At a lovely dinner party to celebrate an old friend’s birthday, conversation unsurprisingly turned to the election. A quick poll of the table revealed that the gathering voted 80-20% for Hillary Clinton. There were no rural working class whites there. There were no minorities there. The gender split was even, but the room was devoid of gay and trans people. It was not a representative sampling of America by any stretch. The age range spanned middle baby boomer to greatest generation, so naturally everyone voted.
When the conversation turned to how it happened that Trump won, the percentages shifted. While 80% of the people in the room had voted for Clinton, 80% understood why Clinton had failed to win. And of the 80% who voted for Clinton, yet understood, one theme emerged. America needed a new political party, because the Democrats no longer represented their values.
The woman to my right was bright and vivacious, a lawyer and unafraid to speak her mind. During the course of the conversation, a fellow who served in World War II expressed disgust at the kids who had taken to the street to protest. Not because they disapproved of the president-elect, but because it was a childish response.
He was also deeply put off by protests that produced violence and property damage. Regardless of the protest itself (and he didn’t question whether they had a right to protest, but that protests, no matter how large and passionate, wouldn’t change the election outcome), he complained that it was a remarkably ineffective means of accomplishing anything.
The woman to my right responded, rather loudly, that her daughter was one of the protesters, and that she fully supported her doing so. “That’s how we change things,” she explained. The table fell silent for a moment. Conversation then resumed.
There was one additional unifying factor amongst this group, that everyone at the table has achieved some level of success. They were people who understood the difference between being effective and being self-indulgent. There was nothing wrong with protesting, provided it didn’t produce violence or impair other people’s rights. Indeed, protests serve useful purposes. They allow protesters to make their views known. They are cathartic. They may be good exercise. It gets kids out of the house, away from their screens, for a few minutes.
What these protests, as opposed to others, would not do is change the outcome of the election. Provided they were peaceful, there was nothing wrong with protesting, but it was ineffectual. No mind would be changed. The people at the table were 80-20% disinclined to engage in symbolic gestures that accomplished nothing. That’s not what effective people tend to do.
In a very well-written op-ed, a freshman at NYU took a different path.
When she outed herself to me as a Trump supporter, I realized I had finally found the “silent majority.” I looked at her, this suddenly strange girl who sleeps a few feet away from me, my college roommate. The silent majority has seen me put on my head scarf in the morning and take it off at night. The silent majority has touched my face, done my makeup, watches “Gilmore Girls” religiously. The silent majority occasionally enjoys sliced mango before bed.
We fought; I packed. This was Tuesday evening, so I headed to my friend’s dorm, where a small group of us, mainly black women, tried to find solace in one another as the country slowly fell to red. I tried and failed to speak, to write. I ignored my roommate’s lengthy texts.
Was Romaissaa Benzizoune’s roommate deplorable? Never having seen Gilmore Girls, it’s unclear what that suggests, but otherwise, the two seemed to be doing pretty well together until she learned that her roommate didn’t vote for her candidate. The roommate then morphed into the “silent majority,” a phrase used to Richard Nixon to catalyze oldsters to reject the hippies’ peace and love movement. The roommate was no longer a person, but a characterization.
Did she really expect me to respect her choice when her choice undermined my presence in this country, in this university, in my very own dorm room? Did she really expect me to shake her hand for supporting a candidate who would love to bar my relatives from this country, who has considered making people of my faith register in a specific database and carry special ID, Holocaust-style?
What with the standstill of loyalties in this election, it is no surprise that our argument proved hopeless. There was no reasoning with her….
The pervasive trope that we need to have a “real discussion” comes immediately to mind. The discussion consists of Benzizoune telling her roommate why she’s wrong, after which her roommate gushes, “you are so right, I am so evil, how could I ever have been so deplorable as to not recognize that the only valid interest is you, your fear, your feelings, you.” Some people just don’t get tolerance. There was no reasoning with her.
You may see people wearing safety pins on their lapels.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, many groups in the U.S., including African Americans, Muslims and women, are feeling scared and uneasy.
Trump, who has said he would ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., made sexist and insulting comments about women and racist comments about people of color in America, is a frightening prospect for many Americans who believe he is unfit for office.
So while protests rage on across the country, one movement is using a simple yet powerful symbol to show their support for anyone who is fearful of what is to come.
One of the guests at dinner manufactures safety pins. He was thrilled at the idea of the safety pin movement. Although he had voted for Clinton, he understood why others did not. Everyone at the table agreed that, regardless of whom they voted for, they did so holding their nose. Even the woman to my right.