A lot of us are in a lot of pain this week, shock and confusion, and struggling to process it all. But we know we have to look to the future.
In her concession speech on Wednesday Hillary Clinton (who still made a lot of history this election) said
"I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, someone will, and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.... And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and to achieve your dreams."
In times like these it's more important than ever to let our voices be heard. Milk's mission is to amplify female voices and today we want to hear from as many women as possible. To remind each other, ourselves, and the world that we will keep pushing forward. While it is important for us to recognize our feelings of confusion, frustration, heartbreak, and anger, it is equally important to remind ourselves that love is the most powerful of all.
So this week we're offering a space for discussion. This is a space for you to share how you're feeling. This is a space for you to verbalize and process your feelings in hopes that in doing so you will find a path for moving forward.
How has this week felt for you? Tell us your ups and downs. How have you and your community responded? Have you found any silver linings? What gives you hope for the future? What will you do to help create the world you want to see?
Send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add them below.
What gives me hope is the image that shows how 18-25 year olds voted in this election. Nearly every single state is blue. My father emailed it to me with the text, “there’s hope for the future, and it’s yours”. It brought an entirely new set of tears. We are a new generation that is ready for equality, for change, for making our country safe and secure both economically and socially.
We millennials—who constantly are defined by our selfie-taking, our instagramming, our tumbling, our tweeting—we are the ones that are going to make the changes of the future. We won’t let ourselves be set back in time, won’t let the government divide us, we are going to stand up and make sure we get the future we want.
We are going to be the next set of politicians, of lawyers, of teachers, of writers, of volunteers, of presidents. We will be the ones to make this country into something truly great—a country with a sense of love and unity and equality.
We are going to raise our children to be open minded, loving individuals that blend into one group, instead of separating into several different ones. It won’t matter who comes from what background, or what someone wears, who they love, or what pronouns they prefer. We know that everyone deserves a place in this world, and we are going to teach our children those beliefs. So events like this, where hatred, xenophobia, and division come into play, will never happen again.
This isn’t over. This is just the beginning. We may have lost this one, but we are not done yet. Our voices will get louder, and we won’t give up. We will have that day when we get to call someone “Madam President”, and when it comes, the win will be that much sweeter.
As devastating as this outcome is, as terrible as the consequences might be, I want to challenge myself and others to examine our assumptions about others and the world around us and to try and imagine what motivates those we don’t agree with. Furthermore, I’d like to suggest that as we move forward, we endeavor to extend our compassion, our understanding, and our grace to those we disagree with, even if they do not always extend those things to us. Not because I think we will necessarily change anyone else by doing those things, but because I am certain that we will change ourselves. That it will make us stronger and braver.
I don’t think that there is any denying that a portion of the voters that elected Trump were motivated by bigotry, fear, and prejudice, and I expect that we will see more of all of those things in the coming years. But I am choosing to believe there were at least some voters for whom Trump represents a vision for America that, even if terribly imperfect, is better than the alternatives they saw on the ballot. I am not saying that I understand that vision or that I ever will, but I know that I have to make a conscious effort to try and see those whose political views differ from my own as motivated by a genuine desire for good, even if that good does not extend beyond themselves and people like them (which I think may be a problem many of them have failed to wrestle with).
Otherwise, my default assumption will lead me to subconsciously see them as ignorant or even evil, in direct opposition to me personally. If I don’t labor to see their humanity, I will only get entrenched in my anger and my own view of the world. The danger of that type of intransigence, of being convinced that you are absolutely right, is that this conviction will allow you to justify any means of imposing your view of the world on others. History has shown us again and again what that looks like. If we truly want to make the world better, our means must be worthy of the ends that we seek. We have to seek compromise. We have to work for peaceful solutions. The alternatives come all too easily.
I’m still processing the results of this election, but in the meantime, I feel the need to share something that happened to me on Election Day.
I work with a lot of men. Mostly white men, in fact; and the majority of them are ten plus years older than me. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to be not only the only woman on a call, or in a meeting, but also the only one under 40. I’ve heard lots of sexist comments and fight every single day to have my opinion and views taken seriously.
On Tuesday, I wore my “Nasty Women Vote” button all day; I couldn’t have been more proud to show my support for Hillary. As I walked down the hallway in my office, past two of these middle-aged white men, one of them (who is closer to my father’s age than mine) said to me with a shit-eating grin on his face, “Oh Gina, I always knew you were nasty” and proceeded to laugh at his joke with the other man.
You know who else would make/laugh at that joke? Our president-elect. Putting a man like that in office adds to the normalization of that behavior, and empowers people to continue to treat women as objects.
My run-in is not uncommon, not special, and not even close to the worst thing a man has ever said to me. Ask any woman you know, and I guarantee she has stories for days about being treated poorly. For this and many other reasons, my heart breaks when I think about what is to come in the next four years. Although I’m still trying to get myself together and summon the energy to fight, trust and believe I will find it.
I will find the energy to continue to fight for myself, and all other women and girls with Hillary’s words echoing in my head, “… never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” #imwithher #thefutureisfemale
-- Gina Teresa
I’m still grieving. I was so shocked by last week’s election results that I cried for two days, and I continue to cry on occasion. It’s okay to grieve. There is no right way to “get over” the election. Some of us never will get over it and that’s okay. As a cash-poor, queer, woman of color I have a lot on the line in this election so I’m taking the time to heal before getting to work.
But first let me set the record straight: systems of oppression were not going to disappear if Hillary Clinton was elected. Gender equality was not going to be achieved if Hillary Clinton was elected. The Glass Ceiling was going to be shattered for white women while women of color and trans folks and gender-nonconforming folks were left to clean up the glass if Hillary Clinton was elected. Thinking otherwise means that the most marginalized people in our society weren’t centered in the discourse surrounding the possibility of Hillary being our future president.
With that being said, our society under Hillary was going to be a little better than that under President-elect Trump. (I can’t believe he’s going to be sworn in as president in 2 months OH MY GOD.) His racist comments put people of color at risk. Make no mistake, though, white supremacy was always alive and thriving in the United States—it’s just more visible due, in part, to social media. We’ve seen a spike in hate crimes throughout the country and that will be reinforced by Trump’s harmful policies. Two of the most prominent policies at the forefront of my mind are his mass deportation plan and the possibility of him halting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Executive Order that President Obama signed. As a Latinx person with a mixed-status family and undocumented friends, I am scared for their well-being. Our immigration system is broken and undocumented people don’t deserve to be taken from their homes in the U.S. because of a faulty system.
As a queer person, I can’t fathom the thought that our Vice President-elect believes in gay conversion therapy but that is our reality.
Lastly, as a woman who works at Planned Parenthood and fights for reproductive rights everything is on the line. Mike Pence has led the crusade to defund Planned Parenthood and Trump at one instance on the campaign trail said people who get abortions should be criminalized. This is unacceptable and we won’t go back. Abortions should be safe, legal, and accessible for all those who want one. “Back-alley” abortions are harmful to the community and put many folks at risk. We can not accept an administration that thinks this way.
What keeps me hopeful for the future is the amount of people who are ready to take action whom weren’t ready before. Our collective power as people does not begin or end at voting. We can mobilize to demand our representatives do what is best for the community.
My mantra in organizing is this: Educate, Agitate, Organize.
Educate—start with yourself. See where you have privilege, how systems of power/oppression operate, what alternatives look like, and make sure that your resources come from different voices. Don’t just listen to white, cis, straight, and/or U.S. citizens; read books and articles from queer black women, undocumented folks, folks in the Global South.
Agitate—have difficult discussions with folks. WHITE PEOPLE I’M LOOKING AT YOU. 53+% of white women voted for Trump. It’s time that all white folks talk about race and racism. Recognize that you aren’t absolved from being racist. Take the time to educate your friends, family members, coworkers, etc. Don’t just block your racist peers on Facebook. Take the time to talk to them. People of color do not have the luxury of simply blocking people on social media when we’re being discriminated against. Harmful language is not acceptable. Trump uses harmful language that goes unchecked—his words are followed by violent actions. This doesn’t just end at race; have difficult discussions centered around transphobia, sexism, imperialism, capitalism, etc.
Organize—join community or campus organizations centered around liberation and justice. Donate to organization that continue the work if you aren’t able to join one. Advocate for those organizations. Not all events are accessible so if you can’t attend a protest or rally, spread the word. We have the power and we can make the change.
-- Jackeline Durón
"The wall isn't between East and West, it's between you and me"
That shoddily scripted graffiti still hangs above the Berlin wall despite being written 26 years ago. It's never felt more relevant.
We build walls like we build “others.”
Between race, gender, sexual orientation and religion.
We build between democrats and republican, "flyover states" and “coasties", “American" and “non".
We build between “good" and “bad".
But ultimately what we’re building is between you and between me.
For us to move forward, we must tear it down with radical outreach, compassion, caring and love. With tolerance and understanding. Patience and persistent conversation. With uncomfortable conversation, risk, compromise and activism. Looking across, reaching across until that bridge is no more.
-- Ashley Hockney
The day after (today)
Today is not the day to let your heart harden and the vitriol flow. It’s not the day to joke (or not joke) about packing up and leaving the country.
It’s the day when the rubber meets the road, the day you get to show your true colors and the day you get to set the tone for the future you envision.
Today is not about taking the path of least resistance; it’s not about following the easy way out.
Today is a call to action: it is about lifting those whose voices have been silenced. It’s about taking a stand for your brothers and sisters who have been told that they do not matter, or they are not worthy – of the love they seek, of safety, of a home in America, of control over their own bodies, etc.
We have voices. We matter. We are worthy. We need you to support our fight.
Today is the day to understand that no one can take away your spark. So ignite it. Fan your flame with your belief in the power to create a more respectful, peaceful, equal world.
Today is the day to kick your shattered ego to the curb. It’s the day to remember to examine your feelings with curiosity so you can get to the root and move forward.
Today is the day to rise up, my friends. The power to build the future belongs to us. We have come so far over the past almost-decade. A challenge beckons. Today is the day to answer.
"Press play. Don’t press pause. Progress, march on."
-- Emily Mitnick
A Letter To Our Future President, Donald J. Trump
Mr. Trump, you have one of the most beautiful opportunities ahead. You have the opportunity to demonstrate to the whole world that personal transformation and change is possible and that love really does prevail.
You have the opportunity to transform from a man who says and does such hurtful things to women, to a man who appreciates women as equals. A man who does not promote sexual assault and “locker-room talk” to a man who works so hard to promote women’s rights and keeps us safe.
You have the opportunity to transform from someone who is exclusive and hurtful to someone who appreciates the beauty and power of diversity and promotes inclusivity and everyone’s differences. You have the opportunity to support everyone, no matter what sex, race, religion or country and let us know that all dreams are possible and all voices matter.
You have the opportunity to move from dividing the world and creating more problems to bringing our country and all countries together to create peace and solve some of the world’s most wicked problems like poverty, unemployment, income disparity, water crisis, climate change, food crises, education, political and social instability.
You have the opportunity to create positive and safe business that support the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit. This not only in the United States, but around the world. You can create jobs for the people who need them the most.
I have seen people change and transform and believe everyone deserves a chance. This is your chance. Please, please, please…hear this call. Let go and release. Drop the hate, drop the racism and sexism, drop the “us vs. them,” drop the ego. We need to see this transformation. The world and our children are watching.
Thank you God for reminding me that deep transformation is possible for everyone.
Mr. Donald Trump, I am willing to coach, advise, and partner as long as you are open to change and use this power for good. Reach out. I am ready if you are.
This is a powerful moment, Mr. President Elect. The whole world is watching…I pray you use your position to prove personal transformation for good is possible. #love #prayerforpossibility #sadbuthopeful
-- Kelsea Ballantyne
It's been a week of disbelief, fear, and helplessness, but luckily the ladies in my life have all stepped up to check in with one another and grieve. One of those lovelies reminded the rest of us that, as upset we are, we need to keep our chins up for the younger women around us so they don't lose hope and cave to apathy. We have to band together, and we need to pull in those who maybe haven't had time to form their own coven yet.
In that spirit, I've made a point to reach out to my younger cousins and others to check in, hear out their own fears and frustrations, make sure they don't spiral too much, and talk about IUDs. One cousin texted me, "It's honestly just frightening. Not only is it going to be absurd come February but this election has justified racism, bigotry and rape."
And just like that, there's our call to action: Never justified. It may have a temporary, bigger platform, but here I am, here we are, making sure it will never be justified.
-- Bridget Geraghty
I too am trying to figure this whole thing out. Yesterday I went to my writing group, yet we did not write. We sat and cried, complained, swore, and read the emails from our daughters and friends...and we tried to make sense out of this election, out of this country, out of the many people we know who voted differently. We grieved for many things but mainly for our nieces, our daughters, the 13 year old neighbor who cried and cried. I don't want the next generation to lose hope or their idealism.
All of us have been knocked around a bit, so perhaps disappointment is easier. To see bullying rewarded is never easy.
-- Anne Badanes
This week has been full of sadness, fear and disappointment. I wake up every morning sad — sad that my country couldn't support a woman in power. After I process this sadness I move on to fear. I fear for the future of my country and the safety of my loved ones. Once I am able to overcome my fear I move on to disappointment. I could not be more disappointed in how people are celebrating this election's outcome — they are actively partaking in hate crimes. This hatred is heartbreaking.
I've personally been attacked for sharing a clip of Hillary’s concession speech, a video that encourages young women to keep their head up in light of this defeat. When this happened to me it broke my heart. I never thought I would ever spur on hate by sharing this encouraging video, but after reflecting with myself and other women I admire, I realized I didn't spur on this hate. The hate is inside this person who feels the need to spread it. But that doesn’t mean I understand the hate.
I've also heard from friends who were verbally attacked by Trump opponents and others who are being treated differently by professors because of their party affiliation, even though they were Hillary supporters. I've seen social media posts saying "If you voted for Donald Trump, unfriend me now. If you voted for the third party, unfriend me now. If you are a registered republican, unfriend me now." My friends who are registered Republican, my friends who are Trump supporters, my friends who are Hillary supporters, they were my friends before this election. It makes me sad to see friends prepared to cut ties and attack others because one presidential candidate swayed them more than the other.
It is hard to wake up every morning to then remind myself that Donald Trump was elected the President of the United States, and I don’t think it will get much easier, but I believe we can get through this. I hope we can find a more positive and productive ways to channel our feelings. And I truly hope that the people who are spreading hate just for the satisfaction of belittling someone else can see the damage they are doing. I know that once we find a way to look forward we can work together to make a brighter future for our country.
-- Grace Bettridge
This week my sleep has been fitful too. I’ve been watching the women I commute with on the train to New York City, and I can’t stop thinking of them. They are black-clad, ambitious in a practical way, carry coffee, a packed lunch, maybe a backup pair of flat-soled shoes. Like me, they live in a Westchester County town only a short drive from Hillary Clinton’s home in Chappaqua.
These women look out the window of the Metro-North Train, over the Hudson River. Their body language reminds me of Patti Smith’s, in her photo on the cover of M Train. They are alive and intelligent, maybe a little tired, but upright nonetheless. And their grief is visible not because this storm was entirely unexpected, or because they were unprepared to endure it; but because they seem to be asking why — as anyone, even Patti Smith, would, and as we all have now been forced to — why, why did it have to come?
After days of tears, my sadness is slowly turning to anger. And anger fuels action. I am doubling down on my values in every aspect of life, from the work that I do to the businesses I support. Women are resilient. We can use this time to build an army for change. We will not be ignored.
-- Cat Fish
Jean Piaget is the psychologist behind the theory of object permanence — the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be sensed in any way. He believed that infants develop this awareness when they are between eight and nine months old. This is why babies are so engaged in peek-a-boo. When parents use their hands to cover their faces, they no longer exist to their babies since their babies do not yet have a sense of object permanence.
I’m a political advocate living in Washington, DC. I eat, breath, and sweat the news. But after Tuesday, I turned the TV off. If I didn’t hear pundits discussing Trump’s transition and cabinet appointees, it wasn’t happening. I created a comfortable-but-temporary illusion for myself. I surrendered my sense of object permanence.
But it is happening. Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. While I have allowed myself to take a break as part of my self-care routine, I know I need to face this reality. The reality is that we have elected a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, ableist sexual predator to be our next president.
And as a heterosexual college-educated white woman who benefits from a society that already oppresses others, I will not be nearly as affected by a Trump administration as other women will. I will never be the victim of a hate crime. I will never fear for my live when in the presence of police officers. I will never be told to go back to my home country (even though I was born overseas). I will never experience a pay gap as wide as the pay gap women of color experience. I will never struggle to pay for my reproductive health care. I will never see ICE rip my parents away from me.
So the question is not, “How will this affect my future?” With the road we have ahead of us, we must look at the wider scope of what it will mean to be a woman in Trump’s America. With this in mind, I will help create the world I wish to see by supporting other women — especially when it costs me comfort. If I see police brutality against people of color, I will record it. I will stand up to islamophobia. I will not be silent on abortion. I will believe sexual assault survivors. I will support organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center. I will never allow myself to become desensitized to hatred.
I will talk and just as importantly, I will listen. Now is not the time to surrender my sense of object permanence.
-- Steffi Badanes
Dear Secretary Clinton,
I want to thank you for all of your efforts throughout this campaign and your entire career. Thank you for working tirelessly for inclusion, acceptance, and love.
I am an attorney working with a legal aid organization in rural Georgia. I am almost 30, but my clients tell me I look about 21. I have grown up in the Southeast, trying not to make people mad and to make sure I fall in the category of a “nice girl.” I struggle to be assertive and confident, or to believe that I belong in the courtroom. I am used to feeling like my ambitions are not taken seriously, even by myself.
I have been trying to grow out of this, or to claim some kind of confidence beyond myself. And on one hand, the results of the election seem like a setback, for obvious reasons. (Okay, if I”m honest, “setback” is a pretty mild word — “devastating heartbreak” is more appropriate.) But on the other hand, you have been such an encouraging and inspiring candidate during this season.
In this campaign, you carried the weight of all women on your shoulders. All of us understand and have experienced, to differing degrees, the attitudes that came out during this election. It is bad enough to experience them on an individual level. But you became the lightning rod that attracted all of them. You carried the insults, the insinuations, the hurtful comments, and the ignorant attacks. You became the first woman to bravely walk this path, and I believe you did so for all of us — you weathered all of these attacks that came, really, at all women, at feminism, and at that idea that a powerful, intelligent, compassionate woman could lead us. You took on all of those attacks for all of us, and you did so with so much grace. How can I ever thank you for that?
Being able to remember your strength means so much to me now, and it will continue to mean so much to me in the years to come. I will always remember your candidacy as an inspiration. I will remember how you confronted hate with light and with hope. I will remember how you stood strong and never lost faith in your message. You taught all of us how to remain brave, and to keep fighting, and to never let go of our vision for America or for ourselves.
I just want you to know that we continue to support you. We have your back. We will carry the mantle ever forward, and we will keep fighting. We will become the next generation of fighters, standing on the shoulders of the strong women who have come before us, including yours. We will remember your strength and the gift of this fight that you have given us. Thank you so much.
Blessings and peace to you.
-- Lauren Cartwright
Sometimes I don't feel 100% like a rhetorician - partly because I'm pretty much an interdisciplinary professor and teach in three very different departments - but mostly because I tend to look for sameness and continuity rather than rupture. I've always said rhetoric fetishizes rupture. But this one FEELS different. This one is a rupture - and as someone tasked with helping senior leaders in the military and college students make sense of the world - I am worried for the first time - as in genuinely worried - not -Privileged-Girl-Worried about our future as a deliberative democracy.
I keep thinking about my prospectus defense in 2009 where a few on my committee asked me why presidential rhetoric was still a thing to do - because - hey - the presidency is a tired institution with little cultural relevance. I was offended then (you know who you are you awful people) but never have wanted them to be right so much in my life - because if they are right and the presidency isn't as important anymore - then the implications are not as grave.
Like many of you, in 2004 , I was disheartened as well (although being in the intel and government spheres has taught me a lot about how information flows and - as a side note - Bush's decisions and the rhetorical situations he faced are more nuanced than many like to admit or even realize) - but this one is different. For sure.
As a rhetorician I also know that in politics there is a disconnect between words and deeds. I hope we will see that with this presidency and that there is a disconnect between public performance and daily operations. That's the best I can hope for. I don't know what else to hope for.
What I do know is that for the past 12 years - "change" has been an operating term. "People" want it and they'll vote against their own best interests to get it. I'm praying that the constraints of this office and the sensible Republicans and Democrats will offer enough checks and balances to prevent this from becoming Harry Potter book 7. And let's not forget about our international allies.
So you wanted change. Ok. Some of my friends/family voted for Trump. I respect the democratic process but I am, like many, disheartened as to what this message says to our children and to the world. So if you voted for Trump and you claim not to be a racist or against women or whatever - it's on you to shut down racist and sexist dialogue when you see it and make your choice about something other than race class and gender.
And we have to remember that only a fraction of the population that is eligible to vote did. I know a lot of people who stayed home. This teaches us again that we are seeing the sentiment of the voting population and maybe not the country in general. It was close. Really close. And too many people stayed home. Shame on you if you did. Seriously unfriend me. I dare you.
I refuse to believe this is the best we have to offer and I know it's not because I see it. And I live it. I was so proud to see my friends dressing up to go to the polls with their daughters all in white. Im proud to have voted for the first female candidate. But most of all I'm proud to have taken a stand publicly and privately against fear and hate. I'm not taking the monogrammed donkey off my car. Probably not ever. Well, until I get a new car. :/
And on a side note - this election has pushed me to write more. I have a dual career in academia and government but I'm never going to make a difference in either unless I put myself out there. The problem with women in leadership positions, or lack there of, is that we don't do that enough. A dear friend, almost mentor, and very smart Republican strategist reminded me just a few months ago that men seek all sorts of opportunities to do things they are not qualified to do. They jump off the cliff and figure it out. Women need to be more cliff jumpers. That rings true more than ever today. Let's normalize cliff jumping not bigotry and hate. That's my resolution for 2017. And I'll have plenty to write about.
So Anyway - I case it wasn't clear - I voted for a woman because she was the most qualified but I also realize that even the fact that I have to justify why I #imwithher ironically shows the misogyny that I'm voting against in action. Women are more than pantsuits and more than vaginas. We were a powerful voting block yesterday and will be tomorrow. Yes #imstillwithher but it is up to all of us to move forward with respect and kindness so that the next time a little girl goes to the polls with her mother - she has a brighter tomorrow.
-- Karla Stevenson Mastracchio
Wednesday evening, a friend and I were supposed to go to an alumni happy hour. But like so many folks last week, we simply didn't have it in us to carry on as though the world hadn't come crashing down. So I suggested we see "Moonlight" instead. The reviews suggested it would be a moving, difficult film to watch, but I wanted to feel something other than just shock. I wanted to empty myself out and be filled up with art.
I live in downtown Washington, DC, mere blocks from the White House. The city, like so many other places in this country, was shell shocked and reeling. The streets and restaurants were eerily quiet, but the movie theater was packed with an audience that represented a rainbow of people in all senses of the word -- straight/queer, folks of all races and ages.
And the film was so beautiful. I loved about it that it's just a STORY -- this lovely narrative of love and family and coming of age. It's soft and subtle and really authentic. But it's also a black/immigrant/queer story, which you just don't see enough coming out of Hollywood. Looking around at the audience, I was struck by how cool it is that this story was not marketed as a "niche" film -- it's just a FILM. The kind of film that should but isn't made more often. A film like any other movie that anyone would go see on a random weeknight. And so I don't know if I'm articulating this properly -- and maybe the fact that I have so much to say about this is undermining my point -- but it just seemed remarkable to me how unremarkable this movie-going experience was. Or maybe, how unremarkable this should be, but had been made remarkable in contrast to the white/hetero/male/nationalist narrative that is dominating the country and the news cycle.
"Moonlight" ends with the promise of a beginning -- as the credits rolled, my friend and I hugged each other with tears in our eyes. Afterwards, we walked blinking out of the theater and straight into a glitzy premiere party for a film by a DC director. I looked around at the audience leaving our movie and the people attending the premiere. I was overcome by how many beautiful and different facets there are to my neighborhood. And I thought, this is the "inner city" that is such a "disaster." This is the "swamp" that needs to be "drained."
-- Ellen Clark
How do we end the deep-seated anger and fear in our country? How do we create a society where everyone feels meaning and purpose? How do we weave a more integrated fabric in our communities where we have the potential to truly empathize with one another? These are the questions that have challenged me after the election, and I’m coming up short for answers.
I admit, I live in a bubble. Ann Arbor is often said to be 25 square miles surrounded by reality. Never has that felt more true.
How do we change the narrative about our country? I’m stumped by the dichotomy between local politics and the national narrative about the state of our country. Let’s take Detroit as an example. Being closely connected to the changemakers who have been transforming the city over the past 8 years, I am in awe of the speed at which thoughtful, capable, and passionate people can rebuild a city. Yet the national narrative continues to portray Detroit as a desolate wasteland because of the loss of manufacturing jobs. Detroit is already on its way to becoming great again because it’s community members have been empowered to reimagine what their future holds.
And it’s not just Detroit where we get mixed signals about the state of our country. James Fallows described this discord between local and national narratives at a systemic level:
“I would say that almost every place we went, a version of a political cliche was true. The political cliche is we hate Congress but like our congressman or congresswoman. The version of that was almost every place you went, people felt, boy, it's really a troubled time for America. But here in - name your specific city - Fresno, Ajo, Ariz., San Bernardino, Bend, Ore., Burlington, Vt., Allentown, Pa., things were moving at least in the right direction.”
How do we share a more positive narrative about our nation, without sugarcoating or hiding realities? How do we create a national mindset where greatness comes from togetherness -- not from anger and hate?
I’m not naive in thinking that everything is hunky dory across America. I recognize that there are communities where people are truly struggling in the shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a services-based economy. Many families and individuals are facing an identity crisis, while also experiencing a hit to their paychecks. It’s not surprising that people going through this transition will feel depression or anxiety, which can lead to anger if unaddressed. My biggest fear is that these people will continue to be abandoned over the next four years.
I’m inspired by people like Taylor Stuckert and Mark Rembert, who have transformed their rural county in Ohio after the loss of 9,500 DHL jobs, by creating an organization called Energize Clinton County to instill “bottom-up” economic development strategies. While they haven’t recovered all of the jobs, it seems they are fostering a healthy and inclusive conversation about the future of their community.
How might we create similar programs in counties across America? How do we create meaningful, well-paying jobs in the service economy? How do we ease the transition of a workforce from one domain to another?
If there’s a thread of an answer to any of these questions, it’s that we can do more to engage in our civic duties. I’ve been inspired by this quote from one of our most pro-feminist presidents:
“The virtue that stays at home in its own parlor and bemoans the wickedness of the outside world is of scant use to the community... We live in a rough world, and good work in it can be done only by those who are not afraid to step down into the hurly burly to do their part in the dust and smoke of the arena.” - Teddy Roosevelt
This election has been my call to “step down into the hurly burly.” Who’s with me?
-- Marianna Kerppola