Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pandora's box

It is day five, and I'm still emotionally wrought over the election results.

Still in disbelief that, as rarely as it happens, the popular vote went one way and the electoral college another.

I work in an elementary school, and it feels like an alternate universe.  Every day, I reinforce values of kindness and compassion.  We hold children to expectations of "please" and "thank you", "Good morning!" and "I'm sorry." Expectations that until election day, I thought were universal in our country. 

Apparently, they aren't.  And now, I have to battle the idea that sure, it's okay to act like a playground bully--look, you can still be elected president!  As if educators' jobs weren't difficult enough....

It's ironic that I read Last Stop on Market Street to my students this past week, a Newbery-Caldecott-CORETTA SCOTT KING award winner, at the very time when a man who publicly, blatantly, unkindly spoke about people of color, of disability, of women, is now supposed to represent this country, which is inhabited by people of color, of disability, and millions of women.

I started writing this post three days ago, and paused after the paragraph above, waiting to see what the fallout would be this week.  It is, unfortunately, just as I feared.  I strongly believe that people are responsible for their own actions--but I also know behavior does not occur in a vacuum.  And now that racism, sexism, and intolerance have been legitimized by electing this man,  acts of hatred and bigotry are on the rise. Pandora's box has been opened, and the effects are being felt in schools nationwide:  PBS Newshour: How schools are dealing with post-election fallout

I've read and heard people say that this is just like any other election.  Your side lost, so just get over it and move on.  Every person I've heard say this has been white, Christian, heterosexual, and for those I know personally, in a loving relationship with a spouse who is kind and caring.  Their lives are not directly affected by bigotry and sexism; their religious beliefs and marital status are not being questioned.

This is not a "temper tantrum".  I am not upset simply because "my side" lost.  My side has lost plenty of times, and I have never felt this disappointed before; at least I could respect the winners of those elections.  If this man is supposed to be the best we can offer to lead our nation and represent us on the world's stage, then I am convinced we have lost sight of our American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. 

I have personal friends who are in marginalized groups.  I have a daughter who is thankfully living overseas now, in a country that is still working on equality for women, but where respect is a societal norm; I worry less about her being assaulted there than if she lived stateside.  I worked for years in special education, meeting the needs of the students who were mocked by the very man who is set to move into the White House. I have friends who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. 

I have been on the receiving end of sexual harassment in the workplace.  I have been bullied.  I am also aware that, by a matter of birth and luck, I am on the receiving end of so much privilege.  While I don't feel guilty about it, I feel it is my ethical duty to stand up for those who don't have access to such privilege.  

I'm going to start by displaying books in my school library that feature diversity, kindness, and compassion, and adding more to our collection.  I will smile and welcome all who enter my workplace.  I will continue to donate money and time to organizations who espouse ideals of acceptance and personal freedom and environmental stewardship.

I'm going to force myself to watch the interview of the president-elect this evening.  And then I'm going to tune out any media coverage that involves him directly.  Instead, I'm going to pay attention to what happens as a result of this election.  Actions speak louder than words; facts speak for themselves.  I'll be even more careful about my sources of information, and loudly promote news of goodwill and good deeds.  

That's where I want my energy and efforts to go.  Thankfully, no elected official, no matter how disrespectful, can stop me from doing that....yet.


  1. I love this, Christine. I feel the same. It's not that my candidate lost. It's that he won. That so many in my country condone and reward his behavior. I'm just dumbfounded, disappointed and so, so sad. Thank you for so eloquently sharing your thoughts.

    1. Thank you, Lauri. It will be an interesting few months, to say the least. I'll keep plugging away at making my corner of the universe a nice place to be.