by Tyler Beckett
Have a good evening, I said to my coworkers Tuesday, November 9. Hope everything goes well. It’s difficult to say, though my boss and I want the same things: we view one result as objectively better, the clearest moral choice in any election ever. I know because I’ve eavesdropped. It’s bad, but it’s a small office. Almost every day at lunch she is on the phone with friends, in shock over the policies, the KKK endorsement. I offer solidarity, but what does that do? I’m barely at risk. I overhear a meeting where someone points out her resemblance to Maya Angelou, and I wonder if she feels caged.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. For a year we cringed and cried at the insults, the jabs, the insinuations. We tried to explain the horror, but there was all this noise about emails. Now it’s done and it’s not emails, not really, it’s abortion, the Rust Belt, it’s middle-of-the-country resentment for coastal pride, and we should have seen it coming if we didn’t have our heads so far up our asses, and I want to know if I could come out. Or if I could convert and still enjoy Thanksgiving with my family. I want to know if I could marry a Latina, and if our kid came out brown or disabled or a woman and if she got assaulted would you stand by her? I consider my freedoms, my options going forward, and I wonder if they have shrunk. I think we could have had both, you know, we could have protected Us and Them or done away with ‘us and them’ and just been Us, but your man wants some of Us wrapped in walls, wants Them to stay Them, an other-people.
Now a few days have passed and I have stood with friends who were grieving and who are angry, and we have repeated to ourselves everything that could go wrong. It’s a litany of fears, some apocalyptic in scale, but what I keep coming back to is all the ways I think this election, this whole 2016 melee, shouldn’t have happened. If we were this angry we should have counted to ten, we should have written a poem or gone for a walk with a loved one instead of calling Mexicans rapists. We had all these resources that were supposed to fill us with hope and compassion: we had church and prayer, we had superhero movies and Pixar, we had Hamilton the Musical and Veterans Day and the Olympic Games all laid out before us, but were we even in the same audience as one another?
Why couldn’t we say “Washington doesn’t care about rural towns?” I might have agreed.
Why couldn’t we say, “Black Lives Matter” and carry on from there?
Why couldn’t we say, “I’m hurting,” and expect that to be taken seriously?
We can start from here: 2016 has been unacceptable. I know I share blame in that, and people who vote like me have culpability, too. There should be a list in everyone’s head, titled “Ways in Which People I Agree With Are Wrong And/Or Harmful.” Five items, minimum. I say this because I know there’s already another list, titled “Facts That You Must Accept,” and we use this list like they are cage bars when they should be an open doorway. You’ll be surprised what the lists say.
“People can be good if they try,” says one list.
“My home must be safe for me,” says another.
“You and I deserve,” starts another, and the list of things we deserve goes on forever.
I am a writer, and I am encouraged to pursue brevity. I want to stop doing that. I want to take twenty words where I could have used ten. I want to block off afternoons to visit coffee shops and talk with the friend who disagree with me, because I think we don’t disagree, not really. And if we knew our neighbors again and took down the neighborhood gates, and if we gave each other space when we needed it and welcomed each other back when we returned, and if “I am hurting” meant something no matter who said it or how many times they said it . . .
Well. “What if”s” are a dime a dozen, right? Let’s talk in concrete terms. Black, brown, queer, immigrant, and disabled people rarely supported Trump, but white evangelicals flocked to him. If you are a white evangelical, ask yourself why your beliefs, which apparently match Trump’s, are found so unappealing to marginalized groups. There is an explanation here, and it is not that these groups don’t know what’s good for themselves. Ask yourself what you can do to make sure people that are hurting feel safe and loved around you. And then share your hurt. I, and many like me, will offer you what solidarity we can, whatever it’s worth.
Tyler Beckett is a guy from Georgia trying to unpack what all that means. He has work at Guernica and fiction forthcoming at Dogzplot and Matchbook.