In the wake of the presidential election you may find many people you know are afraid. They are, or they love, someone who is an immigrant, non-Christian, non-white, LGBTQ+, a woman, low-income or some combination thereof.
This may seem an overreaction. Every election you remember people swore to leave the country if the other guy won, but nothing really ever changed and life went on. What’s the big deal?
This fear isn’t about politics; it’s about survival. People are afraid that President-elect Donald Trump will do what he promised throughout his campaign: drive out illegal immigrants, regardless how they got here or how they contribute to society; drive out Muslims, whether they’re here legally or not; eliminate a woman’s right to choose whether to keep a pregnancy; repeal Obamacare with no plan to replace it; and strike down the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right.
The president can’t do any of these things alone. The Senate and House of Representatives must cooperate, as must the Supreme Court because doing many of these things will bring lawsuits. But both Senate and House are controlled by Republicans, so their cooperation with Trump looks likely. And if President Barack Obama can’t overcome the Senate’s refusal to hear his recommendations for the open seat on the Supreme Court, Trump will be free to fill the vacancy with whomever he chooses.
But that’s only part of the nightmare for some people, and not even the most immediate part.
Nearly half of U.S. voters elected an openly bigoted sexual predator to the presidency. They feel justified now in acting on behaviors Trump has espoused throughout his life and campaign. Within 24 hours of the polls closing I read in social media multiple first-hand accounts of men opening sexually harassing women, one of a Muslim woman being assaulted and told to hang herself, of two different black women having white men hurl racial and sexist slurs at them with one man threatening gun violence, and of multiple LGBTQ+ people committing suicide to escape the violence and persecution they see coming from their heavily Republican neighbors.
In California this may seem extreme, and it probably won’t be common here. But California is not the whole country. When the rising tide of privileged prejudice victimizes innocent people, the victims won’t care whether they’re in California or Tennessee. It’s real, and it’s already happening.
If someone expresses fear or anxiety about the recent presidential election, please, don’t tell them they’re overreacting. You would help someone in a crisis, right? Then it shouldn’t matter if you expect that crisis to arise. They need to know you have their back.