The 2016 US presidential election has been a source of intense division in the United States, and in the Western world at large. I went to sleep before any of the electoral votes were announced, and woke up to what everyone in my home country already knew: Donald Trump is our new presidential elect.
Part of me was shocked by the results. I really didn’t think it could happen. That so many people (not the majority of people, mind you, as Clinton won the popular vote) could choose to back a man who has attacked religious freedom, women’s rights, the LGBTQ community, minorities, veterans…a man who has cheated his employees and contract workers countless times…a man who has solid support coming from several white supremacy groups. It all seems so unbelievable. And yet, here we are.
In the wake of the election there have been mounting reports of assault, battery, theft, threats, and intimidation lobbied against people in those groups Trump has demonized. There has also been violent protests on behalf of anti-Trump movements, and attacks against Trump supporters.
Everyone is scared.
Those who target minorities with violence are coming from a place of fear. We’ve been told our very way of life is in jeopardy due to XYZ. Muslims who will attack our country because they hate us. Homosexuals who will undermine the fabric of our society. Women who will emasculate men by demanding equal rights and treatment.
Those who are targeted are finding fear bubbling up inside them. A very real possibility of harm exists, and it seems to have been given the green light in many people’s eyes with this election. We (sort of) elected a man who is okay with sexual assault, rampant discrimination, and cruelty in many forms. Is it any wonder that those who ardently support these kinds of beliefs are coming out of the woodwork? Not to me. No, Trump himself isn’t directly responsible for the violence. But his rhetoric has given people courage where before there was, I think, some shame. It is his responsibility to condemn the actions of his followers.
I’m angry. Some of the people condoning these actions, even applauding them, are members of my family, and that reality just boggles me, leaves me shaking and my heart thumping a beat that sounds like what-the-fuck-what-the-fuck-what-the-fuck. I can’t shake my head hard enough to dislodge my disbelief.
I cried that first day. I cried again the day after, while scrolling through Facebook and looking—for the first time—at @ShaunKing’s Twitter feed. (For those who haven’t seen it, King is collecting reports of assault, battery, etc., perpetrated against others in the name of Trump.)
It’s a strange thing, being where I am while all this is happening. There are several US citizens living at the community where I’m staying. Several of them told me they didn’t vote because it didn’t matter, or because politics are beside the point. (The point being that we’re spiritual beings, and our focus should be on expanding consciousness while social and political movements are mere distractions. [At least that’s how I understand it.])
There are some here who felt the election very keenly, myself included. And yet, it’s all very far removed from my day-to-day life. I can’t join a protest. I can’t offer to walk my friends home if they feel unsafe. I won’t see, in front of me, a single attack. I chose to leave the country before the election for this very reason, but now I find myself regretting it on some levels. I want to be there, so I can help in any way I can. I want to be there, so I can have the opportunity to stand up, say something. To use the privilege I have as a white, middle class US citizen. Because it is a privilege. Not something I earned, but something I have nonetheless, and I believe I have some duty to use that privilege, when and where I can.
It feels a bit selfish to be in the Andes, away from these things. There’s this very understandable urge to want to flee the US, which I invested in to some point when I booked my plane ticket. I’m torn, really. I feel like my home is in India. Not the US, certainly not Peru (we’ll get into that in a later post). But again, where is my duty? Where does my responsibility lie?
Where is yours?
There are no easy answers, I think, and each of us must look inside ourselves to find the answer to these questions. I haven’t found mine, yet.