It is not that I believe every Trump voter is hateful, misogynistic, racist, or xenophobic. It is that I know Trump is. He proved it over and over again during his campaign in no uncertain terms; he doubled-down when questioned, dug deeper holes for himself, and even revelled in his hate-speech. It is incredibly disappointing to have our head of state be a person about whom there is so little to admire. And I am still surprised that just under half of our voting population was willing to overlook such ENORMOUS character flaws — obvious, irredeemable deal-breakers, in my view.
But the deeper issue I see is the frightened faces of my many students of color, those from minority groups, or who do not fit the “ideal” purported by Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric. As a person of privilege, I am not afraid for myself (although as a woman, I have reason to be concerned). But how can I soothe my little 6th graders with dark skin? Whose families may have recently come to this country in search of a better life, which my own ancestors did before?
This is the day after, and in my school we have already had an incident where one student in a hallway group boasted that Trump would “kick you, and you, and you” out of the state. This is heartbreaking, and this is the reality we face. Our president-elect campaigned on messages like that, messages of hate and “us vs. them.” Of course our students picked up on it! Of course they think it’s appropriate to say those things at school!
It’s what I felt since the beginning — this election was never a vote about policy for me. Even though I disagree with the Republican party’s main tenets, none of my sadness comes from their rise to power yesterday. The president-elect is a hate-monger, and he spreads division like rot.
My hope moving forward is that somehow, the past year of election vomit was just for show, and as president, he will realize that there are more pieces to our country than the white ones.
For my students’ sake, I hope the rot doesn’t fester.
This morning I walked into school with the heaviest heart I have ever carried. I walked past the few early-bird students with surely the fakest smile plastered on my face and hoped they didn’t notice. During morning prep, the staff tried to conduct business as usual with glassy stares. We shared our shock, our sick stomachs, and our worry about the repercussions of the election. We drew up battle plans for they way we would handle any spill-over from students, how we would remind them of our constant message that school is a place for everybody.
School is where you are safe. School is where we have lots of different opinions, and that’s great! School is where we respect each others’ opinions, and they respect ours. School is a special place, a protected place, and we want EVERYONE.
So with our armour in place, we faced the day.
And you know what? I expected to need reserves of strength to comfort my scared kids. And there were scared kids, make no mistake. But there were also regular kids in class today. There were kids who were already thinking about when the next assignment was due, or what Monica said at lunch, or if they get to sit by their friend in math class.
In other words, life went on for my students. And life will go on for us too.
I ended today with a more peaceful heart. My concerns about our country’s new figurehead have not been assuaged, but I can also envision a more realistic future. Campaigns are always full of empty promises, and I can hold on to the hope that the worst of it was show business ( as vile, hateful, repugnant, and unforgivable as it was).
I doubt I’ll be happy about projected changes from the ruling party in the next four years, but I will cross my fingers that somehow, there will be normal levels of policy-disagreement-disgruntlement, and not crushing despair.
Hillary Clinton did not win, but I admire her in defeat as I admired her all along. I take strength from her encouragement: “This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”