Three things. Each of them from my heart and through the raw edge of my emotion. But each of them also from my conviction that America got this election horribly wrong and that the mistake may cost us more than we can right now even begin to comprehend.
First, in his inaugural address on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln appealed to the “better angels of our nature,” choosing to believe that Americans, north and south, were not enemies but rather friends, bound by a shared history and unbreakable bonds of affection. In the early days of the American Civil War, Lincoln continued to doubt the intensity of racism and hatred in the hearts of so many of his fellow Americans. Even the swift rebuke from many voices and regions across the country in angry response to his Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 did not dampen his hopeful resolve. While I can today still see Lincoln’s good and true heart, unlike him, I am loath at this moment in American history to believe in the better angels of our nature. Bloody Civil War, Segregation and Jim Crow, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese Internment in WWII, and the turbulent Civil Rights Movement have, apparently, provided no lessons. Instead, we now find ourselves here, one hundred and fifty-five years after Lincoln appealed to those better angels, witness to the election of Donald Trump, a man who played to the devils in our nature, to the worst in America—to our bigotry, our sexism, our ethnocentrism, and our hatred and fear of the “other.” Yesterday, we betrayed Lincoln’s belief in and hope for America, and in this devastating realization I am bereft.
Second, today Mack, like me and half of my fellow Americans, would be devastated, as the shocking result of this hateful election flies in the face of everything she believed in her heart. But she would, no doubt, do what she always did: offer a crooked smile, tell a stupid joke, and deliver Big-Mack hugs all around. And, most importantly, she would never let the bitterness I am feeling on this terrible day to pass a shadow over her generous heart.
Finally, I’m not sure I will be capable of Mack’s grace in regard to this election; and if I am ultimately capable, it is going to take a good while and considerable effort on my part to get there. While I take some comfort in the fact that the qualified and correct choice in this election won the popular vote, it will be a very long time before I am strong enough to forgive the part of the country who supported Trump. As I wholeheartedly believe in our country’s democratic ideals, I must accept the outcome of this election. But I will never accept Donald Trump’s vision of America; I choose Abraham Lincoln’s vision instead. I choose an America that is diverse, tolerant, open-minded, true, and kind. I chose an America that stands up against lies, that protects the rights of minorities and the LGBT community, that welcomes immigrants, that lifts up people with disabilities, that treats women with decency and respect, and that believes the American dream is big enough for all of us. While my soul is buoyed by the 59,731,599 souls who voted with me and with my Mack yesterday, the election cost me my faith in the better angels of our American nature. Yesterday was, truly, the third worst day in my life, only losing Mackenzie and my dad eclipsing my heartbreak for this country as the returns came in late into the night. Today I am grieving, and my faith in humanity is in question.
Since losing Mack, I have sought to channel the better angels of her nature. Mostly, I have been successful in drawing strength from her wit and her grace and her unbounding optimism. But at this moment, as we face potentially disturbing and historic consequences of what this election may have wrought, I am failing and, I dare say, might fail for a long time to come. Because in truth, the depth of my disappointment lies not only with the result of the Electoral College and with the dysfunction of the Republican Party, but also in the failure of the Democratic Party, my party, to understand the disaffection of its own base and to include the very people it always claimed to protect. As it was in Lincoln’s time, so it is also in our own, that we each bear some responsibility for our failure to get history right and to understand the depths of the differences between us. I can only hope that somewhere in the chasm that divides our country, reside the angels we will need to bridge the dangerous gap that threatens to swallow us all.