I spent my first day of a 6-day writing retreat shell-shocked over the election outcome. While I should have been hanging out with Leda, Jonathan and Marcia (the characters in my new novel, Aesop Lake), instead I was holed up in my room watching HRC give her concession speech, feeling distraught that my daughters now live in a country that will elect a man that treats women like objects and shoots his mouth off with no real substance beneath his statements. These are not just “talking points” that the media has provided. I have been watching, and listening to our new President Elect and I’m not impressed.
In my new novel, Aesop Lake, a high-school bully and his buddy beat up a gay couple for publicly displaying their affections for one another. Leda, the girlfriend of one of the perpetrators has to decide where her loyalties lie and what to do. It is a story of morals and ethics, which draws on the challenges that so many of our youth face every day in coping with peers. Who has the power? How do we find our voice in a world where the bullies are often rewarded both implicitly and explicitly? Its tricky to grapple with these issues in my novel with an election outcome such as we have just experienced.
When a person encourages others to be violent, believes in revenge and spouts off using racist language and sexist rhetoric I don’t feel hopeful for our nation, I feel sad. How did so many of my fellow Americans walk into a polling booth and choose this guy? In a educational setting we would have labeled Trump’s behavior as bullying.
In an article called, Recognizing Bullying, the definition has three components:
1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.
Understanding that bullying can take many forms is also important:
1. Verbal bullying including derogatory comments and bad names (e.g., globally classifying a group of people as rapists and murderers)
2. Bullying through social exclusion or isolation (e.g., keeping opposing views out of venues- only allowing supporters to attend a rally)
3. Physical bullying such as hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting (or the encouragement of these behaviors by a candidate at a rally when someone opposes your views?)
4. Bullying through lies and false rumors (e.g., making up false allegations against anyone that does not support him)
5. Having money or other things taken or damaged by those who bully
6. Being threatened or being forced to do things by those who bully
7. Racial bullying (e.g., derogatory comments about African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims)
8. Sexual bullying Learn more about bullying and sexual orientation
9. Cyber bullying (via cell phone or Internet) Learn more about cyber bullying (Have you seen Trump’s Twitter feed? @RealDonaldTrump)
And yet, other’s find his message “hopeful,”believing that he is anti-establishment and therefore a better choice, that somehow he will bring our country together again. How? By legitimizing the racist, bigoted sentiments of white supremacy? Do people honestly believe that a man who instills fear, promotes violence and values his own opinion above all others is going to be a collaborator? A bridge builder? Politics is not about getting your own way all the time. It is about negotiation, compromise and working towards a sustainable future for all involved. The election results made it loud and clear that these past eight years not everyone has felt heard.
Clearly large numbers of people in America feel disenfranchised by the current administration. People often want to blame their problems on the leader of the nation. Regardless of the fact that we have three branches of government, and the Republicans have held the majority in the Senate and the House and blocked Obama at every opportunity. So, even with the House and Senate behind him, will President Trump be held accountable if the average Americans’ lives don’t get better? Will his supporters make excuses for him? Will his detractors be subject to a level of intimidation and blame used so often by bullies that refuse to be accountable to others? I fear this will be the case.
Only time will tell. I believe that there are still many brilliant, strong people who hold positions in congress that will fight for the rights of all Americans. I know that there is a constitution that cannot be simply ignored. There are organizations that will advocate and demand protections for the vulnerable, a judicial system that is expected to offer justice. And millions of good people who are committed to their communities. I have major worries about what an ultra-conservative supreme court justice will do to LGBTQIA rights, women’s health, protection for minorities. But I’m willing to do my part to fight for these rights, for fairness and equality across the country.
I will work to understand the fears and worries of Trump supporters as well. We need to be able to have these conversations if we want to actually be a United States of America. And I will rail against the “isms” that have been so whole-heartedly accepted during this election campaign. Its not about being politically correct, it’s called respect. Respecting each other’s cultural differences, political differences, gender and sexual orientation differences. We all have bias, whether we can see it in ourselves or not. We must look at these biases and challenge ourselves to step outside our comfort zone. We need to reach across the aisle, or the table, or any other gap and build relationship with someone who is different. Let’s try to understand where they are coming from. Let’s build relationship with those that we disagree with so that we can have a dialogue and build real bridges.
As I write fiction this week, delving into the world of my characters, my soul aches for the chaos that our country is experiencing post-election. I’m sad that we were not able to elect the first woman president, this time. There will be future opportunities to break that final glass ceiling. I will continue to support women who want to run for office and become political leaders because we need equal representation. I believe we will overcome the “isms” that keep us divided. Bullies will not prevail, because that does not make for a good story.