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Time to stop being afraid and get to work: My thoughts on the election aftermath

By Monica Chen

This was going to be a simple writing exercise. I was going to find the best articles on the election and summarize them. But like so many times these past few years, I saw nothing in the news media that reflected what I know is happening around me. So this time, I’m picking this up and writing something myself.

Basically, at the end of the day, I just don’t think half of the U.S. population are bigots. I think what’s going on in this country is more complicated than anyone has been able to say, or want to say. I feel like a lot of people feel unheard and frustrated, myself included at times.

And I want to let go of the old liberal v. conservative fight. I’m tired of people shouting and not listening.

My hope for Donald Trump’s presidency is that people will have a chance to say the things they have not been able to say, and that people will pause and listen, and out of this genuine communication – even out of anger and frustration – we can glean some facts and put together some consensus that we can use to fix this country.

But no, I know it’s not as simple as that.

Tired of the rollercoaster

On Monday, I went to the grocery store to buy pizza for election night. The mood in Durham was tense. Everyone was quiet, too quiet. And that set me on edge.

Who knew what was coming around the corner? My thoughts ran to what possible violence could break out if Donald Trump won. After all, during the last four years in this area, we have had a teenager killed in the backseat of a police car, a black man maced in a Harris Teeter for doing nothing at all, protests all the time, and random outbursts of violence in everyday life.

And I just have to say, some of the worst instances of racism I’ve experienced in this country have happened in the past four years. And interestingly, much of that has come from liberals, not Trump supporters.

The violence has been random, nonstop, and I felt like maybe I had to brace myself again.

On Monday, I found other people in a similarly anxious state. Everyone was a little too nice and catering. There was that nervous laughter that people were doing. “Oh, hey. How’s it going? Nice day, isn’t it…” On the way there, this guy complimented my dog through the car window. Very unusual, so this both helped and didn’t help. I walked stiffly in the parking lot. I looked around, and saw that other women, who were all black, were walking in a similar way, more so. Body stiff, head high.

I came home that day with a knot in my stomach. This was not good.

But it’s Thursday now, and you know what? Violence has not broken out in this area. People have not been cruel. There was not actually a Klan march like some people thought, it was just Trump supporters. So, I’m just over being afraid.

I’m over being afraid of what Trump and his supporters might do, or being afraid of what his words mean and the kind of violence that might lead to – on both sides. I’m tired of being on the rollercoaster.

I’m understanding more and more how disaffected people have things they feel like they need to say, and maybe they haven’t come out the right way. Maybe some of them really are racist bigots, but some of them sound like they are just people who haven’t had places to express very real fears and frustrations. Again, half the country can’t be hateful souls. That’s just impossible.

And on all sides, I still see people holding on to a lot of perceived fears. I think people, myself included, still don’t know how strong we are, so we keep circling each other, waiting for the other person to do the wrong thing so we can feel bad all over again, when we could just step forward ourselves and do the things that need to be done.

Be brave

About 40 years ago, Americans elected Jimmy Carter as president, and Carter was and has always been about a lot of should. We should take care of the environment. We should combat this disease. Now, we are going to have a president who is about a lot of want, and that presents a different kind of opportunity.

So all I want to say is this:

Do not be afraid.

Half this country felt like their concerns were not heard. Now they have a platform. They know the media can’t ignore them anymore. Half this country felt like their freedoms have been threatened. But I just don’t think that after Ferguson, after all the protests we have had for women and LGBTQ rights, that this country will go back on all of that.

We need to bear down and be brave, and say what we really want to say, do what we really want to do. The old fights will be there, but out of a new, genuine relating to one another, maybe we’ll learn some things we didn’t know.

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