Why I’m Not Panicking … Yet.

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Image source: www.cartoonstock.com

Image source: www.cartoonstock.com

by Marcela Davison Aviles

I voiced opposition to the candidacy of Donald Trump in several published Op-Eds, so with the conclusion of the election I actually started thinking about leaving the country. I looked for my passport and birth certificate – the Mexican American community is full of testimonials about immigration officials knocking on the door in the middle of the night – and I wondered if I would need to show papers at some point in the future, like other Mexican Americans in my home state of Arizona.

But after some sleep, and processing, I don’t think we should panic. I don’t think we’re going through a national “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” moment. For one thing, the national media hyped both sides of the political debate. One question I am asking is how much of the racial rhetoric is hype and how much of it is truly xenophobic?

History tells us that, from the early days of the republic, our civic culture has always been conflicted, passionate, addicted to liberty. Clinton won the popular vote – add that to the millions who voted for the Libertarian candidate and the result is a clear majority voted against Trump. America didn’t suddenly wake up and discover a horse’s head in the bed. I don’t think we are living in a new normal. It’s the old normal.

From my reading and conversations with friends who voted for Trump (no that is not an oxymoron) they did not vote for his rhetoric. They voted for change. Also, people from all stripes voted for him – not just working class white guys. Blacks, Latinos, women – the data is revealing. Their anti-establishment view was mirrored by supporters for Senator Sanders. Now we hear calls for unity and a cry to head to the ramparts, simultaneously. Except for, ironically, President Obama and Mrs. Clinton, no one seems to be taking the time to sit down and ask – OK we flunked that test. Why? What did I do wrong?

I asked my millenial-age daughter this question. Her response: we’ve been living in an echo chamber. I agree. I’ve been consulting with a progressive think tank at an Ivy League college this last year, and the reverb on issues like cultural appropriation, social justice movements, triggers, and safe spaces, can be confusing and intimidating – and if I feel that way, I can only imagine how someone with conservative values might feel with the finger of fate pointed at them with such certitude. I know that I feel very defensive when folks challenge my claim to heritage because I don’t “look Mexican” without taking the time to get to know me or my family and downright fearful around talks of deportation camps.

I’m not writing this to justify abhorrent behavior by some of the Trumpistas. But after listening to Mrs. Clinton’s rueful reflection that the nation is “more deeply divided than we thought,” it seems to me those of us wearing the Blue Caps failed our own movement when we failed to check in with the Red Caps. Sure, there were plenty of choreographed speeches and YouTube clips of volatile confrontations fanning the fires. But I did not see any evidence of a sincere effort from either camp to sit down together and say, “Hey. Where are your people from? Did you see that super moon last night? Who do you think will win the World Series?”

Hillary wore purple to her concession speech for a reason, and her grace in the face of defeat is another reason why I voted for her. My wife and I are now more vigilant than ever regarding our fundamental civil rights. That rubicon won’t be crossed again. But I’m also going to reach out to folks in the Red camp and start a conversation by asking simple questions about interests we might share.

The place where common ground is verdant is the garden of our mutual contentments. What are the things people agree about? Family – pets – the best recipe for apple pie – simple topics but once investigated, they usually lead to mutual interests, and possibly, just possibly, common ground.

Marcela Davison Aviles is an author, lawyer and founder of Chapultepec Group, a leading cultural insights agency serving the arts and entertainment industry and Managing Director of El Camino Project, a new arts social venture initiative.