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doubling down on kindness

Last night I had a bad experience. I’ve never understood some people’s need to be unkind towards strangers. I’ve, frankly, never understood some people’s need to be unkind to anyone. I'm no saint, but I try to understand other people's opinions and world views because I also believe in self-improvement. This election has been tough on a lot of people I know, and to me, it seems like the collective state of our nation is ‘afraid.’ People who voted for Trump were afraid for their reasons; people who voted for Clinton were afraid for their reasons.

I know a lot of people who voted for Trump. I’m from a small town just outside the states that make up the Rust Belt where a lot of people have lost their jobs due to various industries and jobs being exported to other countries. The people I know who voted for Trump didn’t vote for him because he’s a great candidate or because they believe in the hateful things he spews. The people I know who voted for him did so because they felt like they needed a change from the political climate of the past 8 years - Hell, even so far back as the last 16 years (maybe even earlier). I know a lot of really kind, working-class people who voted for Trump because everyone - at his/her most basic level - needs food, water, and shelter to live. And a lot of people were scared because they perceived that electing another politician, especially a true, career politician, would further alienate their needs of basic necessities.

I know a lot more people who voted for Clinton. I live in one of the most creative, influential, socially-liberal cities in the country, let alone the world. LA is hurting right now. A lot of the people I know who voted for Clinton didn’t vote for her because they wanted to buy everything she was selling. Many of their votes were also rooted in fear. Their votes were rooted in fear that many of the groups that make this country so great and so diverse would lose - or at least lose progress because many groups still don’t have all the rights they should - the rights they’d worked so hard to obtain. A lot of people who voted for Clinton didn’t vote for her because they believed she was the best candidate for the job; they just perceived that she was the better candidate for the job in this election where their other option was someone with little-to-no political experience whose antics might reverse all the social progress that's been made thus far.

And this is what’s saddest to me - that the majority of this country voted based on fear. And I’m not just talking about the majority that “won” the election. I’m talking about everyone. Every single voter, in some way, voted because of fear - or didn’t vote because of fear. And I think this fact is what actually scares me the most. Regardless of who does or does not win an election, American citizens have a voice. President Obama was originally not in favor of gay marriage; yet, because of the voice of the American Citizen, it was legalized during his Presidency. That’s a powerful thing to think about it. Not only did Americans come together and turn a dream into reality, they did it in conditions that were, at first, unfavorable. Even President Obama’s feelings on the matter evolved, as well as (hopefully) many people who were not exposed to a way of life different from their own.

But, unfortunately, many people who voted in this election are hateful. And again, I’m not just talking about one side of the coin here. I’ve seen horrible things from both sides the past few days. One of my closest friends and I got out of LA and escaped to Joshua Tree Wednesday-Thursday where we had an amazing time off-the-grid. No social media, no political talk. Just camping in the desert, surrounded by other campers who were kind and also didn’t talk politics. And I felt hopeful that the country would be okay. Driving back, however, I witnessed a person on the 10 Freeway in traffic harass someone with a Trump/Pence bumper sticker. The person drove up to the side of the Trump car (a small business owner), rolled down the window, and gave the middle finger. Then that same person slowed down to follow behind the Trump supporter. The Trump supporter brake-checked the person who continued to give the middle finger to no avail as there continued to be tailgating for the next 10 miles. I get it. Everyone is upset. I just wish the people who were so against the hurtful gestures and insults of the opposition wouldn’t then become the opposition slinging hurtful gestures and insults.

I started this post with “last night I had a bad experience.” I was walking to the metro and was on the phone with my boyfriend. We had been talking about our days and he was making sure I was getting to the subway safely. My tone, which was at first excited because I love my boyfriend and chatting with him, changed shortly before our conversation ended. While walking on Vine St. between Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, some random man yelled, “You’re a whore!” at me out of the window of his car. My tone immediately changed. Whereas I was excited to talk to my boyfriend and was looking forward to a fun night seeing one of my favorite musicians in concert with a friend of mine, I now felt sad and scared and confused. I was caught off guard, I was hurt, and I - unfortunately - justified to my boyfriend that I was not dressed provocatively. And that makes me sad, too. I’ve had amazing conversations with many strong, intelligent women the past year (and way before that), and it just sucks that many of us feel that need to double check and make sure we’re not dressed too provocatively. It’s not us. It’s not what we’re wearing. For the record, for many people out there (not that many people even will read this LOL) who might question what I was wearing, it was jeans and black tee-shirt. What a slut, right? People who work in construction and wear jeans and tee-shirts, watch out.. apparently that’s the newest whore ensemble!

That happened to me. And it sucked. And it almost ruined my night. But it didn’t. It wasn't the first time something like that has happened to me. I'm a woman. Stuff like that happens A LOT. I just figured in a city as progressive as LA, especially given this past week and many people's disappointment in the result, perhaps people would hold off being jerks for a little while. But it didn’t ruin my night because I went to an amazing concert from Amos Lee, my favorite Philadelphia-local musician, about which I’d been extremely excited. And he verbalized what I’d been feeling. That we shouldn’t turn on each other. That we should reach out and be kinder to each other.

That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to double down on kindness. It may not be much, but it’s a start. Kindness begets kindness. I truly believe that. I don’t want people to become the thing they so adamantly oppose(d): hateful. So let’s think about what we want for ourselves and America's children’s futures, and let’s take responsible, safe, non-violent action to put those plans and wants into action. Our country - at its core - was founded on conflict. And that’s OKAY. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with others, as long as you are informed. If we’re not willing to understand why members of the opposing party voted the way they did then we don’t deserve to be a part of the conversation because a conversation consists of two parties talking to and listening to each other. Maybe it’s time we ask ourselves why nearly half the country felt the political system was so corrupt and our country so broken that voters felt it imperative to elect someone with little-to-no political experience.

I’m okay with backlash I might get for expressing this feeling and writing this post. I’m okay with being the one who tries to see things from other people’s points of view. If no one starts a conversation and no one tries to listen to the other side, then what can anyone expect to get accomplished? Most of us out there agree that spewing hateful, racist, misogynist, bigoted slants at someone/groups of people is wrong. We were all so against the hate when it wasn't our specific candidate. Just because that candidate is now the President-Elect does not mean we all get a free pass to become that way.

Please, double down on kindness. Don’t become the thing you said you hated.

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