Anxiety and Elections

Warning: this post is about American politics.

I have spent yesterday and today resisting the urge to refresh NPR’s election map every five minutes. I was prepared for the results but I wasn’t prepared for it to be this close. I am astounded that it is this close. It feels like a betrayal.

At the time of writing, almost 69 million Americans are listed as having voted for Donald Trump, 48% of the American electorate. I like to believe that most people are reasonable and generally good in nature, that there is only a small handful of truly unreasonable people. But these kinds of numbers completely shatter that belief. How could so many people vote for a party and president that openly opposes not only trans rights but all LGBT rights? How could so many people witness the last 4 years and want more? It is insane to me. What makes it unbearable is that many of Trump’s supporters knew that supporting him is unconscionable. These voters were embarrassed enough about their intentions that they lied to pollsters. Yet, despite this embarrassment, they didn’t change how they voted. Even with the luxury of 4 years of hindsight, they voted the same. How are we supposed to live with these facts now bare for all to see?

I find myself anxious. I am not anxious that Trump may win the election, which is looking to be statistically unlikely (but not impossible). Rather, I am anxious about the amount of hate that exists in the general public. 69 million Americans voted for a party that wants to discriminate against and restrict my and all other LGBT people’s rights. That is 21% or 1 in 5 people in this country. 1 in 5 people that I encounter day to day are transphobic (among plenty of other forms of bigotry. It’s enough to make one paranoid.

What does this level of hate say about society and the hope for progress? Progress is fragile and uncertain, it is not guaranteed. Worse, backsliding is always possible. There have been plenty of times throughout history where marginal progress was followed by a reaction that reversed all those gains. Perhaps we are in one of those periods. What hope does America have for even minimal progress if so many people would rather go backward?

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