Tracking our emotions in the wake of the election has been like searching through the rubble of a ruined home. There is the sharp hazard of broken glass, uncertainty about the structural integrity of damaged walls, and the uncovering of keepsakes and treasures that came through unscathed.
The waiting was fraught – a drip, drip, drip torture. Pulled from each end, we all endured a awful unknowing. Then the release. For me the spontaneous dancing in the streets is what brought tears. The joyful abandon also revealed the shared pain that preceded it. The grief-anger of those expecting something different poked through to remind us there will be millions of people seething and clenching their teeth just as those of us buoyed by this election have been doing for four years.
A similar split screen of emotions took place while watching Joe and Kamala declare the election. Full disclosure, I was an early supporter of Kamala Harris in the primary so it was especially pleasing. Yet there was the dark subtext of an incumbent’s refusal to concede, and the chilling echo that he has two and half months to plant more division and further sabotage the nation’s well-being.
There are menacing shadows of politicized courts, gun-toting racially motivated groups of protesters, and the Trump family driven by the knowledge that there will be investigations of corruption. They darken joy and relief with the sober acknowledgment that the long national nightmare is not over but just moving down the street.
The most moving piece I discovered in the shambles of this election was when Van Jones sobbed on air. The CNN commentator broke down on Saturday morning after the news of a President-elect, and gave us an unvarnished moment of authenticity rarely ever seen in the news media. Rarely seen anywhere in public. He began with how it will be easier to be a parent with truthfulness, kindness, and dignity in the White House. “It’s easier to tell your kids that character matters, it matters. It’s easier to tell them the truth matters, being a good person matters…” Then he said Muslims, immigrants, and Dreamers will now be told they are part of who we are, and then he lost the ability to speak momentarily. With supreme beauty he voiced the two-edged sword of this moment – the hope of tomorrow and the pain of losses lived.
Another contrast was between Dave Chapelle’s Saturday Night Live sermon about winners having empathy for those who feel wronged and marginalized by the election outcome, and an interview with the New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg. She pointed out that Clinton supporters and progressives have been asked for four years to explore empathy and to plumb new understanding for rural and white male grievance, yet it is a one way exercise. Understanding should not be used to enable bad behavior, justify bigotry, misinformation, or conspiracy paranoia. Again, both realities stare at one another from opposite sides of the mirror and evoke a cacophony of emotions.
The pot is stirred, a new recipe will be tried, and all of us will be eating together whether we like it or not. That is the nature of sharing a nation.