This week, as the first anniversary of the election of Donald Trump, leaves me thoughtful and thankful for how much more I have than I had a year ago. Surprised? Here’s what I mean.
As a result of the words and actions of this Administration and those it inspired, I’m more engaged in American political life than I ever felt the need to be since I became a citizen in 2010.
I’m more attuned to the situations and voices of people who are concerned for their rights and freedoms under the current Administration. I’m more alert to the need to take action, to speak up, and to stand with them and for them. I’m more willing to invest my time and my social currency in social justice. I’m more willing to drop old assumptions about people and look beyond appearances to explore the opportunities for ally-ship.
I have more courage to speak my mind about issues that are controversial, and to be ready for some people to decide they might not like me so much as a result. I am more public about what I believe, and have published more personal and thoughtful blog posts as a result.
I am more ready to challenge others when they say or do something that I think is not okay. I am unequivocally prepared to try and to fail, to be vulnerable and imperfect, and to be held accountable for my mistakes when someone calls me on being out of integrity.
I’m more interested than ever in hearing the views and thoughts of people who believed a year ago that electing Donald Trump was going to bring them the brighter future they dreamed of. How similar, or different, are things today from what you hoped?
I’m more curious about what’s in the hearts and hopes and minds of people who hold different views than I do. I’m grateful for every conversation I had the courage to launch with a new goal: to listen, rather than to argue.
I’m more attentive to the power of empathy and the value of common humanity to close what can seem like a chasm of difference between people. I am more willing to engage someone in an uncomfortable conversation on an important issue rather than avoid situations that risk misunderstandings and hurt feelings and conflict despite the best of intentions to do no harm.
I’m more aware of the origins and contemporary manifestations of racism and the pervasive effects of white supremacy in a great many aspects of American life. I’m more informed about the effects of how American history is taught in most high schools. If you’re wondering why that matters, especially if you’re a teacher, read more here.
I’m much more ready to have conversations in which my most important goal is to listen to understand. That’s not just a result of the past year, but a continuing evolution of a key change for me. I spent my formative years in university with a roving pack of competitive debaters. It seemed to me then that every conversation was a battle to be won or lost. I lost most of those battles. I didn’t like losing. I’m pretty sure that experience shaped how I looked at relationships for a long time (and not in a good way).
I care a lot more about people in situations I never used to think about. I wonder what kind of policies — Republican or Democratic — it would take to bring back, or start to restore, economic prosperity and health to people who have lost their jobs or can’t find work, to people who are chronically ill, to people who are drug-addicted.
I’m ever more disappointed in people who attack others based on what they look like or what they believe or how they dress. While I’m on the subject, it was never okay to call any group of people a “basket of deplorables.” That was wrong the first time I heard it, and it’s still wrong. I’m more aware of how horrible it must feel to be the object of such attacks.
I’m more aware of the times — both long past and sometimes painfully recently — that I’ve said and done such unkind things to others, especially out of old patterns of sarcasm, or of wanting to sound clever at someone else’s expense. In retrospect, it wasn’t good to do in university, where I picked up the habit from a couple of people in my social set. It never served me well, and it’s a behavior best banished. I’m more determined than ever that that’s not okay, and more determined to do better and be better: to walk my talk, to be the change that I want to see in the world.
I’m more grateful for a political system of checks and balances, and for every politician who has worked to seek some kind of common ground.
I’m more determined to make a positive difference in the communities where I show up, and more willing to have faith that even those with different beliefs from me are showing up with a heartfelt intention that is much the same.