17 Nov 2016
Navigating Through New York City Post-Election 2016
The evening of November 8th will be one of those pivotal lifetime moments where you look back and reminisce, “Remember where you were when Donald Trump stole the White House?” Personally the last time I saw the hour of 3am on a Tuesday was when I first arrived in NYC pre “big girl job” and purged all the “ended up at One Oak” nights out of my system. But like half of the country, I emerged groggy eyed and solemn spirited on Wednesday morning after having stared at a screen in disbelief all night until the unimaginable was called at 3am. Ironically, the skies darkened and cried all Wednesday, personifying the city’s mourning in the wake of what many would call a nightmare.
In the days following the election, the five stages of grief were palpable throughout New York City’s streets. Wednesday alone I witnessed five subway goers openly weeping on their way to work. There was an uncanny silence that permeated through otherwise buzzing commonplaces, as if there was no brainpower left for conversation after processing the news. My work, a highly progressive, inclusive corporation, brought in grief counselors to assist in processing. This may sound excessive, but after hearing the fearful testimonials from my minority friends, the fear they’re feeling from acts of hatred is real. Hours later, action began. Brave individuals sprung into action, leading our rallies (along with Lady-Gaga and her monster truck), igniting the world’s dampened spirits, and making headlines through solidarity in protest.
One of the many reasons why I live in New York City and can’t imagine myself calling anywhere else home, is the community’s shared progressive values. After growing up in Rhode Island (a truly wonderful democratic state but comparatively culturally “vanilla”) I found myself infatuated with the melting pot of culture, open-mindedness, and acceptance that the people New York embody. It’s impossible to define every subgroup thriving in each neighborhood’s cultural mecca here; from the William Esper studying starving artist waiting for his big casting break, to the local bartender off the boat from Slovenia studying holistic nutrition during the day. We were founded as an immigrant destination, and there’s arguably nowhere more diverse in the country. HOW do we coexist, you ask? Truthfully, by bonding over a few vital qualities all New Yorkers can agree we share: hard-working, candid, judgment free, resilient, and a little quirky.
What was most eye opening about Election 2016 was the rude awakening I received that I’ve been both spoiled and blinded by my metropolitan oasis- even now as we react supporting each other. The friends and colleagues I surround myself with, the social groups I immerse myself in, even the company I work for – we all spearhead the forefront of liberal social empowerment, be it women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, or backing the Black Lives Matter movement. While I personally lean fiscally conservative, I couldn’t imagine sacrificing my vote to someone who vehemently opposes common practices of kindness and decency, someone whose campaign thrived off creating cultural divides that this great city bridges on a daily basis.
I’m ashamed to admit I was shocked by the result, because for me, and most New Yorkers, a Trump-led world that was built on a foundation of hate was incomprehensible. Ignoring my thoughts about his consistently offensive teenage-like behavior (which is a source of anxious entertainment to my cousins throughout Europe laughing nervously at America), he was also incapable of articulating actual action items for his political “stances” and translating loose policies into a tangible PLAN to “Make America Great Again.” So how could ANYONE elect an ambiguous leader that draws his strength from messages of hate, homophobia, islamophobia, sexism, while also normalizing rape culture?
As I screened the election at SoHo House, (the infamously overpriced venue ultimately offered open bar for otherwise $20 drinks to all attendees experiencing this stomach churning moment together) it dawned on me this campaign was so polarizing that it truly left either side with tunnel vision glasses on (except for Michael Moore). While I am constantly surrounded by likeminded individuals who share my values and beliefs, it became clear throughout the night that a good portion, if not 50% of voters, felt completely opposite to me, and held such a hopelessly desperate view of America that they were so obliged to buy into propaganda, buzzwords, and con-artistry…. ***See editors note.
So ignoring Trump, the sadness I felt was for the rest of my country. Burning questions ate at me while I tried to sleep: Who were these majority red state folk who felt so desperate and underserved by our nation that they were willing to put aside all common sense and gamble on a reality TV star? What, specifically, did they hear in Trump’s empty buzzword-filled promises that spoke to them intrinsically, blinding them to his severe morale deficits? Was their standard of daily living so unbearable that a Trump America was the lesser blow? The bible belters screaming pro-life, are you also pro-life if it were a result of unwarranted Presidential pussy grabbing? I digress.
While scouring my newsfeed on November 8th for answers, I found myself paying most attention to the “secret Trump supporters” that ousted themselves after feeling empowered for the first time to speak their mind without fear of retaliation. I yearned for some tangible insight that would answer some these burning questions I had, once the sadness, anger, and depression somewhat subsided (I’m not sure it ever will fully). So I engaged in quizzical discussion to seek their truth.
On one end of the Republican spectrum, I saw those so fed up with the current establishment that they honestly believed gambling on a caricature Commander In Chief could result in a better overall situation for our nation. They overlooked his personal flaws and honed in on HRC’s, ultimately finding hope in the unknown because it was better than the known. With another Trump-voting sector, you have those who care so deeply for one specific issue that speaks to them on a personal level; be it bringing jobs back to America because they believe this is an election that comes down to survival, or those who align their vote with conservative religious agenda and oppose social issues Obama’s administration made strides in progressing.
As revolting as this will seem to most of my NYC peers, the latter group’s mentality is actually more understandable to me. What I’ve learned most is that we’re a culmination of our surroundings, associations, and experiences. If you’ve been brought up in a “red state” where you’ve been negatively impacted by Democrats’ policies, born into a family feeding you the perspective of the left, or find yourself in a life-stage so desperate and desolate that you believe a homophobic, hate-spewing, fear-inducing, self-admitting womanizer is your country’s savior… Then I actually feel terribly sorry that your surroundings have failed you.
These voters haven’t spent quality time with the amazing immigrants who do incredible work for our country on a daily basis. It took my roommate FIVE YEARS to get her citizenship and she speaks English better than most, works her ASS off stimulating our economy, and contributes messages of love and kindness to everyone she meets. These voters haven’t had the privilege to live in my judgment-free-world where divides of sex, gender, and race aren’t visible to the love-colored-glasses we wear.
I have no doubt time will reveal the mistake our country made last Tuesday (though I truly hope I’m wrong), but what’s ultimately more important is acknowledging and facing the great divide and lack of empathy that’s eating away at this country. I can’t bring myself to believe all Trump supporters make cognitive decisions based on hatred, though recent post-result events have convincingly damped my spirits. Aren’t all humans inherently good at heart? Can we find ANY human commonality during this modern time when it appears red and blue states are mortal enemies? I almost feel like America needs to undergo a four-year episode of “house swap” where we’re forced to live and interact with our mortal enemies, engaging in non-political conversation to understand where we come from on a basic human level.
While I want to stay in my liberal NYC bubble and protest everyday with my political allies, I feel frustrated knowing I’m only be preaching to the choir. The majority of New Yorkers already share my pain, my sadness, my anxiety toward a seemingly bleak unknown future. The bigger task at hand is creating widespread perspective and creating an America that isn’t segregated by a ballot. The wall is already built, and it’s in our minds and hearts, grouping us into “the enemy” and “our allies.”
It is now a personal mission to teach perspective out of love before Election 2020.
The children in Pennsylvania shouting “White Supremacy” and “build a wall” at their middle-school table… The men behind the Wellesley College incident…The culprits behind white supremacy vandalization popping up in waves since Trump’s win…
Why do you harbor so much hate in your heart?
The task is more difficult, but it’s one of grandiose importance… We MUST engage in dialogue on a daily basis with “the other” that begins from a place of commonality. As content creators and media, we can’t continue this polarizing dialogue for the purpose of ratings and headlines. There’s a way to storytell by creating empathy while still getting your point across, opening others’ minds to an alternate perspective without compromising beliefs.
To my friends in New York, I (we) will continue standing by our beliefs and protesting with you- but there’s more work to be done and it takes place outside our safe space. We start by doing good on a daily basis, engaging those outside our liberal world with an open heart, and hopefully reprogramming old systems of belief through kindness. Then, perhaps one day, our country will resemble shades of violet instead of our harsh spackled pallet of red and blue.
**** Personal thoughts: Truly, if you think once-Democrat Trump really gives AF about Republican social issues, think again. He is a billionaire undergoing a late midlife crisis who wanted to experience the ultimate power-trip, being the leader of our free world and expose “flaws” in our political system. He saw opportunity to seize this by igniting a large segment of America whose voice hadn’t been heard in 8 years, and he fed them buzzwords “pro life,” “build a wall,” “MAGA” that weren’t supported by any substance, other than the conviction of which he spoke. Put any alpha-male speaking aggressively in tenor next to Ben Carson and they will appear to have “authority” even if they speak gibberish. Trump is an entertainer and, similar to Kanye West, knows exactly how to speak to his audience and play the media’s game to create the biggest American scam of all time. While I may despise his ethos, I have to give credit to his marketing strategy – from one inside media personnel to another. Only time will tell what he ACTUALLY cares about pursuing and what was said for shock value to gain votes.
Let me know your thoughts below, can’t wait to hear from you!
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Photo Credit: CAHZ Productions and ZAPPIEN