Whyyyyyyyy?

It’s taken a few days for me to get my head together enough to blog again.

Louisette is slightly bewildered by all the people who have given money to charity because of her generosity. She knows she’s done something special, and as far as she’s concerned life is normal now (even if she’s going without her allowance for a while). Normality means watching “Peppa Pig”, asking me for lollies every few minutes, and hiding her brother’s favourite toy under the couch.

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Lucky she’s cute.

Some reassuring news: It’s very clear from statistics in places like this that the majority of Trump supporters are old white men (shocking, right?) and in fact the majority of votes from people under 45 years old were for Hillary (let alone the overall majority of voters, altogether).

This is not because people over 45 are intrinsically bad. The simple fact is that white people like myself are the majority in the Western world, and can have a happy fulfilled life without once giving a thought to the life experiences of people who have a different skin colour. Anyone living in the Western world with darker skin will not be allowed to go through life without being reminded constantly of their skin colour and how it makes their life harder. So we live parallel lives; same place, different experience.

White people, as the more powerful majority, have to make an effort if they want to to understand racism. That knowledge is unpleasant, and it just goes on and on. I only learnt in my 30s that “watermelon” and “African American” is a symbol for “African Americans are lazy”. (It’s really not a thing in Australia, but we have plenty of racist symbols and ideas of our own.) Now that I know about watermelons, I have to be careful that when I’m writing a story that happens to have an African American character in it, he or she must never eat watermelon. Ditto Fried Chicken. And a whole list of other things. All accompanied by both an inherited and a present guilt: inherited, because the simple fact is that (regardless of my own genuine and painful struggles) my life is better because my white ancestors destroyed the first residents of Australia (in ways that are still destroying lives today); present, because while I eat raw cookie dough and watch “The Flash” (true story) other people are starving. For the price of my cable subscription I could literally save lives.

My comparatively-pleasant life is built on generations of racism and greed. That’s not an easy truth to live with. White people who make an effort to actually understand what racism means tend to work hard to get to a certain point of understanding, and then stop. If you fought and risked your life to abolish slavery, abolishing the n-word seems like an incredibly minor quibble. So don’t hate the older people for having a less-nuanced understanding of racism than younger people, who had a much better starting point (thanks to the work done by those same older people).

Having said that, racism is racism. A lot of people didn’t vote Trump BECAUSE he’s openly racist (many certainly did), but everyone who did vote for Trump decided racism was no big deal. And they were so, so, wrong. As expected, incidents of racism, sexism, homophobia and religious persecution immediately rose after Trump’s victory.

John Scalzi explains non-deliberate racism neatly here.

There is a bit of genuine stupidity mixed in, too. Trump was popular among the rural poor because he is a symbol for success*, for “saying it like it is”*, for destroying the political elite*, and for “making America great again”*.

*He has declared bankruptcy several times and run several business ventures into the ground and/or based entire businesses on fraudulent schemes (such as the infamous Trump University).

*He lies constantly.

*Did I mention he was born rich?

*America actually IS great, in so many ways, but YES the rural poor get ignored and things have been going downhill for a while. Great article here. So a lot of the “burn it all down” attitude to politics comes from a place of desperation. But the saddest thing is that Trump is going to reduce affordable health care and give tax breaks to corporations, while Hillary was going to close corporate tax-dodging loopholes. So Hillary would have helped—a little—but Trump will actively make things worse for those who most need help.

So, in conclusion, Trump is bad news on a fundamental human level. I’ll leave his economics and the possibility of war for another day.

If you’d like to mourn, here is one man’s letter to his wife, and here is the song echoing around the world this week.

Regular readers are already aware that my knee-jerk reaction to this awful news is to give to charity. It’s an excellent knee-jerk reaction, and many other people are also giving right now.

Here’s a great list of charities that support all the groups Trump hates (including environmental groups). Trump is, in his own way, incredibly inspiring.

My second reaction is to gather together my potentially-vulnerable friends (women. Muslims. Non-Caucasian people. LGBTIQ people) and ask what I can do to help. I’ll be having a house party on the weekend Trump becomes president, and hopefully drowning out some of the hate with ice cream and scones (keeping in mind that public transport will be riskier than usual that weekend, because a lot of nasty incidents are happening there, or at petrol stations, or workplaces or anywhere that vulnerable people might be alone in public). I’ll be wearing a safety pin, since that has become an easily-recognisable way to say, “I am a safe space. If you need help, I’m here.” (Keeping in mind that there is a small number of people wearing a safety pin deliberately to help them find victims for their hate. Also keep in mind that if you’re wearing a safety pin you need to be prepared to act if someone is in trouble.)

Here’s an illustrated guide to helping someone facing an Islamophobic attack.

Some people are urging others to argue with their racist (etc) relatives and friends. Arguing rarely brings about kindness, so I think the better move is to find common ground. Keep in mind that very few people set out to cause harm in the world, and even the horrible things people say come from their own sense of vulnerability.

The Bible says that perfect love drives out fear, which is an extraordinary concept. Psychology says that when we meet people from a different social group, we rapidly grow to like and understand them (ie when we love them, the fear goes away). Right now I feel pretty unimpressed with anyone that voted for Trump—which means that I don’t truly understand what they love and care about and fear. I bet we have a lot in common… and the fact that I found that sentence so hard to write explains why I’m part of what’s dividing people. That needs to change. I need to change.

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