer works in our complicated society and can actually do more harm to perpetuate an “us” vs. “the other” view. Another way to hold opposites and the tensions that arise, may be to grow our capacity to lean into complexity with a perspective of yes/and, allowing us to ask thoughtful questions that open up both a depth of inner and outer conversation.

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