I made a cake Nov. 8 to celebrate what I thought would be Hillary Clinton’s election. For decoration, I melted sugar into sheets and broke it into shards to represent the glass ceiling that I hoped she would shatter. On Nov. 9, however, I found myself looking at the remains of the cake and wondering if it better represented an earlier event on that date: Kristallnacht, when Nazi-led mobs vandalized hundreds of synagogues, Jewish homes, schools, businesses, hospitals and cemeteries, leaving the streets littered in broken glass.
We are not at that point yet in the United States, but it feels like we have taken a step in that direction. Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric, constant name-calling and general demagoguery have set a tone that some have compared to that of Hitler. I would like to believe that the checks and balances we have in this country — and the fact that more than half of the country did not vote for Trump — will keep us away from a racist dictatorship, but the echoes are nonetheless disturbing. Whether we can heal our nation and create a more hopeful future depends on all of us, not just President-elect Trump.
None of us can predict, of course, exactly what Trump’s presidency will mean for us or our country, but here are some fragments of what I do know:
My family is still a family. No matter what the law or anyone else says, nothing can change that.
We must tell our kids that when bullies win, the good people try harder.
We must tell them that change takes time, but we will always love and protect them.
Good people have been standing up against what Trump stands for — bullying, name calling, racism and misogyny — and will keep doing so.
Clinton may not become president, but we can still help deliver on her vision of “Stronger Together” — a vision with roots in the “one out of many” that our country’s founders promised. We must work to bring together a nation that has become deeply divided — not only by the election, but by a history that separates people and has allowed racism, sexism and all of the other “-isms” to flourish.
Others in this country have more to fear from a Trump presidency than I, and I must keep fighting for them, too. I feel extra pain this week thinking of my friends of color and those who are Muslim or immigrants. I know they wouldn’t want my pity, however, but my allyship. I am privileged in being white and middle class and not currently disabled, despite being a lesbian and a Jew. I must use the privilege I have to support those who have less. I must listen to their perspectives and learn from them how best to help advance their rights and opportunities.
Many who voted for Trump did so because of a discontent with our current system and their place in it. We must listen to their fears and concerns, too, for only by understanding other perspectives can we work to create a more equitable society for all. This does not mean we need to tolerate racist or sexist comments or actions, or forgive Trump supporters for voting in someone who will likely set back social justice in many ways. We do, however, have to try to understand why they did so. Only then will we have a chance to help find different solutions.
We parents have a key role to play here. All of us want to protect our children, to help them learn, to give them opportunities. That is an immediate commonality across every political persuasion. That means we have a starting point for conversation.
We have to keep telling our own stories. We cannot expect others to understand us if we do not share our experiences as well. Stories can lead to understanding, and that can drive action.
Communication is best when we check the facts. Misinformation about both sides was flying around during the election. On a very basic level, we should read through articles and watch videos before forwarding, reposting or retweeting them. We should try to confirm from multiple sources. We shouldn’t assume that just because something supports our worldview, it’s true.
I have confidence that we will make progress towards a more just and equitable society — perhaps not in the short term, but in alignment with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said, “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
The obstacles are daunting, but I am also thinking of Dr. King’s observation, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Pair that with the words of Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
If many of us are feeling a little broken right now, therefore, we should remember: Shards of glass may appear to be broken, but they are sharp, there are many of them, and they reflect the light.
Light and love to all of us.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.