On Sunday, November 13th 2016, I attended the first public protest of my life.
Just after Donald Trump was elected president, all across our nation there was a sense of shock – a deep sense of questioning our national identity. Liberal strongholds like Seattle were certainly no exception and our city seemed especially mournful that someone whose tactics and rhetoric were so overtly racist and misogynistic could be elected to the highest office in this land. Yet our history was laying beneath a false sense of security. This was the beginning of an awakening of the citizens of this great nation. We came out of our homes. We marched. We began having dialogue about everything. And we continue to be more awake and engaged than ever before in my lifetime. This protest, Love Trumps Hate, was a gentle introduction to the responsibility for engagement we all hold in high esteem now.
I will never forget this young man who came to the protest wearing MAGA gear head to toe. He was carrying his sign as well, and was clearly a Trump supporter. We spoke with him and thanked him for coming – a very brave thing to do when emotions are running high in a liberal city like Seattle. He thanked us also and asked us about the signs we carried. We talked about the issues that were important to us. I left the rally wanting to spread kindness and love. And, unwilling to embrace the idea that hate itself lead to this election, I wanted to understand the inequality in our country that would lead to this outcome. I started reading.
Books like Strangers in their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild, helped me understand the difference in the “deep story” for people who live in liberal cities versus rural areas. White Trash, by Nancy Isenberg, helped me understand the derogatory language, hate and classism that is directed at white families entrenched in intergenerational poverty in rural areas that has been part of our history since colonial times. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance, was a more personal narrative that also helped me understand the perspective that is so different than anything I would be exposed to living a life centered in a liberal Northwest city. So many of my friends have completely distanced themselves from people who think and vote differently from themselves. Though I understand the feelings and the deep hurt we are feeling, I can’t help thinking that our country will not heal and move forward if we isolate ourselves in our own echo chambers. It seems that the more divided we become, the greater emphasis we all must put on listening for meaning, rather than listening to respond. And we need to listen, argue and discuss serious issues respectfully with people that disagree with us in a way that stretches us, and challenges our own views. We need to seek out and discover narratives from people who have very different lived experiences than we do, if we are going to come together for the greater good. Love must triumph, in every interaction.