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Quo Vadimus?

A lot of friends and loved ones woke up on Wednesday to the terrifying news that Donald Trump had won the presidency of the United States. They felt shocked, they felt outrage – but most of all they felt betrayed. Betrayed because the country they love, work, and fight for elected a man who called for racial violence, religious intolerance, espoused sexual assault, and treats women like they’re second rate pieces of flesh to be bought and sold at market. When these people – myself included – think of the Donald that is what they immediately associate with the man: a con artist huckster criminal who should be behind bars but for the fact that we’ve coddled rich con artist hucksters for the past thirty odd years.

What followed immediately were hundreds of articles of “what went wrong?” I’ve seen this before – the post-mortem. We lawyers do this all the time: lose a big case (some of us do this even if we win) or motion, and immediately we dive into “what went wrong.” The purpose of What Went Wrong is the hunt for the elusive “Try to do Better Next Time.” A ton of digital ink has been spilled (so to speak) over this issue, so I won’t bother rehashing the theories and the recriminations.

I’m here to give my two cents on what comes next. Where do we go from here?

First, you must – if you haven’t already – mourn this election. I’ve heard from plenty of people that they feel like crying, that they’ve never cried over an election before. That they have so many feelings that they can’t square them all away. I felt the same way. I found out at 6:01 am, when I picked up my phone and had a Breaking News alert: Donald Trump has been elected president. I had known, in that way that cynics “know”, the night before, at around 10:00 p.m., when most of the states that should have gone for Hillary were still either “too close to call” or “too early to call.” I thought that maybe she could squeak through… but in the depths of my mind, where every horrible contingency exists, I began to do the math, and I knew: the Democrats had fucked it up again. We had fucked it up.

I spent the entire drive home at around 11:15 pm Tuesday night, yelling at my roommate and the radio about how the Democrats had blown it. About our arrogance and about our hubris. About how we’ve spent the last twelve, thirty, maybe even sixty years obsessed with the White House, ignoring every other race – local, state, federal, legislatures and executives alike – because all that mattered was the (Wo)Man in Charge. My friend Jessica texted me around midnight asking what I thought, and I spent another 20 minutes text-yelling her, expressing my frustration and anger at the establishment that had failed us once again. And then I slept. And I woke up, and my anger had been spent, and I cried.

I didn’t cry because I was angry. I did not cry because Trump scares me so much I could only quiver in fear. I cried because we – collectively, as a nation – had missed A Moment. We were poised to do something historically great, we were poised to push through misogyny, alienation, hate, and stand with the world. We were going to elect the first female president of the United States. And then, at 6:01 a.m. – for me, at least – we hadn’t. So I mourned that moment.

I started to write a Facebook post venting my rage and my frustration. But that’s not what came out. As I felt the emotion flow through me what came out was the only part of me that was still standing: hope. My faith in humanity – that we can do better – was still there. We had failed, collectively, as a species, by failing to listen to the better angels of our nature, and by embracing fear, and desperation, and tribalism. But I knew – as I do now, more than ever – that we can do better.

So, mourn. Let your grief pass. Accept that the America you live in today is no different than the America you lived in on Monday, November 7th, 2016. We’re a little smarter now, we’re a little wiser. We’ve fallen – but we can rise so much higher.

Second, you must stand. A lot of people talk about withdrawing from social media, moving to another country, hiding out among your friends or withdrawing into cat memes and video games. I implore you: Don’t. This is capitulation. This is acceptance. This is not the time for idleness. This is not the time for vagaries or insulation. I know that we’re all tired – after I wrote my first post I started crying again, because I was exhausted, and I knew that we couldn’t rest yet. But the fight goes on.

That doesn’t mean, of course, you must obsess. Take a week or two off, take what time you need to separate yourself and distance yourself from the negativity, if you must. But be ready to come back and take a stand. Do not falter, and do not kneel (metaphorically, anyway – Kaepernick, you’re doing God’s work, even if I disagree with your choice not to vote.)

Third, you must fight back. I hope in the next few days to write more about what this means, exactly – the means by which we can harness our collective outrage in constructive ways. This will include activism, running for local office, convincing people to vote in the mid terms, convincing people to get involved. If you are angry and outraged by the election, good! It means you’re waking up to a larger world. But too many people weren’t outraged – there were far too many people out there who didn’t vote for Trump who simply shrugged and moved on.

We must awaken our friends and neighbors. We cannot make the call to change alone. This means we must engage, at all times, and take every opportunity, to engage, and debate, and ask people to be held accountable for their actions. But please, never, ever, be disrespectful. I’ll write more about engaging in debate over Social Media – right now I fear I’ve already used up my good will going on over 1000 words. But we must engage and enlighten and spread information to combat the misinformation that our politicians and the media will continuously try to throw at us.

We cannot afford to live in a post-factual world. We cannot allow opinion to take the place of fact. We cannot allow pettiness to take the place of reason. We – the people – are the only ones who can raise the level of discourse and dialogue.

And when we do you will find that, while reasonable minds can differ, reasonable minds cannot hate.

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