Alicia Bane

Alicia Bane

It’s been pretty clear throughout this election cycle that our country is suffering from a wide and deep divide. The old saying “as Maine goes, so goes the nation” provides the perfect example as, for the first time in history, our electoral votes were split between the two major party candidates. But more than just choosing one side or the other, we’ve also become terrified of each other — each side believing the other poses a massive threat to our nation’s wellbeing. As a result, many of us are standing firmly on one side or the other, staring over to the other side of a massive chasm and asking “What the hell are those people thinking?”

As a citizen with her feet firmly planted on the left, and who has admittedly had a hard time understanding anything that goes on at the other side of the chasm, the past week has been difficult. I’ve cried angry, ugly tears. I altered my Facebook preferences to avoid seeing election news to give myself a break outside of work. As Deputy Managing Editor of The Times Record, I spent the first post-election hours of Wednesday morning selecting, editing and organizing Presidential election coverage to put onto our Nation pages. It was difficult, but when you work at a newspaper you push your feelings aside and do the work of informing the public.

My sadness may seem a bit melodramatic — or even downright silly — to those whose feet are planted firmly on the right, but that’s okay. I am more than aware that you have a hard time understanding people like me, because I know I’ve had a hard time understanding you. Maybe I can help clear up what this sadness is about, for the sake of clarity and understanding.

Feminist is a dirty word to many people, but a feminist is what I am and it is something that I am proud to be. A feminist is often described as a person who believes that men and women are equals, but it also means so much more than that. It also means that I want to support and empower not only women, but all people who face discrimination, marginalization and disenfranchisement. This means that my feminism is intersectional, and that I try to recognize that each one of us faces a number of different challenges for a number of different reasons, and many of those reasons converge. My aim is to be sensitive to each of those struggles and to help fight back against the many oppressions marginalized people face.

Maybe that can help you understand why Donald Trump is my personal nightmare. When it comes to the people who are discriminated against in our culture, Trump has insulted or threatened everybody on the list — immigrants, refugees, Muslims, women, blacks, Mexicans, LGBT people, the disabled and more — with ease, while at the same time struggling to disavow endorsement from KKK leader David Duke.

I’ve talked to a number of different people in my post-election haze — including a handful of people who voted for Trump and seemed to also want to understand what Clinton supports were so upset about. Based on these few interactions, I’ve seen that we actually do have something in common — an urge to help those who are marginalized. The trouble is, we strongly disagree about who those people actually are.

From my view, Trump supporters feel angry because they believe the voices of middle class whites have been stifled. Many of them, for the first times in their lives, are seeing the media shift attention from the struggles of straight white citizens to the struggles of minorities — whether they be refugees, gay people, black people, or anyone else who isn’t white, straight or able-bodied. This is where the mantra of “the silent majority” comes from — white people have spent some time out of the spotlight since Obama was elected, and in turn, they feel silenced. While that doesn’t mean they don’t care about minorities, it does mean their concern for minorities cools down a bit when it starts to interfere with their need to feel like the top priority.

But while Trump supporters feel their win is righteous and that they now have a voice after 8 years of supposed oppression, Clinton supporters — myself included — see Trump’s victory as a massive step backward for social progress. We see marginalized people who were already silenced and in danger being set on a path that will make life even harder for them, while whites are given a big boost upward when they were already on top to begin with.

Obviously, Trump supporters paint the story in a different way — from what they tell me, they feel that the problems minorities face in this country are not as bad as those minorities and white liberals make them out to be. They feel that the media is lying to them, and that coverage of minority struggles is so overblown that it’s shifting equality into a place that is actually unequal — with whites at a disadvantage. They feel minorities are given favoritism while the needs of the white middle class are placed on the back burner. They feel silenced at best and villainized at worst.

I do not see that point of view as valid or truthful. I believe that we still very much live in a culture that prioritizes white points of view above those from people of color. I also feel that we favor the voices and experiences of men to those of women. I believe that even though we are starting to validate and support the voices of the marginalized more and more, we are still far from equality. I believe white conservatives are mistaking the amplification of minority voices as the silencing of their own.

However, as a feminist, I still feel inclined to offer understanding to anybody who feels that they are voiceless or oppressed. I would like to hear from Trump supporters who felt disenfranchised and silenced, and who voted accordingly. I would like to have a better understanding of what’s happening on the other side of the chasm, and I want them to have a better understanding of what’s happening on this side, too. It will take openness on the part of both sides to achieve.

Right now, many of us are still in pain and are not ready to be so open yet, and that’s okay. I think all of us need time to heal before we can really move forward and — hopefully — unify. But I hope, sooner rather than later, we can start. We may not be able to fill the chasm, but I’m hoping we can at least build a bridge.

Alicia Bane is Deputy Managing Editor of The Times Record.

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