Of course, one aspect is what just happened in our country. An election result very few expected, one that was not predicted, and on the surface, something that seemed completely out of the realm of possibility, given what many of us thought were un-disregardable standards of decency that were, repeatedly, disregarded.
And yet, for so many reasons that have been written about in so many ways in the last week, the election of such a divisive figure as Trump was not unexpected. Unconscionable perhaps, but the seeds of his ascendance – or someone else equally equipped to surf the wave of populist uproar – have, we now see, been germinating for some time.
Putting aside just how ridiculous things seem, no matter on which side of the vote you fall, how do we as a divided country think about answering the question:
A note here: I am not even close to an expert on anything related to politics. I often excuse myself from political discussion because a) if there ever was reason, political beliefs very quickly get tainted by emotion, festered by an echo-chamber of ideology and b) those discussions, except in rare circumstances, bring out the worst in people. I side with humanity.
This time, though, there isn’t much in the way of middle ground, and I have learned some useful lessons during this recovery process that help me answer the question above.
I’ve been thinking about a sentence Aaron Sorkin wrote in the letter to his family:
Misfortune can, in time, give way to immense progress.
This is something that I have seen repeatedly on various scales, and I think some bite-size examples have taught me a larger truth: the importance of not getting caught up in the bad so much that we are unable to recognize, and bring forth, the good.
Here are a few examples relevant to my recent trip to the East Coast and Canada (where, no, I did not stay).
The first example: Besides piggybacking and scooting my butt up and down stairs, I use a wheelchair for getting around. This is not new, but what is different in the last few months is that the wheelchair is so broken, the hubs so corroded from water and sand (you got me there, Maui), and parts so deteriorated from off-roading, that it veers to the left at an angle of over 20 degrees (yes, I measured it). This means that wherever I go, I’m being hindered even more by the faulty mechanics of the machine that I am still dependent upon, and my shoulders and neck suffer from increased strain.
But if I let my frustration with the painful situation overwhelm me, I might not have figured out that what the wonky left side does is balance out the right-sloping angle of the sidewalk on the left side of a street. What would be a lopsided trajectory toward the right (due to sidewalk slope) for a functioning wheelchair becomes a straight-ahead line for my drunk casters. BINGO! Of course it's minor, but when you’re getting around New York City with wheels on sidewalks, it’s a very tangible success amid an unfortunate circumstance. (I have, by the way, been working since July to get a new chair made…it’s a process.)
There’s no reason why I, of all people, was ‘chosen’ to have this bony inconvenience in my body. If I were to let a ‘woe is me’ attitude take over, I would likely never have developed the hyper-acute awareness of pelvic positioning that I have, nor would I have read about the laser therapy clinic in Toronto and taken the trip I did, one filled with awesome adventure and growth in so many ways.
The third is obviously the plain fact that I’m injured and in my 4th year of recovery, rather than living it up as a senior at MIT. Did the injury happen? Yes. Is it awful? In a sense. Am I throwing in the towel because of it? No. Can more be gained by stoically pressing onward despite the awfulness? Without a doubt. I am striving.
My point is that now understanding where we find ourselves, whether as an individual with pains, or as a country with an uncertain future of governance, I think we should all be looking keenly toward the good that will inevitably come from our collective search for meaning – which is true for both political factions. History shows us that it can happen slowly or quickly, but I have to believe there will be good.
I am honest that I – not as a Democrat or Republican but rather as a human with empathy – am terrified about what might actually happen. Will the rallies with hateful speech continue? …a Muslim ban? …mass deportation? …torture? …the abolishment of a woman’s right to choose? …will sexism, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia become more widespread? …after our first black president, must the pendulum swing so far the other way?
Trump has chosen to align himself with racists and white supremacists (Sessions / Bannon), the surrounding family feuds rival Hillary’s messy history (Kushner), security protocols don’t currently concern him (I thought that was Hillary’s issue?), and the Trump family is already looking to cash in on the business and branding bonanza that is the United States Presidency.
Darkest days lead to finest hours.
Misfortune can, in time, give way to immense progress…but only if we strive for it. Together. And that means being open to discovering the sloping sidewalk when we all start veering to the left or, in this case, the right, by more than 20 degrees.