I was shocked like everyone around me was. I live in a blue zone on that big red and blue map called America. America is BIG. My European friends and family are consistently in awe of the distances we Americans have to travel to get anywhere new and different. In Europe when you drive a couple of hours you encounter not only a different landscape, but also a different language, different laws and different looking people. These differences have been mitigated as the European Union opened borders and made economic trade agreements. Since people can freely move about as part of the European Union, the differences in religion, economic status and education are now manifesting more in segregated neighborhoods, yet visible to all when traveling on public transportation across the countries.
Americans are separated by distance. Status in America means the possibility to live in a bubble, avoid seeing what goes on on the other side. I worked in a correctional setting for 10 years, my daily 50 minute commute to work took me to a world of people I could not see eye to eye with, a world I did not want to be a part of, filled with gun toting, religious right, misogynistic thinking country folk. I could leave that world behind on my three day weekends and after I retired. Now that world is coming to haunt me in this election.
The ordinary of living in a diverse society is that we’re faced with extraordinary differences we may not like but somehow have to learn to live with. On a small scale during my work in corrections I learned to gain respect from and give respect to people who had different values and different beliefs, who lived with pain wrought by military experiences, with trauma incurred in living in dysfunctional families, who had pulled themselves by hook or crook out of addiction. Over time these people lost their suspicion and fear of me, as they got to know me and realized I wouldn’t harm them with my educated knowledge, maybe even help them, as they found I wouldn’t look down upon them with my more privileged life experiences and economic status - actually I fought for them as a Union steward. The ordinary of having to work with people of a very different outlook on life was that in the end we found that we were all just ordinary people in need of acceptance. If the acceptance was evident, then we started working together, and became stronger in achieving work related goals.
With her slogan “Stronger Together” Hillary missed the lead-up, the time consuming work of getting to know and trust one another. Hillary was too far removed from the people who needed her the most, the ones who feel left behind, Hillary was seen as just another one of “them”, who had created stalemate over the last 30 years. Trump spoke their language, spoke out their mistrust, acted foul and walked right into their world.
During Obama’s reign we never did the time consuming work of getting to know each other person to person, face to face, we couldn’t, busy as we were trying to hold up a teetering economy, selfish as we were to think of our own assets and profits, optimistic as we were thinking that education would help those left stranded.
It’s going to take the slow grinding work of sitting together in the governing rooms and slugging out how we will take care of the planet, each other and not leave anyone behind. Both sides of the isle will have to do so, if they want America to feel great for everyone.