Living and working in Manhattan, with the friends that I have and the job that I do, I exist in one big old bubble. And I got a pretty powerful punch-in-the-gut reminder of that fact earlier this week when, against all I had heard and read, Donald Trump picked up enough votes in the right places to become America’s 45th president.
Just about everyone in my world spent all of yesterday mired in a combination of shock, grief, sadness, pain and utter fucking numbness. Here in our bubble, most of us just didn’t see this result coming at all, and even now we are struggling to come to terms with it.
In retrospect, however, I should not have been so surprised. After all, over the past couple of months on this very website, we have published a variety of articles about the election, most of which I can honestly say were pretty slanted. We couldn’t seem to help it. With the exception of Nicholas Pell, our staff and most of our contributors lean liberal.
If the past 48 hours have taught me anything, it’s that the thicker you make your bubble, the more intensely it will inevitably burst.
When I looked at the Facebook comments on some of these stories, however, I began to realize that many of our 145,000 Facebook fans don’t see things the way we do. And for the first time in the site’s history, our page likes actually started going down.
And now that Trump has been elected, I’m sure a lot of our followers are pretty stoked for the new era. I gotta be honest, I am not. But along with this history-making election, three little moments from the past 48 hours—one involving a close friend, one with an acquaintance and one with the public at large—pierced my bubble, and I think it’s a good thing.
Moment 1: As it started to become clear that Trump was going to win, one of my best friends texted to say: “You know, on this night, I gotta say: Fuck Missouri. Sorry, buddy.” My grandfather is from the Show Me State, I went to college there and have a lot of love for it, so I simply responded: “Ever been?” He wrote back: “And now I never will…” I couldn’t help thinking how incredibly close-minded this point of view is, while simultaneously realizing that I’ve said similar things about other states in the not-too-distant past. On this day, I gotta say: How is this helping?
Moment 2: I rode my bike to Made Man’s midtown Manhattan office this morning and ascended to the 19th floor with my favorite freight elevator operator, Ramos. First thing he said when I got on was, “Trump supporter?” I shook my head. “You know,” he continued, “a lot of what he has been saying the past 48 hours, I think he might actually put us on a good path.” I could barely register a response as, once it became clear Trump was going to win, I stopped watching and listening. I pretty much shut down, building mental barriers against an outcome I opposed. But as I got off the elevator, I realized, that’s not really helping either.
Moment 3: This one actually goes back to a little earlier on the night of the election, after I’d left the liberal bar where I’d been watching liberal election coverage with my liberal friends. It was probably about 11 o’clock and, as I rode my bike from the bar to my apartment, I looked around the streets. I saw young drunks walking and talking and laughing, cabs picking up fares, a girl leaving a bodega with something wrapped in foil that I presume was a delicious sandwich. And even then I realized: While this night feels like a fucking nightmare to people like me, life will go the fuck on. And it helps a little bit to see that.
Because as much we liberals are continuing to bitch about James Comey and the Electoral College and telegrams from Putin and a whole bunch of other shit, we have to realize that we are not the only people in America whose opinions matter.
Now, I’m not saying bubbles are necessarily bad. I think most of us have them, to varying degrees, and psychologically we probably need them to get through the day. But if the past 48 hours have taught me anything, it’s that the thicker you make your bubble, the more intensely it will inevitably burst.
So going forward I’m going to try to listen a bit more, weigh issues a bit more evenly, and above all, try not to just reflexively reject opinions that do not align with my own.
I am still pretty much hating life at the moment—and deeply concerned for friends whose gender, ethnicity, sexuality and/or religious beliefs differ greatly from that of the new president.
But I’m hopeful that if the walls of my bubble are a little more flexible, they’ll be less likely to explode in a hail of schizophrenic passive-aggressive emotional outbursts in the days to come.
How about you?