Making Sense of 2016

Over the last few days I’ve embarked on a completely non-scientific fact-finding mission—or rather, an opinion-finding mission—as both a participant and an observer, online and in person, with family, friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. Here’s what I learned:

1. The profession of journalism exploited social media and failed us, all of us, first by making it virtually impossible for Republican voters to learn about the policy proposals of any of Trump’s sixteen opponents, resulting in a nominee many voters found distasteful at best, viscerally revolting at worst; then, by suddenly taking an activist stance at the last possible second and demonizing and condescending to the very people they presented with this as their only option, resulting in what ultimately became a mass protest vote;

2. My small circle of black friends are generally staying out of the fray on this one, since neither group represented their best interests and they’ve been living with this reality for generations, plus they know that historically the only time they have a voice at the table is when white people say it’s ok;

3. The most threatening, toxic conversations I’ve had are the ones with people who voted for the same candidate I did, leading me to believe that many well-meaning Facebook groups and blog posts touting inclusion and acceptance are in fact practicing the opposite (moderators, take note);

4. Immigrant and refugee families are facing some real threats, because the perception exists that if there is even the slightest chance that a person with dangerous motivations somehow breaks through the immigration or refugee vetting process and does something horrible, it’s not worth it. Journalists should have done a better job of revealing the flaws in this logic—now we need to do everything we can to include these families and keep them safe;

5. We’re lumping people who simply disagree with us together with those who are actively and consciously spreading hate speech and encouraging and condoning violence. Failing to make the distinction is what got us here in the first place, and now Steve Bannon is in the White House. For those of you who don’t know, he’s in the second category.

So if I’ve ever condescended to you and made you feel like your opinion was less valuable than mine, I’m sorry. If I’ve taken on your cause as my own without fully understanding it or putting myself at any real risk, I’m sorry. If I was silent when I should have spoken up, or if I talked while I should have listened, I’m sorry. 

Please call me out on these things if you ever see me doing them (I’ll be visiting Pennsylvania in December, in case you want to do it in person). My goal for 2017 is to not be an asshole.

Thanks for listening.