Saturday, November 26, 2016

What Gilmore Girls Teaches Us About Passion and Dreams

I was among those looking forward to Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life with great excitement. But I was also looking forward with tempered expectations. I didn't expect the reboot to be able to capture the magic of the original series, and I don't think I was wrong. (Spoilers for the entire A Year in the Life from here on out). I was disappointed with some of the delivery (what was with that forever-long musical sequence, for instance?), and I was left perplexed by those last four words, but that's not my central focus in this response.

The four, ninety-minute episodes had a lot to love. The characters felt mostly true to their development, and I didn't feel like the actors were phoning it in. There were plenty of moments tucked in with clear appreciation for the fan base (hello, Mr. Kim!). It was, to put it one way, clearly a  project of passion: the actors', the writers', and the fans'. Perhaps that's why approaching an analysis of it as a way to understand passion seems like a natural fit to me.

Tara Seetharam wrote an Atlantic piece about the reboot's potential to show a full-circle Millennial arc. She smartly places the show as a whole in conversation with its pop culture descendants and concludes with a hopeful tone about what A Year in the Life can provide:
But the return of Rory Gilmore—a textured, early-aughts character who mostly preceded the scrutiny of her generation—will be a fascinating contribution to this developing narrative. Her arc will link her generation’s foundation with its emergence into adulthood in an unprecedented way. In doing so, A Year in the Life could help make the case for seeing other Millennial stories through, from their awkward beginnings to their, hopefully, more enlightened ends.
The show definitely handed this "Millennial arc" directly, often in a ham-fisted way. The "Thirtysomething Gang," which is featured in one of the promos for the show and never develops past that caricature, represents Rory's worst fears: that she has "come back" home a "loser" without any prospects for the future. The Thirtysomethings are infinitely mockable, doe-eyed and lost, spending their nights re-enacting movie scenes while clinging to one another for comfort. Sure, they're supposed to be a joke, but it's a joke whose punchline has been repeated again and again in the culture at large: "Kids today! Am I right?"

We don't get any detailed looks at what has placed the members of the Thirtysomething gang in their predicament. Babette tells us they went out in the world, got chewed up by it, and returned. So were they rejected from jobs? Were they unable to make ends meet on their own? Were they crushed by student loan debt? We don't know.

What we do know is that Rory Gilmore's similar crisis is mostly of her own making. She is not facing a shortage of opportunities. She has worked steadily, but unsatisfactorily. We see that she's gotten some great writing opportunities (most notably a well-received New Yorker piece) which she is unable to successfully transform into a more full-time gig. We watch her struggle through attempts at co-writing a book, pitching pieces to GQ, and even taking over the Stars Hollow Gazette as volunteer editor. In each case, she starts out excited by the possibilities and then dejected by the less-than-fantastic reality.

This is not new territory for our youngest Gilmore. She faced a very similar choice in the final season when she turned down a solid reporting job in the hopes of getting the coveted Reston Fellowship, a fellowship she did not get. When she tries to double back and take the job, it has already been filled. Her decision to chase the passion project instead of taking the safer-but-still-rooted-in-her-field choice was a point of contention between Logan and Lorelai. Lorelai insisted that hedging your bets and making some choices out of concern for stability was a smart move. Logan, himself freshly having rejected his father's dynasty for his own idealistic dreams, insists that passion is more important. We could boil it down to "Follow your dreams" vs. "Use your dreams as a guide, but do it while you're awake with both eyes open."

When the original series ended, following her passion (and Logan's advice) instead of playing it safe (as Lorelai wished) seemed to have steered Rory into a good position. She's excited about following Barack Obama's presidential bid and seems to have the world at her feet. The reboot, though, shows us that things weren't exactly as they seemed.

For one, we get a closer look at Logan. His bucking the yoke of his father's dynastic intentions seems to have been much more temporary than the conclusion of the series suggested. In A Year in the Life, he's right back on his father's path, including marrying a French heiress who we never see and who operates as a symbol of Logan's subservience to his destiny. While I think we can (and should) debate what this portrayal means through a feminist lens, I'm more interested in this discussion in what it means about Logan's previous advice to Rory. He told her to follow her dreams no matter what, and he used his own gutsy move as a model, but now we know that at some point he came back in line with his father's demands. Did his business fail? Did his father have to bail him out . . . again? It's a lot easier to say "fuck the system" when you know that you can always fall back on daddy's money and a life full of safety nets when it goes wrong.

Rory, too, has safety nets. The brief scene with Christopher shows him offering her money. The Chilton Headmaster offers her a job "in any discipline" teaching at a prestigious private school. She has friends across the world willing to put her up (often in luxurious surroundings) for free.

Perhaps, then, she's not the best case study for how one should handle the balance of passion and practicality. What, instead, can we learn from those around her?

The theme to Gilmore Girls as a whole is just this: What happens when passion meets reality? When do you bend and what happens if you break? Virtually every character represents this theme in some way or another, and a closer look at how the show wraps up their story arc might give us a clearer idea of what overall message we're to receive.

Like Logan, Jess and Dean exist more as conduits into Rory's story than fleshed out characters of their own. With that in mind, what can we learn from their reappearance?
When Rory sees Dean in Doose's Market, she lays out very clearly what he represents to her. "The perfect first boyfriend" functioned to teach her "what safe felt like." We see that Dean has gone on to represent that to someone else: a wife now pregnant with her fourth child. His representation of a status quo protectionism is both familiar and comforting, but Rory rejected what he represented, and I get the sense that (even if she's nostalgic for what it might have meant) she's still glad that she did. That kind of safety came with more sacrifices than she was willing to make, sacrifices not just of opportunity but also of identity. 
Jess, on the other hand, is there to ignite a flame of identity in Rory. He's the one who suggests the Gilmore Girls book project that seems to be Rory's raison d'ĂȘtre at the end of the reboot. His longing look at her through the window after his insistence that his love for her is "long over" suggests that she still represents a kind of "one that got away" for him, but what does he represent to us? He, like Luke, followed a passion that others didn't see as worthy and made it into a comfortable, if modest, existence. His main role, though, is to be what he has always been: Dean's foil. If Dean represents the safe and boring extinguishing of Rory's individuality, Jess represents the steady and bright burning of it. 
The other supporting characters in the show seems to function as some kind of lesson in what following your dreams can entail. Here are the lessons they teach as I see them.
Lane and Zack 
Lane and Zack are also Millennials, and Lane, like Logan, bucked a lifetime of tradition and expectations in order to follow her dreams. We see in the original series that those dreams are immediately tempered by the realities of having to make a living (she's waitressing to pay her bills) and family obligations (she finds herself pregnant with twins immediately following her wedding and gives up the opportunity to go on tour because of the logistical nightmare). We already knew, then, that Lane represented a cautionary tale when it came to following your dreams.  
A Year in the Life gives us an endearing revival of Hep Alien. Domestic life, financial responsibilities, and commitment to rock and roll have braided together to give us Zack with a day job he doesn't seem to like ("I didn't ask for this promotion!") and a literal changing of persona in order to go back to his "real" self as a rock star ("Is he him yet?"). We see them playing at The Secret Bar at night, so presumably they are managing the balance in a way that offers some kind of fulfillment, but it certainly isn't the world tours and life of fame that Lane dreamed of.  
The lesson here: Scraps of your dreams are better than no dreams at all.  
Probably owing more to the real-life dreams of Melissa McCarthy than anything else, Sookie's story is . . . odd. She has abandoned her dream of the Dragonfly to live an experimental life of tasting dirt (really!) and growing things. She is presented as having followed her passions to the extreme, and she sacrifices a lot to do it. She loses out on her friendships and is incensed to see that "her" kitchen has been sullied by other chefs in her absence. I guess you could see her arc as a success if you squint, but to me it felt mostly like a sad warning: follow your dreams too closely and you'll end up giving up everything you gain along the way.  
Michele's story is complicated. He has married, and his husband desperately wants children. Michele admits that he is going to give in to this demand without passion. He says that fatherhood, for him, will always be an act.  
Perhaps that's why it becomes so important to him that his work life fully represent his passions since his home life no longer can. He is set to leave the Dragonfly unless Lorelai finds a way to expand it and give him more responsibility and power. She ultimately ingratiates herself to her mother (something we all know she hates) in order to meet these demands. 
I guess the lesson from him is something like this: You can't compromise everything. If you give in here, you have to stay firm there.  
Luke, in my eyes, is the biggest success story. He literally did exactly what he wanted with his life. He built a diner, rejected anyone else's attempts to make it more than he wanted it to be, and married a woman he loved to spend his days with.
His lesson: Don't let anyone else tell you what your dream is.  
Paris is probably the biggest on-paper success. She runs a fertility empire, and she runs it with her signature iron fist, leaving anyone who dare cross her physically shaking.
As we see from the scene in the Chilton bathroom, though, she isn't particularly satisfied with the life she built. Her divorce from Doyle is taking a toll on her, and she even accuses Rory of having an affair with him, a clear sign of insecurity.  
What was Paris' passion? In the original series, we see her equally willing to be a lawyer or a doctor, largely based off of the prestige of the institutions willing to accept her. We find out that she has stitched these opportunities together and handles legal and medical issues in her role as fertility director. At the end of the day, though, Paris' definition of success has always been determined by someone else. She is the foil to Luke, and her ultimate "success" may look a lot better than his, but it rings hollow when struck.  
Her lesson is the same as Luke's but told as cautionary tale rather than role model: Don't let anyone else tell you what your dream is. (And if you do, you may end up with no dream at all.) 

Obvious omissions from my list are Lorelai and Emily. As the other titular "Gilmore Girls," they seem like a good place to close.

Lorelai Lorelai is obviously a case study in success through adversity, and she is clearly struggling with the outcome in A Year in the Life. After a scrappy, individualistic life of doing things her own way, she got exactly what she said she always wanted. There is a very overt, direct discussion of how she refuses to compromise. Her mother mocks her for it, and she points out to Luke that everything from how they live to who controls the closet has been decided by her.  
Her Wild moment (gag me; my least favorite part of the reboot) has her reflecting on this in a very direct way, and when she returns, she marries Luke and agrees to expand the inn, both attempts to put her apparent newfound attitude into action. 
Emily has always done what everyone expected of her. Her role as Richard's wife was largely about keeping up appearances. Her home, her clothes, her long list of volunteer duties, the food she prepares, the maids she fires, everything about her is a representation of that role. In the reboot, we see it all come apart when Richard is no longer there to anchor it.  
Emily, who famously never kept a maid for longer than an episode and once fired one for walking too loudly, now has one maid's entire family living in her home. In fact, they have largely taken over the place. She gives a "bullshit"-laden rant to the DAR and is effectively removed from her duties before selling her house and retreating to her presumable final act as a lively (and kind of scary) docent at a Whaling Museum.  
It is absurd, but it is also my favorite part of the show. Here is a woman who has worn the weight of other's expectations for her entire life. She has passed that weight along at every chance she's gotten, and now, suddenly, she has decided to rid herself of it all together.  
Marie Kondo's tidying tips are lightly mocked in the show, but Emily ultimately puts her core principles into practice in a way that goes far beyond ditching some clothes and furniture. If it doesn't bring you joy, get rid of it. In this case, the "it" turned out to mean virtually every part of her life. 
So what does it all mean? Every character, major and minor, followed an arc of dream-seeking with varying degrees of success. What are we, the viewers, supposed to take away from it? And what do those final four words have to do with it?

One of Lorelai's dreams was to give Rory a life different from her own, but when Rory reveals that she's pregnant (with either Logan's child as he goes off to marry into his destiny or the child of a nameless one-night-stand dressed as a Wookie), what happens to Lorelai's hopes for her? Rory has come full circle and brought us right back where we started. Sure, she has more resources than her teenage mother did. She has an education, at least the sprouts of a career, and a whole town full of support. She gets to start out with the things that Lorelai had to fight to weave into her single motherhood.

Lorelai's destiny was to become Emily, a persona we now know functioned more as a trap than a success. Becoming pregnant with Rory was the catalyst for removing herself from that trap, and even though it brought about challenges and delays, Lorelai ultimately used her identity as struggling single mother to build the life she wanted. Her main lesson is now how to go back and let other people in, to compromise some of those dreams to allow other people's dreams to overlap with hers. Rory was never confined to such a destiny. Her path was always wide open, so perhaps her own impending single motherhood functions in the opposite way. Will she now have a reason to focus? A reason to stop casting off opportunities as insufficient because she finally has some definition?

I wish there were some neater message to take away from a show that I have always loved, but ultimately A Year in the Life left me with more questions than answers. I don't think that was its intention. There were too many on-the-nose lectures and symbols around, but I don't think they ultimately worked.

If Rory is supposed to stand in as a Millennial lesson (a lesson to my generation) on how to live in this world, I don't feel particularly optimistic. (Considering how the rest of 2016 has gone, perhaps that's fitting--if disappointing--after all.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Spines for Spine: My Book Plans

As my previous post-election posts have suggested, I'm feeling a little dejected (and a lot angry) right now. I've been in numerous Facebook debates about tone policing and the purpose of protest. Even many of the brilliant pieces of commentary and analysis shared across social media have been overwhelming me to the point of distraction.

I made a vow to spend less time there and more time reading books.

That didn't feel quite concrete enough, so I made a plan. Starting three days ago, I have a three-book rotation. One nonfiction book to make me reflect on the past and its relationship to the present, one fiction book to make me reflect on my values and the risks to them, and one philosophical text to make me think about the future.

As I finish any one of the three, I'm going to replace it with another book that fits the same broad category.

Here's what I've got going on right now:

Past to Present (Nonfiction): Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow

I've already read several pieces on this topic, and I recently watched (and highly recommend) the excellent documentary The 13th around similar issues, but this book is quickly becoming a seminal text on the topic of institutionalized racism and the criminal justice system, so I decided it's high time I dig into it.

It helps that an area activist book club chose it as our first read. I'm hoping to be able to have some smart and difficult conversations with insightful people soon, especially as private prison stocks soared once news got around that Trump was the president-elect. I anticipate this is a fight that will require constant attention.

 Values and Risks (Fiction): Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

I should have read this already. I don't know how I made it through so many American literature classes without it ever being a requirement, and I don't know how I have made it through so much feminist exploration since without picking it up on my own, but here we are. I'm reading it now.

It is a chilling time to read this for the first time, indeed. What should feel like an absolutely absurd dystopian view of the future surrounding women's rights and the politicizing of women's bodies instead feels like echoes of reality.

The Future (Philosophy): Calum Chace's The Economic Singularity

There has been a lot of talk about the "forgotten" working class in America, the people who are hoping their manufacturing and labor industry jobs will be returned to them. We have scapegoated (with varying degrees of accuracy) immigrants, globalization, and increased environmental regulations for taking the bread and butter away from "real" Americans, but we are not really talking about the fact that we're solidly on our way toward a technological revolution that may well make all jobs obsolete. The working class will be hit first, but everything from transportation to interpretation, from being a lawyer to being a nurse is on its way toward automation.

There are plenty of things we need to ask ourselves as this science fiction becomes reality, but one of the concerns is economic: what does the American mantra of "work hard=success" (already inaccurate and used as a tool of oppression) mean when there is no hard work left to do? That's what I'm hoping to think about by reading this book.

So those are my reading plans. I'll share any insights I have along the way, but I also welcome suggestions for what to add to each category as I move through these texts. I also welcome conversations from anyone who is also reading these books right now. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ways You Will Not Silence Me Today

I took a social media hiatus when the election results became apparent. I have a lot of conservative Facebook friends and family members, many of whom very vocally supported Trump, and I was certain that I could not handle their responses. My self-imposed isolation didn't last long, though, because I realized that I desperately needed the solidarity and immediate sense of belonging I could get there. I was right. There was so much love, plans for the future, and repudiation of the message of hate that had just won the highest office in the land. It gave me life.

But, of course, the posts I had feared were there as well. I hid some of them from my feed because I found myself unable to resist the urge to respond, an urge that would have led me into a self-defeating spiral of wasted emotion and energy. Instead, I made posts of my own, posts I felt captured my anger and frustration but also pointed to paths forward. I made the kind of posts that I needed to see. I added them to the discussion within a community of people who desperately needed to know they were not alone and that their voices mattered.

And that is why I will not be quiet. I will not be told to stop speaking out about this. I will not be told to "stop whining."

I will not be silent.

Just in case that wasn't clear enough, I want to list the ways I will not be silenced:

Calls for Unity

They've come in many forms. The "now is the time for our country to come together and heal" posts. The "I just want everyone to find peace" posts. This:

A Trump supporter posted this with a plea for us to all just move forward now. 

I don't hate anyone. This sign accurately reflects my own position. I refuse to allow hate into my heart even for those who quite clearly hold hate for me, but that's not the point right now. 

The point is that you can't use a call for "unity" or "peace" to silence the righteous indignation and passionate dissent against a vote for hatred. 

Donald Trump didn't run on policy. He didn't have a single political policy platform unless you count "build a wall" or "ban Muslims." He ran on hate. He ran on division. He delighted in having people beaten at his rallies and laughed while offering to pay for the attackers legal fees. He bragged about grabbing women by the "pussy" without their consent and then defended it as "locker room talk," which means that it is language he uses comfortably and often. He mocked a Gold Star family, a reporter with a disability, a woman for gaining weight. He displayed himself, publicly and as platform, to be a bigot, liar, bully, and unrepentant hate-monger. 

And if you voted for hate, you no longer have the ethos to call for civility. You have ushered in a discourse of vitriol. I will never stoop to the level of our country's new "leader," but I will not sit quietly so that his supporters can enjoy their newly elected mascot of bigotry in "peace." 

"God's Plan"

I cannot count how many times I have been told to "calm down" because "God is in control" and this is "all a part of his plan." 

Well, I don't live in a monarchy. 
First of all, that's certainly not how any of these people felt when the political landscape didn't look quite so appealing to them, but let's set that aside for a moment. 

Second of all, there are a whole lot of horrendous human atrocities you are glossing over as part of God's master plan with this line of logic: the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, child sex trafficking, slavery, the mass slaughter of Native Americans as we claimed their land in the name of "freedom." You do not get to call upon God as a way of excusing the worst actions humans have committed. That's a cop out and a disgrace to faith. But let's even put that aside. 

If this is "all" a part of "God's plan," then so am I and my anger. So are my friends and their anger. We are part of "all." If God planned for Trump to win, then he also planned for us to protest. If this is all some giant cosmic chess game, then these pieces are also in play. You will not shut me down by pretending that you know the outcome. I don't believe in predestination, but if I am wrong, then I am predestined to do what I am doing. You cannot use God as a weapon of silence. 

Speaking of which . . . 

Pretending the Bible is the Only Source of Historical or Literary Guidance 

"Read your Bible," they say to me when they can no longer address any actual argumentative substance. 

Read your Handmaid's Tale. Read your The Fire Next Time. Read your Aristotle. Read your Slaughterhouse-Five. Read your fucking history books, and pay careful attention to the parts about demagogues. 

You're not going to send me on a scripture scavenger hunt to stop me from pointing out bigotry and hate. 

"Now You Know How We Felt When Obama was Elected"

Or, more likely, the quote reads "Obummer" or "Nobama." 

No. Just no. 

Obama has been a paragon of class and respect for others. He has never, not ever, called upon hatred as a course of action. Also, he actually ran on plans and policies. You may have disagreed with those plans and policies, and I understand that, but he ran on them and was elected on their merit. 

If Tuesday had brought me President-elect Jeb Bush or President-elect Marco Rubio or President-elect Ted Cruz, I would have been disappointed. But I would not have been terrified. 

My objection to Trump is not a political objection. I don't know what his politics are. You don't know what his politics are. He didn't share them, and his constituents didn't bother to make it a requirement that he do so. He ran on hate, and they decided hate was enough. He railed against Obamacare, but offered no substitution. He promised to build a wall, but offered no path to pay for it. He has absolutely no experience as a politician, and the experience he does have is in running businesses into the ground and using tax loopholes to get rich while he does so, all the while stiffing the working class people who staff those businesses and shipping his manufacturing overseas. 

To compare that to Obama's candidacy is not just disingenuous, it's insane. 

Just in case you need a reminder of just how different these two candidates are, watch this: 

My candidate has lost elections. I am a liberal, feminist, Democrat in Missouri. My candidates have lost a lot of elections. I do not take to the streets to protest them. I believe in the democratic process. I accept that there are different viewpoints, and I value that. I am disappointed, not terrified, that Roy Blunt is still my senator. But Trump's win terrifies me. 

And here's why I am scared. I am not scared of Trump. He's, as an individual, a failed businessman with egomania and the communication ability of a possum stuck in a trash can. He doesn't scare me. What scares me is that half the country heard his hatred and felt it needed to be codified and championed, that it needed to be rewarded, that it needed to be the face of America. I am not scared of him; I am scared of what his win means about the people around me and what they think when they see me, see my friends, see my family. 

Maybe you were scared of what Obama's policies would do to the country (though, by virtually every measure, he improved it), but that's not the same thing. We have checks and balances set up to put reins on policy. We have no checks and balances for endorsed, sanctioned hatred. 

"Stop Whining" 

I am fighting for the very core of the principles that I believe make life worth living. I am fighting for the safety, for the lives, of my friends and family. I am fighting for respect, tolerance, and love. 

I am fighting for America. 

If you want to call that whining, I don't care. 

But I won't stop doing it. 

And if you thought that these "libtard" "feminazi" "whiners" were too loud before Tuesday, buckle up. We are half of this nation, and one piece of analysis coming out of this election rings completely true to me: Trump's win does come with a mandate: we've been mandated to fight, donate, organize, vote, run for office, and create the world we need. 

You will not silence me. Not today. Not ever. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I Am Not Okay

It is 3:30 in the morning, and I am not okay.

I woke up a little less than twenty-four hours ago, dropped my baby son off at daycare, and came back to walk with my husband to vote. I felt a wave of enthusiasm and pride. I even remarked to my husband, as we walked home, how proud I was that my kids were going to grow up just thinking it was completely normal to have both a black president and a woman president. They would grow up in a world where gay rights were always present. Sure, there would be battles, but they would have a base in a world where equality, tolerance, and progression underpinned their understanding of the American project.

I picked my daughter up from kindergarten where she had held a mock election. Nine students had voted for Clinton. "Can you believe four people voted for Donald Trump, Mommy?! He is a bully!" She went to bed chanting (with no prompting from me) that Hillary Clinton was going to be president. What a wonderful image for my little girl to have: a powerful woman who had worked hard in public service her whole life ascending to the top position in the country through experience and compromise. Was she a perfect candidate? No, but there is no such thing.

Though I had gotten nervous in the past few weeks as Clinton's chances became less stable, I turned on the news expecting to see a repudiation of the vile, racist, misogynistic hatred that Trump not only oozed but championed. I thought about every time he kicked someone out of a rally, every time he demeaned women, every time he called for a ban on Muslims, every time he made a racist remark about the "inner cities," every time he incited his base to violence. I thought about how he was literally endorsed by the KKK. I thought about the way he had mocked a reporter with a disability, a Latina beauty queen, a Gold Star family.  I was ready to bask in some schadenfreude. I was ready to watch him see that his coalition, while loud, was also small, too small to hand over the nuclear codes to someone who couldn't be trusted with his own Twitter account because of his instability and poor temper.

You know how the rest of my night went. Perhaps your night went the same. Perhaps you felt the first wave of tension as North Carolina drew ever closer. Perhaps you told yourself, "Well, she doesn't need Florida to win." Perhaps you continued to hope until after midnight. Perhaps you felt the dread rising up around you.

This is not about losing to a Republican. I live in Missouri. I lose to Republicans all the time. My state has gone red when my vote went blue over and over again. This is not even about electing a bad president. We have had bad presidents. America is strong enough to survive an electoral error.

This is about finding out just how much of the country hates everything I love. This is about finding out just how many people around me hate me because I am a woman, hate my family because it is multi-racial, hate my friends because they are gay, hate my friends because they are Muslim.

If you voted for Donald Trump, you are not my friend even if I am yours. This is not in the sense that I will "unfriend" you for thinking differently from me. I hope that I have demonstrated, through countless hours of respectful debate, through refusing to cull my social media feeds of acquaintances even when they spewed vitriol that I am open to conflicting views. I support rhetorical pluralism. I believe we need to hear each other.

But friends have to protect one another. Friends look beyond their own interests alone and ask themselves, "What will this do to those I love?"

If you voted for Donald Trump, did you ask yourself what it would mean for my children? Children of color who have to grow up in this world? Did you ask yourself what it would mean for gay couples who are already constantly vigilant against efforts to deny them the right to exist? Did you ask yourself what it would mean for me, a woman who has been sexually assaulted? Did you ask yourself what it would mean for millions of people who cannot safely walk down the street without fear of harassment? If you did not, then you cannot call yourself my friend. If you did and still came down on the side of hate, then I don't know what you can call yourself.

I have never felt like this before. I have always believed, deep in my heart, that love wins. I have always believed, even in the face of anger and disrespect, that people will find the right path eventually.

For example, many members of my extended family have treated my immediate family horribly. Some of them are probably reading this. I hope that they are. When I was 19, I brought my now-husband/then-boyfriend home for the holidays. When we entered the community building where we held the extended Christmas, the air grew palpably tense. Most of my family would not look at us, let alone speak to us. The ones who did speak to us did so with apprehension. You see, my husband, by being a black man, had somehow offended them. His existence offended them.

Two of my uncles were so offended that they could not contain themselves. They made a big show about physically moving away from us. One of them refused to eat under the same roof as my husband. He marched his entire family out the door rather than do so. They walked out in front of me. I went in the bathroom and sobbed.

Most of the other members of my family said nothing! A few of them tried to comfort me with placating statements like "You have to understand, it's just his way." "He was raised in a different time."

I avoided them all for years. Four years later, I got married, and one of those same uncles tried to talk another family member out of walking me down the aisle. Think about that for a second. It wasn't enough that he sit in his hate on his own; he needed it to be spread around. Thankfully, his efforts failed, and I did have a smattering of love and support from my family on my wedding day. It was only a fraction of the very large collection of aunts, uncles, and cousins that could have been there (that I invited despite the tension), but there were some.

Years later, we had kids. I wanted my children to know their family. They're already down to one grandparent. My father and my husband's mother died before my children were even born. Last year, we lost my father-in-law on the same day I miscarried what would have been our second child. My mother rarely sees us because she is afraid of "the city." (Little does she understand that I'm afraid of "the country" for reasons much more concrete than hers. Her neighbors literally shot guns into the air while screaming the n-word at my husband. I guarantee you that my neighbors have never done that to her.) The lack of family in our lives hurts me. I value family very deeply, and I miss these connections so very, very much.

So when a few members of my extended family offered olive branches by inviting us to big gatherings, I swallowed my anger and pride and went. Everyone was cordial. Some of my family was even genuinely kind and interested in my life. Most of them seemed to feel awkward around us, and that could easily have been as much a factor of not knowing me as an adult as thinking about their own past behavior.

But here's the thing: No one apologized. Not the uncles who walked out at Christmas. Not the family members who stood by silently and said nothing as it happened. In all that time, one cousin privately messaged me to say that she was ashamed of not having spoken out and was sorry. Other than the one family that I was already close to (which included the man who walked me down the aisle), no one even talked about it. They wanted to sweep it under the rug.

And I let them. Privately, my husband and I talked about it a lot. I didn't want to deprive my children of a family to know and love, but I also didn't want to put my husband in the difficult position of having to go make nice with people who had so overtly mistreated him. He went and was gracious because he is an amazing man.

In my heart, I thought that they were ashamed of the way they had acted and didn't know how to express it. I thought that they recognized how wrong they had been and were trying to set it right. I was angry and hurt, but I worked very hard to set it aside for the sake of peace.

I'm supposed to go see them in two weeks. We're having a family gathering of thanksgiving and love. I don't think I can go.

I know that many of them voted for Trump. (And this isn't speculation. A lot of them posted about their decisions. Some even posted about how difficult it was to make the decision because they didn't want to support him but ultimately "had to.") Many of them voted to throw our country back into a time when my marriage would be illegal, when the discrimination against my children and husband was codified into law. They weren't sorry (and I should have known, since they never said they were); they were tolerating me until they could destroy everything I loved. When they saw their chance, they pounced.

Right now, I am reflecting on a lot of interactions I have had in the past. I've always tried to look past the hurt of these kinds of conflicts and understand the individual person within them. I've always tried to meet these slights with compassion. I've always given people the benefit of the doubt that even when they did things that were cruel and bigoted, they were on a path toward figuring things out and that basic human decency would prevail.

Now I feel like I was a fool. How's the Maya Angelou quote go? "When people show you who they are, believe them."

I believe you now. And maybe me letting it all get pushed under the rug helped create this America, this America where hate wins the day. I feel like I did not do enough. I did not fight enough. I did not make it clear enough that these words and actions were not okay. By allowing racism and hatred to exist in this closeted way without my direct objection, did I help allow it to become bold enough to march out and vote yesterday?

I don't know how to go out into the world tomorrow. I don't know how to look people in the eye without wondering: "Do you hate me?" "Do you hate my family?" "Do you hate my friends?"

Because make no mistake, if you voted for Trump, you voted for hate: raw, red, fiery, vitriolic, painful, discriminatory, degrading hate. And I am on the receiving end of it. My family is on the receiving end of it. My students are on the receiving end of it. My friends are on the receiving end of it.

If you voted for Trump, you voted against us and everything we have worked for.

If you voted for Trump, you voted against me.

And now I have to face my daughter in two hours and tell her that the bully won. In three hours, I have to face my students, already plagued by a racist system that has them despondent, and try to tell them that democracy is a process. Every day, I have to face myself and try to believe that I hold value in a country that just told me very loudly that I do not.

And I am not okay.