A few days before the election, my girls watched Cinderella – again. Not the old school animated version, but the newer Kenneth Branagh film. I’m not a fairytale princess hater, but I don’t much like the messaging of these stories: distraught girl endures hardship, gives up everything or patiently awaits – sometimes while in a deep sleep – for a prince of some sort to rescue her. I’ve lectured my girls on the lack of strong female role models in these tales and I’m pretty sure they get it. All three of them are outspoken and confident, hard workers, considerate thinkers and leaders in their own way. Still, they like a good fairytale every once in a while, especially one featuring a dashing prince (Richard Madden anyone?).
When we first saw Cinderella in theaters, I was pissed. I wanted an updated version of the story, a subversive Cinderella who might have spit in her stepmother’s tea or “accidentally” ruined her stepsister’s hair with a too hot curling iron. Instead we got the same sweet girl of yore, stung by the cruelty of those around her but unwilling or unable to summon the pluck to change her circumstance. She endured her life with the words of her dying mother constantly floating through her head: “Have courage and be kind.” Really? If it were me, I would have put Nair in the evil stepsisters’ hair while they slept, let the mice wreak havoc on the stepmother, swiped all the silver and high-tailed it to the next kingdom over.
But this is not what Cinderella does. She does not abandon her home or the life she once knew.
Today, we woke to the definitive news that Donald J. Trump is our president-elect. I did not vote for him and like many of us who are with Hillary Clinton, I am devastated, confused and scared. I’m anxious about the Big Picture because I do not know what Trump’s policies are on anything other than he’s hell-bent on dismantling what we have. I am worried about the divisiveness that Trump’s campaign uncovered. We cannot argue that racism, misogyny, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and many other dangerous “isms” were ever gone from our democracy. They have been there all along, humming in the wings, waiting for their cue to tap dance gleefully on stage. Trump didn’t create these biases; he simply opened the door for them to emerge in all their hateful glory.
It’s terrifying and there’s a very real part of me that wants to pack my bags, grab my girls, my husband and the dog and get the hell out of here.
But I will not.
Instead – and I can’t believe I’m about to quote a fairytale princess here – I will have courage and be kind. I don’t know what’s ahead of us with a Trump presidency, but I do know that what I believe in has not wavered: equal and civil rights for all, access to education, healthcare, housing, affordable childcare and economic opportunity for all, no matter race, sexual orientation, religion or gender, red state or blue.
I know I am not alone in this. I know there’s an entire #PantsuitNation with me but more than that, there’s a huge chunk of this country yearning for the same. I refuse to believe that every American who voted for Trump hates women or wants to send every immigrant packing. I do not believe that they’re all racist and homophobic. Numbers of them are, yes – we saw that without a doubt during the campaign – but not all of them, and I have to believe not the majority of them.
What I do believe is that millions of people in this country have felt disenfranchised for a very long time. They’ve lost their jobs or are living close to the poverty line. They still can’t afford healthcare or three meals a day, to buy a house or to send their kids to good, safe schools. They have been living scared and angry for years. Jumping on the Trump bandwagon may have seemed like the only way out and maybe the good people who voted for him did so despite his abominable rhetoric. To me, that seems like a scream for change, an extreme plea to be seen and heard.
I live in a bubble here on the sunny, liberal west coast of America. I am white and privileged, both economically and socially. I have both college and graduate degrees. My children go to private school. I have a beautiful house, plenty of healthy food and good healthcare. I live in an area that is, for the most part, tolerant of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. This is my circumstance. I am lucky to have been born into it and luckier still to have the means to maintain it. I don’t apologize for it – it is what it is – but for the first time ever, as I sit at my desk in utter disbelief, I realize that I have been severely out of touch with the rest of this great nation. I had no idea how furious people were and that their fury would translate into hate or worse, the election of an intemperate, entirely inexperienced, vitriolic, former reality-TV star as president.
I am scared and sad and sorry. I am worried about my daughters and neighbors and friends. I fear that a great wave of Conservatism will sweep over this country in the next four years, making it a place where I no longer feel comfortable living. The possibility is real, but just like Cinderella, I can hack it. I won’t abandon my home. I want to stay, dig in and help goodness take root in a real and concrete way. I want to reach out to the people around me, help where I can, listen with compassion, stand up for what I believe in and show my girls how to do the same.
I will have courage and be kind because no matter what, together we are stronger.
What will you do?
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, with this week’s sentence being: “When it comes to the unexpected or to change…”