Why We Were Shocked: The Loss of Connection

On Wednesday, November 9th 2016, I woke up to the news that Donald Trump had been named President Elect. Like half the nation, I was stunned. Reeling. As a gay woman, I was terrified. In a daze, I paced circles in my living room – the questions filling my head: How could this happen? Where did this come from? How could so many of us, myself included, be caught so off guard? I had no answers at the time only a profound sense of loss. I grieved for my gender, for my brothers and sisters in the LGBT community, for the bi-racial daughters of my trainer at my gym, for my 6-year old daughter and 8-year old son. To say that I was at a loss of words would be an understatement. I was gripped in a straight-jacket of fear that had laced around my chest, crushing my lungs, robbing me of words.

For hours I walked around like a zombie, disoriented and confused while making my way through the various stages of grief: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, but I couldn’t seem to make my way to the final stage, acceptance. Instead, I looped through the first four stages and lingered. Being a gay woman in her 40s, I have experienced defeat. I have been in my fair share of battles, many of which did not go my way. And I have lived long enough to experience elections that delivered shocking and disappointing results but there was something different about this one. What it was, was the sheer magnitude of surprise and how violently the rug had been yanked from underneath me. I did not see it coming and that is what I find most upsetting about this election. That level of surprise even trumped Trump. And the fact that millions more like me are experiencing the same is the real issue we need to address. We have become disconnected as a nation and the nation is suffering as a result.

My father lives in the Midwest and I am 99% sure he voted for Trump. I found out about his support for Trump during a visit over the summer when a quip I made about Trump was met with a scathing remark about Clinton. I remember my surprise at the intensity of his emotions around Clinton which was then followed by my immediate decision to drop the subject and never return to it. I would make this decision a hundred times more as the months progressed and I now know that decision was fatal. If I had made a different decision to engage in an exploration of views instead of burying my head, if all Americans had, we wouldn’t have been so surprised at what happened on November 9th. And if we had listened earlier, perhaps we may have experienced a different outcome altogether.

The fact is, there are a lot of disenfranchised Americans right now, mostly in rural areas. For years they have felt marginalized and ignored by the system and while my complaints are different and not necessarily in agreement, I know exactly how it feels to be pushed aside and overlooked. Anyone who has fought for their rights or the rights of others knows the epic levels of frustration dismissal can cause. As a country, we swing a pendulum of favoritism when one majority gains the mouthpiece and attention while the other suffers in shadows. At some point, that minority lassos the spotlight and the other is pushed down. No one listens to one another. Instead, we grapple with the pendulum – trying to gather enough strength to muscle majority our way. In this way, the rifts only grow wider and more extreme. At this time of catastrophic division and chaos, it’s time to find our way back to one another. It’s time to start a conversation and mend the fabric of our nation through connection.

The Three C’s of Connection

The new framework under which we need to operate is one of courage, compassion, and curiosity. If we can embody these values, then we stand a chance of meeting back up with one another while creating a stronger America.

Courage. First, we must be courageous. We need to possess the grit to not only protect the rights and issues important to us but to understand that there are points of views on issues that need to be heard. And maybe, just maybe, through actually listening to these perspectives we may find that the approach or solution we’ve been so married to is flawed {gasp!} and that a better solution exists that no one side could have developed alone. To confront the possibility that we may be wrong takes guts and now is the time to suck up the nerve.

Compassion. Second, we need to work from a place of compassion not only for others but for ourselves. For ourselves, we need to embrace the momentary pain and not judge others for how they are processing the results. The nation needs healing and we can only bring that about by accepting what is here, just as it is. The reality is, THIS is our America like it or not. As we wrap our minds and arms around her, we need to include all those that are suffering eliminating the aisle that separates our views. We need to be willing to walk in one another’s shoes.

Curiosity. And, finally, as we open our mouths and step into those conversations, we need to embody the mind of an explorer. When we do, what will undoubtedly occur is the discovery that many Trump voters are not the caricatures that our Facebook stream and media would like us to believe. We will find that it is possible to vote for Trump and vote for gay rights. That it is possible to be a Republican and support a woman’s right to choose. How many are out there? Who’s to say. But we will never know if we stand defiantly in our corner, judging “the other” with blinders on.

America has always billed itself as “one nation” yet has rarely shown up as one. And while complete unity in such a diverse world isn’t possible, we can do a heck of a lot better than where we are now. Bottom line, there should be no surprises of this magnitude when it comes to our political system. If you were surprised, like me, then that is your sign to come off of the sidelines and onto the field. I look forward to seeing you there.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
- Rumi
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