Smiling through gritted teeth

On the evening after the election, I am filled with such mixed emotions. This was the first time I took a truly active interest in politics–I followed the 2008 election vaguely but didn’t vote and didn’t feel genuinely invested–and it was intense. I researched. I listened to debates. I tried to pay attention to the broader context, to find out what the candidates actually felt rather than just what they said. I voted. And I stayed awake well into the night, following the coverage on CNN and C-SPAN and, of course, Twitter and tumblr.

It was fun, entertaining, exhilarating, but also terribly nerve-wracking. Living in a Bible Belt state as I do, I never had any illusions; it was always a definite possibility that Romney might win. But he didn’t. He didn’t. And I should have gotten to celebrate that wildly.

Unfortunately, my celebratory feelings were tempered by sadness because it was clearly evident that so many of my friends, family and acquaintances would rather have seen the opposite outcome. Again, I had no illusions, but it still makes me sad. I cannot be one of the people who says political differences don’t matter, we can still be friends as long as we don’t discuss it, et cetera. I just can’t. It does matter, and it needs to be discussed. Knowing that someone actively opposes me being treated like an actual human being with rights, intelligence and just as much to offer the world as any other is hard. Knowing that they voted for a man who speaks of women, including his wife, like objects, a man who believes that women may only have their own jobs and interests as long as they do not neglect their true purpose of cooking and cleaning and child-rearing and being good little submissive wives, a man who changes his positions so often that I am not even sure he knows what they are himself is hard. And knowing that they happily endorse a party full of misogynists, rape apologists, and racists who only show remorse for their hateful words when they threaten to cost them the election is hardest of all. All this, simply because one man preaches the religious message they want to hear.

I do not hate these people. I even love many of them. I try, very hard, every day, to remember that and act accordingly, to not let my bitterness cloud the way I think of them. Despite appearances to the contrary, I really am an eternal optimist and I believe that love can conquer a multitude of awfulnesses. I would be thrilled to see everyone reaching out and working together, disregarding party lines in favor of improving the world we live in. For everyone, not just for straight white America. We can be so much better than this.

And yet, and yet. Sometimes, love is not enough. Sometimes, the bitterness wins because it is exhausting and disheartening and upsetting to be reminded day after day that your beliefs and passions could not be farther from those of the people who surround you, that they are less interested in you as a person and more in you as a person who conforms to their beliefs, and that despite what they preach, they practice love that is not really love but more like an unattainable mass of conditions you must meet to earn their approval. And I am so very, very tired of trying to bridge the gap and keep the peace. I gave up trying to meet their conditions long ago, but I spend far too much of my time smiling through gritted teeth while listening to outdated, judgmental, suffocatingly narrow moralizing and I am just exhausted by trying to keep up the pretense that we are on the same page.

So this is me saying, yes, I fully support marriage equality, and, further, LGBTQQIA rights in general. Not just because everyone deserves to feel and share love, but because everyone deserves rights, period. And yes, I fully support every woman’s right to choose, every woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding her own body. her own, no one else’s. People are not property. Women do not belong to you, to legislate as you will. And yes, I believe that birth control is an important necessity and not something that automatically brands the user a slutty slutty slut. And yes, racism is still a real and present issue, one that cannot and should not be ignored, and I will always do my very best to stop and not participate in its perpetuation. And yes, I believe firmly in the separation of church and state. Your religion is not everyone’s religion and nor should you have the power to force it to be. And yes, and yes, and yes. Everything that fuels your sermons, all the things you use to divide and condemn, are the very things that fill my heart.

I voted for Barack Obama, and I would do so again, if only I could.

But tonight, in the aftermath of the election, I am trying really hard to put my frustrations and sadnesses aside and focus instead on what the President said in last night’s acceptance speech:

And tonight, despite all the hardship we’ve been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I’ve never been more hopeful about our future. I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope.

I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.

America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love (ph). It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

And what Roxane Gay said in this Tumblr post:

3b. I would like to see conservatives get it together. I am a Libra and think multiple perspectives enrich the discourse. People from different political backgrounds should feel respected and represented in our federal, state, and local governments. How do we get to that place? How do we learn to listen to each other better? How do we work together? I want to get better at this, too. It’s hard for me.

It’s hard for me, too. I guess it’s always hard, when we all have such strong views and specific things we want to see addressed, and, President or not, a man is just a man and can’t possibly deal with everything at once. For my part, I am far, far from perfect. I mess up often. I burn with rage even more often. I am stubborn and inflexible. But I am willing to try. I still have hope. I still have faith, even if not the faith that those around me would like me to have. Surely, we with our differences can find ways to meet in the middle, somehow. Surely, it doesn’t have to be like this. I do not have the answers, and I’m sure you don’t, either. But if we were all just willing to work together instead of being so thoroughly divided, if we could all stem the flow of hateful and vitriolic words and actions and listen once in a while, maybe we could find them.

Together.

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