This is written as an olive branch. The reason I say that is because I do not want to be one of the people who write yet another opinionated, alienating article. What would that accomplish other than more disconnection and animosity? How would that help our currently divided country?
First, I hear you. I understand why you voted the way you voted. I have even felt the way you do right now. I write this letter to you today because I want you to understand me as well. If we can achieve mutual understanding, then we can find our way back to peace.
When you say that you have never felt that your condition of being a woman has ever interfered with your rights, that you have never felt humiliated for the color of your skin, that you feel like it is up to you and there are no other factors for your success, that if you want it badly enough you can get it, etc., then I say WOW! That’s amazing and I’m happy for you! Please know that you are fortunate. You are privileged. And, I can understand your confusion as to why so many women marched for rights, unity, and respect.
Let me tell you my story…
I am an immigrant. My family was granted political asylum because we were escaping a torturous political regime back in Chile. I landed in the bible belt of Texas. And ever since I can remember I have felt the weight of my skin. I’m not white, nor am I brown. I am somewhere in between, but different enough to be called out and, yes, discriminated and persecuted.
Because of the color of my skin, I have been told to get out of the country and go back to Mexico where I came from. I have been accused of cheating on a paper because my words were “too smart” for my skin color. I have been told by my guidance counselor that she never told me about college because I was going to get pregnant and drop-out anyway. When I transferred schools, I was taken out of honors classes because the principal at the new school thought that I wouldn’t understand the classes despite my high GPA.
And if that wasn’t enough, because of my condition of being a woman, I have been told that I’m not right for a certain job. I have been denied birth control pills because the pharmacist was Christian and he didn’t think women should use them. I have been told that I cannot play certain sports because I am a girl.
Because I am Latina, I have been hit on by men that think all Latin women are easy. I have been grabbed by men that think their status gives them the right to do so. I have been molested, violated, and have experienced sexual harassment on numerous occasions from men that are drunk with power.
And when I stood up for myself, I have been labeled a whore or a cunt and have been denied privileges and promotions despite of my efforts and work. I have been marginalized, segregated, and even denied the right to express my thoughts about anything.
I have been persecuted because I don’t believe in a Christian god. I have been called a wetback. I have been told to provide other forms of ID besides the ones that are legally called for in certain jobs. I have been told that I have a great accent for being brown. I constantly get asked where I’m from because I don’t look like the norm. I cannot even express how I feel about the whole of my country without being told to leave the country if I don’t like it. I have to work 3 times as hard to get noticed, promoted, or a raise. And there is a long, long list of etc’s.
So you see, that is my norm. And I’d like you to know that just because it has never happened to you, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening to others. Because despite there being laws that regulate these actions, it is still not enough to curb the desire of those that hold the power to bypass anything.
Because this is my norm, you can see that we have several differences in experience and, therefore, perspectives. We are probably not the same, even though you may think that we’ve had the same opportunities. And, in my world, “trying hard”, sometimes, just isn’t enough. Unfortunately, your possibilities aren’t the same as mine. Your norm isn’t my norm.
And don’t get me wrong. We are probably similar in a lot of ways. I am an educated middle-class citizen. I am eligible to vote. I have a job that I love. I have a roof over my head. I have more than enough to eat. I have a gym membership that I rarely use because I run outside. I can go to the movies or to a nice restaurant whenever I like. I can afford good wines and spirits. I travel often. I can afford to go to the doctor every year to get my annual checkups, which I do every October for my birthday.
And I’m grateful that I have everything I want. I am privileged. I have never not had the money to repair the air conditioner. If I get sick, I can afford to go to the doctor. I can afford birth control. I’ve never had to work two jobs to make ends meet. And, yet, I know people who struggle every day because they don’t know if they will eat that day. I know people who get sick and have been denied necessary care. I know people who get killed because of who they love. And I leave the details out, because the details really don’t matter. We are human beings and there should be no other division. And when I say “I KNOW” people I mean I really KNOW people—not I know OF people.
I didn’t always think this way. I didn’t always feel this way either. For a long time, I also saw and lived this great divide. There was a you and a me. There was an us and a them. And through the years, I learned to feel and think different. And I’ve seen this come up with a passion this last year. Especially with my Trump-HATING friends. So the following message is for all of us. We could use a bit of a reminder:
If you are interested. Here’s how I began to close the divide:
1. Make it personal.
Ask yourself a simple question that can raise your sympathy and empathy levels. It’s simple:
What if it were ME? What if this affected MY FAMILY? How would I feel if…
Here are some examples:
What if I couldn’t afford birth control and my only other form of getting it was at a Planned Parenthood?
What if it were my child that someone was mocking for having some sort of physical disability?
What if it was my pussy that someone wanted to touch only because he felt like he wanted to?
What if I were married and feared that my marriage would suddenly get dissolved?
What if I were made to sign a registry that told everyone what my faith was, because my faith was linked to terrorism?
2. Be curious.
Look for people who aren’t like you and ask them for their perspectives. Ask why they think and feel the way they do. Don’t assume anything. Everyone likes to speak about themselves, so it shouldn’t be hard to get people to talk and give their opinions. It is especially interesting to speak to people who have the exact opposite point of view. I’ve had the most awesome conversation with people that don’t believe or feel the way I do. And it turns out that, generally, after the conversation I understand why they think and behave the way they do. And they, too, understand me. Remember, you don’t have to agree, you don’t have to become BFF’s, you don’t even have to see them ever again, you just have to listen.
One way to expand your perspectives is to go to different countries and experience their world. Things are definitely different in other countries. Sometimes, WAYYYYY different. Some differences will piss you the fuck off and others will just be funny. Keep remembering that you are not in your home country. You are somewhere else and YOU are the one that needs to adjust to your circumstances. If you find yourself getting all pissy about stuff, just breathe and take it all in. Ask yourself how you can be flexible within your circumstances. Expand your world, expand your mind.
4. Stop watching TV.
One of the biggest mood swingers for me is watching TV. I have learned that I get highly reactive to watching certain type of news. Especially, that type of news that spews hatred towards any certain group of people. Because I’ve noticed this about myself, I stopped watching what the TV “makes” me watch and I started to actively and selectively choose the news I watch. I choose what I watch and usually, I just read it instead of watching. I also choose how long I want to read certain type of news. It’s easy to get anxious when you watch the same news for long periods of time or in a repetitive manner. I found that when I go back to TV, I can easily see which side the news is on—let’s be real, there is no such thing as unbiased news.
5. Get real about your prejudices.
Let’s face it. We all have them. We judge. We categorize. It’s in our nature. That’s the way our brains help us to process and simplify our world. Our prejudices are based on experiences and how good or how harsh we’ve perceived our life to be. If you’ve had a secure life you will probably have a positive outlook. If you’ve had a rough life, your outlook will probably be a little less positive. Understand that the more you judge, the more you box people up in strict and inflexible categories. Get to know the person first and get to know their story. Everyone has one.
It is easy to put everyone in the same bowl. I did not vote for Trump. I cannot and will never support someone who has and is openly divisive and incendiary. I cannot, and will never support someone who causes my body to react in a frightening manner. And you, my friend that voted for Trump, to this day, have not done that. I have never felt anything but love and support from you. You know who you are. And to my friends that didn’t vote for Trump… find peace in your heart. I feel you. It’s easy to fall into the same divisiveness that you feel others to have. (See number 5.) Yes, you too.
My final thought is this:
I do not hate Trump. I wish him well. I wish him well for the unity of the nation and the world. I wish him so well that I vote for him in the next election. It is my hope that with this letter, we can unite and make this a better world. Like it or not, we’re all in this together. Let’s stop the hate.