I am a small business owner, not a writer and certainly not in the habit of voicing a political perspective on the platform of my business. However, as a first generation Mexican-American, a woman, and the owner of a business which celebrates diversity, indigenous peoples, folk art and the culture of Mexico (as well as a general culture of inclusion), it's difficult remaining unmoved or silent about the choice our country has made on the future president of America. So, for today in hopes of moving forward (figuratively and also literally, off my sad couch), I want to talk about the issue that I see at the core of our differences. I do not believe this was "politics as usual," and everyone would agree, this race was disturbing.
I was a republican conservative my early adult life. Did you know that? Not many do, but it's true. Many find it hard to believe when minority groups support conservative politicians and movements. People forget many minority groups (like Latinos,) have a strong connection with a religious faith-- in my case Catholicism--, have conservative/ strict upbringings and if you're lucky, have parents who have risen with success with very little help at all-- mostly on the grit and determination of their own will. With all of this, they also have a sense of fierce protection and a keen sense of survival. I was raised to understand I could not blame anyone for my failures, only myself. No one would look out for me, but me and if you want something in this world, you work hard and protect it. It's an important lesson and at the core of who I am, I do believe this to be true. But it isn't all that's true, it's just a piece of a greater idea.
What this lesson doesn't give much room for is the part of the human experience I am learning is most profound: empathy.
After college I left my bubble in Arizona and saw the world. I lived in the most different places. Places that startled me, stunned me and amazed me. I learned about all walks of life and It was only then that a second education began within me. One outside the reach of my parents, family and my comfort zone. One that frightened me and pushed me to ask very serious questions about myself and my place in it. It wasn't overnight, but little by little, I allowed this strange transformation to occur within myself of letting go of certain beliefs I identified with, of opening my heart and mind and above all I began to LISTEN to voices that contradicted my own. Once this began, it was an easy and beautiful road to shaping my thoughts and feelings about the world. I gained a new perspective and it was as if the universe opened up to me and gave me a glimpse of a sacred truth: caring about everyone and everything only expands your ability to care, not overwhelm it.
Our ability to empathize with others, to understand their struggles and pain, is what makes us most human, it is the food that feeds your soul and what I believe to be great about this country. It is true with everything and all things--children, animals, the elderly, the environment, the food we grow, everything. It is what makes us listen and try to help, to make things better. This feeling of empathy was not exercised on election night. It's clear, the desire to help our fellow man is not a priority among a huge population of Americans.
I believe this election wasn't really about challenging issues (as it should've been.) What is our plan to grow the economy for working class Americans? Can we have affordable higher education? How do we begin reforming immigration? It was mainly about general broad strokes of differences. In the end I feel this election was about protecting what you believe in. And I truly believe that the people who voted for our new president aren't expecting a radical change in job creation and economic growth. I think they were protesting. But at the cost of what? Those votes were heard, you are angry, you are tired and I truly sympathize with those in hard places in their lives. But what lies in the aftermath of this choice? Your desire to be heard, to stake claim to unconventional leadership, has a dramatic effect. People in need of insurance and medicine- won't have it, children of the 'Dreamers' act are now afraid of their parents being deported, those needing access to medical facilities, or places providing early education- don't matter. There is a sense of security in American that has been lost. The country my website celebrates feels as if it's lost its greatest ally.
Why? A lack of empathy.
This tunnel vision of holding on tight to what you feel is being taken from you is just an inability to understand, an inability to be empathetic. Protecting everyone's rights is also protecting your own. A real patriot of this country would be concerned with protecting the constitution, not amending it to fit personal needs and beliefs. Taking away someone else's rights, is taking away yours. Exclusion, walls, and a dark mistrust of others will only keep you in the same position you're trying to fight out of. Alone, afraid and without opportunity.
Empathy is what we lack as a nation. I doubt the president elect can deliver the promises his voters want. And on the day they discover this, I hope some will search inward and begin talking, looking around and listening. Empathy is taught by example. Start anywhere and everywhere. With your children at the playground, picking up trash at the beach, walking dogs at the humane society, donating money to hospice in names of those you love, versus gift cards at Best Buy.... all these ways to support your communities could fall on the path of one who isn't accustomed to practicing empathy with those outside their immediate circles. Perhaps one of these voters will benefit from this type of social responsibility and then they might talk, look around and listen. It's the only way. We must be the change we seek, be the model and others will follow.
Stay strong and fight for what you believe in: It's the American way.