I am an immigrant Indian woman. I have almost lived in California and enjoyed the diverse, dynamic, and welcoming fabric of this amazing country. Here, I have felt accepted and appreciated, fostered, safe, involved, socially responsible, and I have found the value of inclusivism.
Today I am embarrassed.. Was I so wrong? I had always believed that America is the country that sets examples for the rest of the world for new and innovative ways to integrate and encourage eclectic cultures, beliefs, and skills into reaching their best. This move towards bringing the best out of our diversity, for our common good, is the strength of this modern nation. Was I so wrong? Is this country just like other countries driven by "us" versus "them"?
Today I am sad to see my kids and my friends' kids feeling disheartened to see that their future may not hold the message of "yes, I can". Their friends who may not belong to the right gender, right skin color, right sexual orientation, right immigration papers, right wealth, or who may want their right to choose may be intimidated or quietened. They are afraid to see what aggressive behaviors will be condoned because of the new political reality.
Today I am disturbed because the new national role model is not to be good, empathic, fair, and reasonable in your language and actions to be a leader, but that it is okay to be arrogant, abusive, intimidating, unfair, imprecise, chauvinist, narcissist, and unqualified. In fact, that kind of behavior may even land you in a top leadership position. Why should I tell my children to be fair, honest, hardworking, and caring? So they can be shut down to becoming a silent worker?
But then as I look closely, I see the other side of this story.
I am thoughtful and aware of my own bubble of being a privileged immigrant in California surrounded by like-minded mostly inclusive folks. When I put myself in the shoes of the people who voted for the new president, I can see why they wanted "change". These are the folks who have lost jobs because of globalization, who have lost their standing in the community because new diverse lifestyles have shaken their conservatism, who feel threatened by the census predictions that minorities soon will take over being the majority, who naively attach terrorism and fear to all Islamic persons in the US, who think that illegal immigration is costing them their jobs and increasing healthcare costs, who think that America is slipping from its superpower status and it is because of government policies, and some who are afraid to lose their White privileges. When I put my hat of "understanding the basic human fears", I can see why these folks are willing to overlook the divisive, hate-mongering speech bordering on White Supremacism. They are allowing themselves into the fantasy that they can stop all this by just choosing a ruthless leader.
I am fearfully aware of the fact that the announcing Politically Correct rhetoric may have gone too far. It may have created dishonesty in what people expressed versus what they felt. We cannot simply resort to punishing people for what they say with the hope that it would change people's views. The anger expressed by the minority against the felt injustices may have scared some from the majority away from supporting the just cause, especially since they themselves were not secure in their place in the society.
I feel compassion towards the fear the above folks are feeling. I wonder what would be the right way to address their concerns and make them feel heard. How could we make them see that their choice of a leader is destructive even for their own cause and that there could be other ways to adapt to the new realities instead of creating "us" versus "them" civil war.
Now comes the most important part.
After the initial despair, we must unite to see the change in the "right way" and for everybody affected. I see a door opening leading to non-complaisant action. We must ACT. We cannot allow ourselves to hopeless and helpless frustration. But what does ACTION mean? Here is what I propose. The ACTION will mean different things for different people. These are a few possibilities.
1) Do you know your own beliefs and values? It is not always clear and sometimes they may be conflicting. For some, this may be an opportunity to contemplate on what their authentic values are, outside of all the political urging. Do you really believe in the same rights for everybody, regardless of the external factors? Do you believe in pure meritocracy or affirmative action? Do you believe in empathy or ruthless leadership? Where do you think you want your empowerment to come from - money, knowledge, moral superiority, or political action? After such contemplation, you can decide what you want to do about it.
2) ACTION does not always mean political activism. For some, the action may come in the form of advancing and improving their own life with a sense of empowerment and pride, with integrity. They will not let this new reality make them feel helpless. By choosing to advance their own life this way, they can choose to treat people around them in accordance with their values. They can choose to help one friend or people who seem to need help with such issues. They may post on FB or write their blogs. They can practice the communication skills they may have to convey the message.
3) Do it BIG if you have the courage. Some may have the courage to take it to the community level. They may choose to form groups, clubs, and committees. They may choose to join a movement. They may become the new leaders.
4) I like Michale Moore's five-point plan of action, somewhere in the middle of personal and political.
Whatever you choose to do, do take action - even if it means just a tiny bit every day. Do it every day, one thought, one idea, one person, one action.