I have a lot of hopes and fears going in to this Election Day.
Today does not feel like a choice between two candidates with opposing views, or even between two candidates with opposing values.
Today I feel like democracy, global stability, and the last shreds of decency hang in the balance.
I’ve been trying to make sense of it all these last few months, and I think I have a clearer perspective on how my experiences and situation – including, perhaps most significantly, that I live a major metropolitan area – distance me from huge swaths of the U.S. population. I’ve come to recognize that the feelings of anger, hopelessness, outrage, and the sense that the system is broken, are very real for tens of millions of people. And I’ve come to believe that the pain that this election has exposed is not going away any time soon.
But, try as I may, what I still fail to understand, and where I cannot help but feel sadness and fear, comes down to what I understood to be American values.
I would like to believe that there are immutable truths we hold self-evident as a people and as a nation.
I would like to believe that any individual seeking public office – let alone the highest office in the land – must show that he rejects hatred, he rejects demagoguery, he rejects demeaning women and Hispanics and Muslims and pretty much anyone else who comes in his path.
I would like to believe that we all recognize and remember that we are a country of immigrants, a country of misfits, a country that fled persecution and marginalization to form a more perfect union.
I would like to believe, while our union is very far from perfect and while our language of unity has, since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, papered over inconsistencies and outright hypocrisies, that someone who expresses hatred and disrespect isn’t “not politically correct,” he is trampling on core American values.
I would like to believe that Ryan Lenz, the editor of the Hatewatch blog at the Southern Poverty Law Center, is overstating when he says, “For racists in this country, this campaign has been a complete affirmation of their fears, worries, dreams and hopes…Most things they believe have been legitimized, or have been given the stamp of approval, by mainstream American politics to the point now where it’s no longer shameful to be a racist.”
I would like to believe that Richard Spencer, who coined the term alt-right in 2008, is wrong in crediting Trump with “sling-shott[ing] us a long way” and that he’s wrong when he says that he expects that “we can just look at 2015 and 2016 as the beginning of a new stage.”
And I have to believe that today our nation will show the world that the core values upon which it was founded still remain – albeit under attack and deeply wounded.
I have to believe that today will not be the day that the long march towards tolerance was halted.
I have to believe that we won’t look back at today as the last day that our democracy was strong.
I have to believe that we will remain “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
God Bless America.