The election results have cut to the quick. After a full week of protests from a stunned half-a-country, both the President and President Elect have called for calm. Peace rallies are cropping up now – “hug-ins,” and a “hand-holding” of hundreds around a lake, and a student/teacher-organized multi-hour march through a town to promote an accord.
At the same time, political, environmental and human rights groups are begging us to rally behind the issues and work together to safeguard against dismantling reforms that have been made.
I get it. We can’t continue this way. I don’t condone the violence, the fires, the blocking freeways and highways. But my personal anger rages. And while I am not a person of color or of a religion or creed that might attract negative behavior, I continue to react. I do not like the person I see in the mirror, sometimes spitting-mad, then depressed, unsmiling, stunned, and always terribly irritated by every minor inconvenience.
And worst of all, Humor, that irreverent and goofy thing that dwells within me, so close to my surface, suddenly packed up and left Tuesday night sometime between the cup of tea I made to steady my nerves and going to bed. It left, and it took Sleep with it.
Every night for eight nights I think long and hard about what has happened, and attempt to figure out why I hurt so much. There’s no denying it; I feel like I’ve been wronged. The hurting won’t stop.
I don’t react against the millions who voted this way, including relatives and friends. In the end, somebody wins and somebody loses. I know how good it feels to have a candidate I’ve supported win; it’s great, isn’t it? I don’t want to take this celebratory feeling away from anyone. So it’s not just that my candidate lost.
Last night, somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m., it hit me. Of course, I have been dismayed by the public lack of restraint the now President Elect has demonstrated for the past 17 months, and I hope that most of us, at the very least, has shaken our heads at the charged rhetoric. My urban neighborhood and my entire city is an ethnically-diverse region. I live in Silicon Valley. The entire San Francisco Bay Area is diverse. We chose, and continue to choose to live in an area that my grandmother, who was born in 1900, would have called “a regular League of Nations.”
When I walk my dog down the main artery, every day I breathe in the wonderful aromas of spices from multiple restaurants featuring world cuisines. The local movie theater is a hub for Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada and English movies. The shops and businesses are owned by neighbors who hail, or whose families once hailed from countries around the globe.
My kids’ grammar school was another “League of Nations” with 26 languages spoken by families. Some girls in my kids’ classes wore headscarves. Sometimes parents, who had just moved to the area and who had studied English in their native countries, volunteered in classes for weeks and months, translating for their own young children who, just starting school, had not yet had the opportunity to study English. Other language-rich volunteers within the community helped many a student feel comfortable with English. In fact, the school district, our school and parents’ organization held numerous tutorials with translations provided for non-English speaking parents so they could learn how to navigate their way through the school system. One thing was certain; we were in this together.
Along with the regular curriculum, all the kids studied music and technology. They learned about holidays throughout the globe and they sampled foods from across the continents. On special occasions they shared traditional dress. They played with each other and did homework and projects together and it never occurred to these kids that there was anything different or odd or unusual about any of this.
I’ve dedicated much of my time volunteering in and for schools. We, our family, chose to live here, and we embraced the diversity. And as with the other families around us, our children, all our children, would grow up together, study together and someday work in a global economy together where every ounce of understanding among individuals and nations could only be a benefit. This is Silicon Valley. A good chunk of success here is from working together. As school volunteers, we not only helped in class, we ran the cultural assembly programs, we engaged the kids in the arts, we wrote the newsletters, helped with the field trips, mentored, wrote about the successes of the school in a state and national program, ran the fund-raisers, made the copies, decorated the classrooms and the cupcakes, served on school site committees and represented the school at district-wide parent committees, and told kids that we really did live at school. The staff welcomed us warmly. We were partners. As parent volunteers, the more engaged we became, the more we realized that our own children’s success was in every way rooted in the success of all the children at school, no matter what learning disability they had or which language they spoke. We worked hard to counter bullying, embracing research-based practices that the entire school district supported. Parent engagement programs taught us how to empower youth, how to provide kids with assets that would enable them to meet challenges head-on. We adopted sound, proven techniques that highlighted a positive school climate.
And so here is my personal epiphany, figured out in the wee hours of the morning last night. For the past 17 months, we have heard nothing but bullying and calling out groups originating from different places on the globe, belittling people – people who have handicaps, people who speak different languages, people who worship in non-Christian places, women, blacks, gays, people who dress differently, and the list goes on. I will be the first to tell you that there are great challenges in our society, but after spending what I am proud to call my life’s work, the President-Elect has not only spit upon my values and those of my colleagues and neighbors and friends and residents of a beautiful place we call home, stomping on years of thoughtful, loving and hard work to help our kids, all our kids thrive, he has made it fashionable to seek-out with aggression and malice any and all who may be seen as a threat, any who look or act differently based on some perceived difference, forgetting that so much of the greatness of our country was built on the backs of immigrants who were also persecuted.
As a result, I feel shame that this is the course our nation has chosen. Change is fine. Bring it on. But let’s be darned certain that the change we make yields real progress. Making our country less inclusive of diversity is change, but just the worst kind. Progress is not made by bullying and threatening violence and committing violent acts. Nor is it made by yelling abusive comments at others. And we certainly do not make any kind of progress when children are afraid to go to school because they are told that they will be arrested and deported as soon as they open their door. One young child packed a suitcase on election night. A student, a young woman at a local university, was assaulted because she wears a hijab; she was nearly choked. There have been many, many reports of racial slurs, violence, and assaults. How do hate crimes enact positive change?
So I too, now, call for some semblance of order. Yes, from damaging riots, but also from people who think it is within their rights to persecute another for how he or she looks, acts, thinks, prays, or speaks. I chose to work for years, doing my part as a parent and citizen, to ensure that my kids and their classmates and friends were safe, well-adjusted and ready to succeed in a world that is, communication-wise, without borders. And in 17 short months, the gold-standard has been reduced to nothing more than a barnyard brawl.
And that’s why I’m not sleeping.
November 16, 2016