What’s Next?

Boston, MA

9 November 2016

D-Day +1

Right, so it happened.

Let us begin by acknowledging that, or at least trying to, because this all remains very surreal and literally incredible to me, as it does for many of you, I’m sure.

Even last night, it wasn’t until a couple hours had passed of the numbers being projected — say, just over 100 electoral votes in — when it became not only possible but clearly apparent that he could win, would win; it was not until then that I was able to actually conceive that the next four years of American history will be directly molded by the likes of Donald J. Trump.

As I write to you, I am sitting on the floor of a crowded conference room at my place of work, where operations have come to an ass grinding halt owing to our CEO’s invitation to watch the live airing of Hillary Clinton’s concession speech — an address sure to be wrist-slittingly painful just to watch, so one can only imagine having to actually make it.

But let’s rewind.

Less than two months ago, I wrote a post submitting that, while not the best liked politician in modern American history, the democratic nominee was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most qualified and best choice to lead our country given the somewhat underwhelming selection of alternative candidates available.

Too, I suggested that, in spite of our general skepticism for her, we had better get used to the idea of Mrs. Clinton taking office, because the polls overwhelmingly indicated that she was all but guaranteed to win the general.

I was, needless to say, quite regrettably mistaken.

With regard to the election itself, I firmly believe that nothing ever changed about the candidates themselves — which I think is an important distinction to make. The only thing that truly changed, subsequently impacting the polls and ultimately deciding the outcome, was us, the voters, the broken, disillusioned and chronically segregated American electorate.

At no point over the course of the last year has the future president been any less deplorable, nor his opposition any more widely trusted. What ended up defining this election cycle (and, for that matter, this nation’s potential ruin) was the epidemic of social and political discord crippling our country.

We are not well, my fellow Americans. Let’s just admit that, once and for all.

What follows is a less than smooth transition, but we’ll see if I can make it come around.

I’ve been struggling with a dilemma for some time now, one which I have yet to really work through, so I’d be curious to hear your thoughts, if any of you care to comment on this post. That is an offer fraught with peril, I’m aware, but so be it.

Chiefly, it concerns the correlation between morality and politics, along with the manner in which said link effects relationships of any substance or longevity. This became a point of interest for me after moving to Texas from Massachusetts — which is to say after sustaining the culture shock of moving from a navy blue state to one pretty notorious for being blood red.

During the roughly five years of my living between Austin and Dallas, I made a great many friends, some of whom had and have opposing political beliefs — make no mistake, that is nothing if not cool with me.

As some of my more longstanding readers may already know, I both value and indeed crave constructive debate, open dialogue, conflicting opinions. Moreover, I believe these to be staples of healthy societal discourse.

What I have come to realize, however, is that my judgments of people whose political convictions diverged from my own eventually transcended politics, instead extending into judgments of character.

Bear with me.

I am thankful to have people in my life who come from starkly different backgrounds, because that means they have starkly different experiences from which to draw reference, which is crucial to cultivating and diversifying a broader perspective. The thing is, at some point along that lengthy trajectory of ideology and virtue, politics and morality intersect — they just do.

Being a democrat or republican, liberal or conservative, radical or moderate does not conclusively define your morality; but anyone who suggests that those affiliations aren’t to some degree influential in the makeup of one’s morality is very much misled.

By way of example, if you believe in proportionally raised taxes for the top 1%, you are likely to believe in greater equality, advancement and opportunity for the poor and disenfranchised, or in other words, you are more actively concerned with the well being of those less fortunate than you.

Conversely, if you believe in cutting funding for welfare, food stamps, public education, etc., chances are good that your mentality is slightly more individualistic than it is altruistic.

Both of which, I feel compelled to make clear, are perfectly acceptable contentions.

But — and this is quite a substantial but– when you delve deeper, like, say, into the more contentious topics such as gun control, abortion or race relations, when you delve into the complex and less easily discernible ethical issues, it becomes far more difficult to respect conflicting opinions, let alone empathize with them.

That is a fact, however difficult it may be to swallow.

Naturally, I’ve been guilty of such transgressions on many occasions, as have most of us. For instance, the organized opposition to stricter gun laws baffles and frustrates me, because there is such a direct, overt correlation between the lack of such legislature and a massive fucking death toll nationwide.

Similarly, I have trouble identifying with pro-life arguments, because so many lives are ruined in the absence of safe abortion procedures, to say nothing of the universal moral imperative we all carry to both promote and preserve a woman’s natural born right to bodily autonomy.

And to be frank, I can’t even go into police brutality or race relations for the moment, because I’m emotional enough as it is in light of current events.

Of course, if your beliefs are not aligned with mine, that is more than OK. But the essence of this is to say that people who embrace certain political belief templates are almost exclusively given to embracing corresponding moral belief templates, the products of which I cannot always abide by.

To be clear, I have no intention of writing people off merely for not sharing my convictions, but I find it disingenuous and unproductive to continue ascribing to the notion that parallels in ethics are not a critical basis for true friendship, as well as a barometer for the long term success of any relationship — barring occasional help from drugs and alcohol.

Right, time to bring it back.

That was quite a digression, but as you may remember, my initial point was that Trump won the election because we let him, not because he did anything to deserve winning. And that’s why I’m so despondent, so thoroughly in disbelief on this fateful day; because the fact that we are now relegated to nearly half a decade of what I’m already shuddering to call the Trump administration is a reflection of public opinion, and thus of public virtue.

Part of what’s challenging about living in a true democracy is that having the privilege to make our mark forces us to be held responsible for the manner in which we do so, viz., the manner in which we carry out the democratic process — which has now irrevocably shifted the course of our nation’s history by entrusting it to someone who is not only utterly unproven but downright fucking dangerous.

And we’ve no one to blame but ourselves.

Whether or not you are a Trump supporter is of no consequence to me. Rather, what proves extraordinarily consequential to all of us is the verity that those symptoms are grimly indicative of a greater affliction, which is the greater need for a now empirically confirmed majority of the American electorate to exclude, to discriminate, to isolate and, while I hate to say it, to hate.

Your vote is your vote, just as your rights are your rights. I can’t and won’t hold anyone’s politics against them — nor should you reading this. What I can and will do is hold everyone accountable for the virtues they live by and the actions which follow, because what other proven method is there to accurately gauge someone’s character?

With that said, I make the following openly editorialized statements:

If you believe it is an acceptable practice to deny Muslim citizens the right to live in this country, or likewise Muslim foreigners and refugees the right to emigrate here, then we won’t have much to talk about, I’m afraid.

Similarly, if you believe it is acceptable to sexually assault a woman in an entitled effort to get her attention, we won’t have a lot to claim in the way of common ground, either.

And if you sincerely believe that building a wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico is a solution to anything (or even a feasible notion), well, tequila is about as far as our relationship will go.

Now, time to wrap up.

Fast forward: Hillary Clinton just finished delivering her concession speech, and I can say resolutely that she has never appeared more presidential; she was graceful, composed and dignified as hell in defeat.

She was transparent in conveying her pain, measured in explaining her disappointment, and inspiring in her reassurance of our future. Of course, it put a smile on my face to see good ol’ Slick Willy hovering in the backdrop, smiling wryly and being of about as much use as it’s possible for a man in his position to be.

A small part of me has the sneaking suspicion that a small part of him is secretly overjoyed.

One of my friends and colleagues, who shall remain nameless per her request, succeeded in encouraging me with a beautiful sentiment while considering the results this morning, one which Secretary Clinton iterated in her address.

The present reality is that Donald Trump will take the Presidential Oath in January of 2017; that has been decided, for good or ill (you know which I lean towards). We can protest and object and deny — in fact, we should — but the ballots have been cast, and our fate has been sealed, whatever it may hold.

Now it’s time to be at peace with that, and more importantly, to make the most of prevailing circumstances; because at day’s end, it’s not the man or woman in office who will decide the future of our country.

An administration — actually, any form of government — is nothing more than a system, an institution, one which exists for the purpose of delegation and oversight. While our leadership may in fact be charged with guiding our future, facilitating it, only we are capable of proactively bettering it.

Keep in mind, a true leader does more than just command, (s)he ought primarily to uplift, empower, and inspire.

It would be incredibly easy for me to succumb to my inner cynic after these events, to fold under the ubiquitous, oppressive wave of defeatism gripping our country, to just fucking give up; and that was my initial response, I will admit.

But after watching Hillary Clinton concede her campaign — and with such devastating clarity — I’m consciously choosing to be more politically motivated rather than simply reverting to pessimism. Donald Trump is practically guaranteed to fuck this country up beyond recognition or repair, and that’s on us, so onward we must march.

And yet, dear readers, the fact remains that the widespread sickness of our nation lies not within Trump or Hillary, nor either major party, any political entity or social denomination, but within ourselves. We suffer from a cancer of divisive rhetoric, of willful delusion, anger and blind prejudice.

We are not well, it’s true…but that doesn’t mean we can’t be.

You don’t have to like, agree with or even respect any of what I’m saying — and I sincerely hope that some of you don’t — but regardless of your convictions, everyone has to fully acknowledge that, whatever your politics or morals, this is an undeniably critical turning point in American history, so we are committed to act accordingly.

Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t look away. Don’t fucking give up — never give up. Instead, let’s come together. Let’s face this shit head on and prove we’re good for more than just herpes, student debt and social media; because we are. I say fuck the haters, fuck the status quo, and above all else, absolutely fuck apathy.

Who’s to tell us our generation can’t truly make America great again?

One thought on “What’s Next?

  1. I was head down in work on Tuesday night, not even paying attention to the election unfolding. I had cast my absentee ballot for Hillary (in the state of Texas…so I guess it was just symbolic) and I didn’t think for a second she would lose.

    As much of an imperfect candidate as she was, I truly believe she would have been a fantastic president, continuing to build upon Obama’s initiatives, and hopefully correcting some blemishes and imperfections in certain laws (i.e. the ACA). And, while I would never vote solely on this issue, it would have been fantastic to see the first female president of the United States. Yes, she can be a war hawk. And yes, she is an opportunistic individual, seeming to have flipped and flopped and flipped back on a number of issues, but I was entirely optimistic for a Clinton presidency round 2, and I felt proud to cast my vote.

    But once I started to see those texts coming in saying that Trump was gaining ground… then it was close…. then he was WINNING… then he had….won, I honestly felt like I was in a daze. I made the mistake millions of us had by underestimating his reach and resonance, and completely overestimating the pollsters, media, and ability of the American people to deny such a deplorable jackass (for all the reasons you mentioned above) the highest seat in the land.

    My analysis on the election and moving forward:

    There is a deep, and partially misguided/partially warranted, HATRED for established politics. I understand that, but what I don’t understand is how middle America, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 and 2012, could buy the snake oil Trump was selling and actually think he will do one iota to improve their lives.

    That they could view Trump, instead of Hillary Clinton, as their champion is unbelievable. But they did. And here we are.

    While it’s difficult to be optimistic now, I think back to 2008 and have some hope. Remember that minority of Republicans in the Senate in 2008 that made is so damn difficult for President Obama to do ANYTHING? Well, I really hope the senate Democrats were taking notes, because they need to pull all the punches they have to slow this administration to a crawl before 2018 elections.

    That, and standing together with all of my friends and loved ones: my female friends, my gay friends, my non-white friends, everyone who feels genuinely afraid with this man as the leader of the free world. I will stand with them and support them with all I have to give so we can hopefully ride this nasty wave into what I believe will be a better future.

    My take on political beliefs and how they affect relationships:

    I get what you’re saying about it being difficult to relate to friends and colleagues who share different political beliefs, and how that can actually deteriorate the relationship. While some issues, like economic and foreign policy, can be muddled in grey areas with both sides intending to achieve the same outcome through (sometimes wildly) different means, issues like LGBT rights, a woman’s right to choose, religious tolerance, a humane immigration policy, and many others are about as cut and dry as whether In N Out is better than Whataburger.

    (Ok terrible joke… but I think In N Out is the inarguable winner!)

    I don’t know what the answer is, but my gut tells me it’s not as simple as just cutting those people out or blocking them on social. I feel that only creates the echo chamber that I’ve lived in for the past how many months that told me unquestionably that Hillary Clinton would be president.

    We do need more discussion, but I think we need to throw out the “moral relativist” BS first and come together as a culture of Americans and say: I don’t care if your religion or culture where you’re from says that gay people shouldn’t get married or women shouldn’t have equal rights. That’s not going to fly in the United States and they’re part of our CULTURAL VALUES that cannot be touched.

    Well… I definitely have more to say, but my fingers are tired so I’d love to continue the discussion with you!

    Thank you for writing about these and other issues,



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