Ironically, I grew up right outside Washington, DC, and returned there to live after college. I remember being in the city for President Obama’s first inauguration. It was incredibly moving. When his victory was announced in 2008, people hugged and danced in the streets. Everything suddenly felt historic in real time, in a way that was palpably unifying. While progress often feels elusive and intangible, this was a real moment to say, “I was there, I saw it, I felt it.” Change was being manifested, but in gaining that elusive, hard-won treasure, we awoke the sleeping giant that has guarded it for centuries. This giant has always held unchecked power. Sacrifices have been made to this giant in the form of so many lives destroyed, families wrenched apart, bodies violated, and humanity casually dismissed. When the giant would stir, everyone would go their separate ways in defense and retaliation, driven by fear, driven by anger, driven by an entrenched belief that to question the giant is to challenge the infrastructure of society.
As late Tuesday night turned into the inevitable Wednesday morning, the giant fully awoke. Oversaturated by the years of progress and stoked with the flames of sensationalism, it stood up and demanded silence. There are those who believe that the giant keeps society productive and peaceful and fair, as long as one lives within the kingdom of its demands. Those who stay in line will not be bothered, though they may well be ignored or overlooked completely. In this election, the giant stood up and crushed all the steady, hopeful, and diligent resistance building up all around it. Crushed, but did not silence. Will not silence. For deeper than the foundation of the giant’s power are the core beliefs of shared humanity and the right to live and love freely. That is what I stand for and will always stand for.
After Tuesday, it is easy to want to further isolate and distance ourselves from everything that is happening, to retreat into the bubbles of what and whom we know. There is solace in excoriating the other and embracing the familiar. There is comfort in solidarity and shared experience, but we cannot stay silent. This past election cycle has demonstrated that there is just as much passive bigotry and xenophobia and misogyny in this country as there is active hatred. Passive hatred says, I may not agree with everything you say, but as long as your words, behaviors, and actions don’t affect my values or me, I will look the other way and support you in spite of them. This is a devil’s pact, signed with the blood, sweat, and tears of others. This logic denies us the generosity of the human spirit that allows us to coexist on a daily basis on this planet.
The question keeps coming up: Where do we go from here? How do we come together? In the broadest terms, there’s a massive split in how two parts of this country visualize each other. As in the optical illusion, one part sees two faces and the other sees a vase. There are two parties looking at the same image and drawing vastly different conclusions. So, yes, we must work together; we have to hold tight to our empathy in carrying on. But at the same time, we can’t forget those who have now been swept into the giant’s blind, all-encompassing, full-blown rage against change. There is no room for ambivalence or apathy or ignorance. When the giant fully awoke, I finally did too.
Aparna Nancherla is a comedian.
7. Dig Deep, Take a Breath, and Do the Right Thing
Ellen Pao tries to use her old tools to move forward.
by Ellen Pao
“Glass half full,” Rashida the nurse said as she wheeled my friend, post-stroke, to the bathroom.
“No pain, no gain,” my coach would say, encouraging us to run faster, train harder.
“Karma,” I texted to the guy who invited me to knock him out after I found out he was a cheater.
These simple mantras have helped me through so many struggles, but have failed me in today’s postelection world. It has been so hard to find the silver lining, to push through, to remain Zen. How do you stay calm as half the country around you roundly rejects your values and identity?
This is not a new change for the worse. This is fear of change for the better. The country to moving to openness, acceptance of differences, and inclusion. The majority-minority is swelling across America and will be ever more present nationwide in a few decades. But some continue to fight it. For people of different races, ethnicities, genders, and religions, this is what America has always been. Intolerance and exclusion are a part of our history and culture. But the worst of it had been hidden, exposed on the pages of the anonymous Internet, or seemingly isolated, and mostly dismissed and overlooked in the real world.
Today we see it for what it is, but we also have an opportunity to unite and work together to accelerate change for the better. Now everyone can see it. We know it is there, how deep it is, how prevalent it is, and how it affects all of us.
Change for the better is inevitable. This election brought four more women of color to the Senate. Oregon elected our country’s first LGBTQ governor. Secretary Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Tech CEOs are doubling down on diversity.
And we are resilient, fearsome, and strong. We are empathetic, unifying, and effective. We need to work with each other, to bring ourselves up when others try to bring one of us down, to share our power with those who have none.
Dig deep, take a breath, and do the right thing.
Many of us have privilege. Others can build privilege. Privilege gives you options and makes hard decisions easier. Get your house in order. Save up so you have enough money to leave if you need to — it could be because your boss or coworker decides sexual harassment is allowed or your neighborhood becomes unsafe. It could be something else, something we can’t even imagine. Be prepared. Get an IUD. Get a passport. Get your friends to do the same. Be a helper for yourself and for others.
Stay optimistic, stay strong, and stay safe. And help each other so we can get to the better America we deserve.