A few months ago, I had a conversation with the young man who helps me do my barn chores. He’s a polite, well meaning neighbor kid whom I’ve know since he was six years old. While I was mucking out one stall and he was mucking the other, he told me that he was looking forward to watching the first Presidential debate. I admit that I was surprised since he doesn’t seem the least bit interested in anything outside his small, isolated world. When I asked why, he eagerly announced that he was planning to vote for Donald Trump. Startled, I stopped mucking. I tentatively asked why, and he told me that he liked Trump’s economic and health care plans. I bit my tongue. I said that I don’t discuss politics. I didn’t blurt out, “But he’s a racist and he’s a bully and he’s disrespectful to women!” I was afraid that the young man would decide that he didn’t want to help me anymore and quit working for us.
It was the first of many instances where I didn’t speak up when people in my community said things – often hateful and bigoted – against Hillary Clinton and in praise of Donald Trump. I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to make them mad at me since I had to live with them long after the election would be over. At the same time, I felt my mother looking down on me, scolding me for not calling a spade a spade and defending my beliefs. I was ashamed of myself for being silent.
There was a terrible dichotomy because some of these people, who were clearly not concerned about the racism and the misogyny being spewed by Trump and his surrogates, were at the same time, good folks, good neighbors whom I genuinely liked. It would all be fine unless we dug a bit deeper and uncovered this really ugly truth. I felt that they didn’t give a shit about what happened to people who were different than they were. They didn’t want to be connected to everyone else on the planet. They wanted to protect their little corner of the earth and justify their own beliefs, and they appeared to truly hate anyone who thought the way that I did. I began to feel their anger and frustration radiating all around me. It scared me.
Yesterday was my birthday. It did not go as I expected it would. I thought that I would be celebrating the first woman President’s hard fought victory. I really wanted us to have a Mom-in-Chief so badly. Our country needs nurturing and healing and an end to the bullying, mean culture that has mushroomed like a nuclear bomb during this election season. Instead, there is terrible fear that we will fall back into the dark days before civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, environmental rights, human rights were given to those of us who had been previously trampled and abused.
Over the years, I can see that my young friend, who reliably and cheerfully comes to help me with my barn chores, has also grown to love my horses. He had never spent any time around big animals before, but it’s clear that he enjoys being with them. It is also obvious that he loves trees, plants and nature. This morning, when he comes to muck the stalls with me, I will try to start a new conversation with him. I have no idea what I will say, but I will attempt to find common ground, listen carefully and keep an open heart. I believe that we all need to do that starting right now.