Election 2016 Recap: My Valediction Forbidding Mourning

By November 13, 2016Exercise

We want freedom now, but we’re not going to get it saying “We shall overcome.” We’ve got to fight until we overcome. — Malcolm X

Twelve years earlier

On 3 November 2004 the US re-elected Republican incumbent George W. Bush.  At the time, nobody I knew had Facebook. Indeed, few people had even heard of it at the time. In those days it was all about MySpace. And even that wasn’t as popular as it became later.

So while nobody inundated us with status updates over and over again, the mood was still somber nonetheless. Everyone around the theater department at USF had a general aura of sadness about them. Then, days later we all went on, as the world itself tends to do. The housing bubble would burst, my friends would go to fight overseas, and I would continue to go to college, forsaking my theatrical origins in later years to get a degree in religion.

“Get a job that’s going to make you money.”

My father always said that. My mother, too. That was the way of life in post-WWII America. It was the way of the majority of thought.

“What can you do with a religion degree?”

These days, I can impress people at dinner parties with my knowledge of The BibleThe Qur’an, or Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. I can even talk about the adventures of Krishna and Arjuna.

Perhaps this matters more: I can look at a sister in a hijab and realize the centuries of complexity that go into the choice to even wear it on American soil. And I can do this because I educated myself.

While I don’t hold stock into what the Qur’anic and Biblical accounts say, there is one thing that’s striking.

We are all children of Abraham. 

Some from Isaac and some from Ishmael. This means we’re all cousins. So whether or not those events of antiquity happened, parts of them are indeed true. Sometimes we disagree with our family. And they disagree with us. And that’s ok for the most part.

Coming from small town Florida, I just wanted to learn about religions to argue with people. To tell them how they’re wrong. I wanted to shove my fist right through their Protestant upbringing. But I learned some things while on that journey. I also got older.

And wiser.

One of the things I learned is that while the histories of the world traditions are rife with violence, the religious extremism we see today — in a world of 7 billion people — is not the majority.

In fact, most of the major world traditions have fundamentally the same belief. That belief is that we shouldn’t treat each other like dirt. From ancient Egypt, to now, we like to think we believe in the golden rule. “Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets,” Jesus states in Matthew 7:12 when someone asked him to sum up the whole of the Torah.

Election 2016…12 years later

What follows is twofold: On the one hand, it’s a way for me to express myself ex post facto. On the other hand, it is a clear call to action for you to affect the change you need to see in your world. In our world.

On Wednesday 9 November was just as somber as it was 12 years earlier. It was gray outside, and not too hot. Everyone was tired. I didn’t even do my normal sets of bicep curls at the gym because I wanted to go back home and take a nap.

The (not so) shocking election of Donald Trump into the White House has elicited a lot emotional responses, and rightfully so. Many are quick to reduce the entire election this year to swift sound bites and gilded reasoning.

“Donald Trump was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Donald Trump supporters are all racists, misogynists, and bigots.”

“Hillary was a crook.”

“She is bought and paid for by Wall Street.”

And so on. With all the extremity, there is some truth to it. David Duke, another who endorsed DT, is a bigot. As are the Klan at large. And some of the supporters who aren’t affiliated with racists organizations are also racists. But not all are.

To say that everyone who did vote for DT is a racist is a gross generalization and wholly inaccurate. My mother, my father, and my sister aren’t racists, that’s for damn sure. In some cases, they don’t know why they made the vote they did. In my father’s case, he bought into the rhetoric that many old white dudes bought. That rhetoric is that there is going to be actual change from someone who is, to use a religious axiom, “in the world but not of the world.”

My wish is to in no way invalidate their feelings. As Americans they need representation. And they looked elsewhere. Away from a party that abandoned them on many of the principles for which they stood.

The fear campaign

At the same time, my sisters and brothers who fall into various marginalized categories — women, women and men of color, LGBTQ, the poor — have much to worry about. To say they don’t would be an error. From where I’m sitting it would also be easy to write off. But as a friend, I need to worry for and with you.

When the political platform speaks to destroying your way of life as opposed to making it better, the grief of the loss is not because we are “whiny, sore losers.” This is why words matter. Words in the form of rhetoric and interpreted data swayed either side to vote the way they did. It happened in 2008 and it happened now.

Your job — no matter whether you’re left or right — is to pore into the words to find the meaning behind them. It takes more work than sharing an article on Facebook, one that you didn’t read in the first place. To that effect, you need to look for accurate sources of information. The following are not accurate sources of information:

  • Right Wing News
  • Occupy Democrats
  • The other 98%
  • Breitbart
  • Being Liberal
  • Anything with Milo Yiannopoulos’s name attached to it
  • Young Conservatives
  • Natural News
  • And any other website that looks shady as hell. You know what these look like.

It also goes without saying that you need to look into anything sensational to verify it. The story of the Muslim woman accosted by robbers who had her hijab ripped off and her wallet stolen is an admitted fabrication. The story of the black men that beat a Trump supporter is also not true. What is true about the latter is that it was likely the result of a traffic altercation. We cannot let the information coming to us shove an agenda down our throats. Facts matter.

What can you do?

  1. Help out the causes you care for
  2. Help the people you care for
  3. Don’t be indifferent
  4. Be an ally to someone who has legitimate cause for concern

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.” — Malcolm X”

We don’t know what the next four years have in store for any of us. I don’t know that I can offer much comfort. But I will try. To reverse a Supreme Court decision is not impossible, but it is difficult. As is amending the constitution of the United States. Marriage equality passed with Justice Scalia on the bench. It’s going to take a lot more than a TV star to change that. And it’s going to take a lot more than that to dismantle the entirety of the ACA.

Since the Democrats didn’t show up to the polls enough to win this time around, you need to engage in the political process. Because now, we’re going to find out how much a New York businessman cares about you. Write to your congressional representatives. They represent you. It’s their job to do soMake them earn their keep.

The time for mourning is over now. The time to think, to act, and to live is now. Fear of change is healthy and natural. More important, both the change and the fear are real. Exercise constant vigilance, and be active. And if you ever need me, I’m here. So ends my valediction forbidding mourning.

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About Peter Baker

In addition to being a fan of music and heavy metal, I am an avid player of table top RPGs, and I am a personal trainer in Tampa, FL as well as a graduate of the prestigious University of South Florida. Formerly, I was a prefect for House Slytherin.

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