November 15, 2016 -- Auburn Hills, Michigan USA
Dear Global Friends/Thinkers:
I have been in a state of shock, grief, horror and growing despair over our U.S. presidential election for the past week. Thank you to so many of you who have been in touch out of personal concern for me, as well as over the implications for the entire global family of a Trump presidency. I've been trying to process my many, complex feelings.
I worked hard throughout this long, presidential campaign, hosting a Clinton campaign staffer in my home for months, helping to register voters and knocking hundreds of doors. I even dressed as a Suffragette for Halloween.
My first reaction was that of millions here in the United States and throughout the world: STUNNED SHOCK. Initially, it was nearly impossible for me to believe that American voters would put a rookie without a pilot's license at the controls of our national 747. But they did.
My shock was followed by GRIEF. I felt as if someone I loved deeply had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Instead of preparing myself for a possible loss, I was naively anticipating over-the-moon joy. Bearing bottles of champagne, close friends gathered with me to watch one of the most respected leaders in the world, a person who has been on the front lines of the global fight for the rights and empowerment of women and girls my entire life, help our nation take an historic and gigantic step forward for womankind and human rights. But that was not to be.
The day after the election, I received these beautiful flowers from a dear friend who was with me on election night. I burst into tears when I read the card with Helen Reddy's memorable words: "You can bend but never break me, for you'll only serve to make me more determined to achieve my final goal."
The HORROR I feel began with the realization that my nation, which was founded with a system of checks and balances between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of federal government, will have no BALANCE for at least the next two years. The Republican Party, with its conservative agenda that has had controlling women's rights at the top of its agenda for decades, will now control the U.S. presidency, both Houses of Congress, and nominations for the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as federal judgeships. My horror has only continued to grow as I have heard the names of people Donald Trump is choosing and considering for positions of power and influence in his Administration. Mike Pence, vice president. Steven, Bannon, chief strategist. Rudolf Giuliani. Chris Christie. Sarah Palin. Newt Gingrich, Betsy DeVos and Dr. Ben Carson (possible Cabinet appointments).
But it is my DESPAIR that has cut the deepest, because it is about everything I have stood for, believed in and worked towards for my entire adult life. There are two pieces to my depair.
The first is about one of the fundamental lessons of this historic election. If Hillary Rodham Clinton had been elected, which she actually was by the POPULAR VOTE, the story heard 'round the world would have been: "USA Takes Gigantic Step Foward Toward Gender Equality, Electing First Female President." But that's not what happened.
So, notwithstanding all of the other forces at work in this historic election, the fact that voters backed away from what would have been an historic and gigantic step forward for women is still a huge part of the story, and carries a brutal lesson.
As I told WJR radio when they called me on election night, "The choice of a vulgar and frighteningly unprepared man to become president over one of the most qualified leaders ever to run for president of the United States is a stunning metaphor and powerful evidence that it just doesn't matter how QUALIFIED a woman is for leadership. Women as well as men are still willing to settle for a mediocre, offensive male leader over a woman they "just don't like." My deepest pain over this election result is one that millions of women share. We've had to come face-to-face with the stunning realization that even "dancing backwards and in high heels" isn't enough. Regardless of a woman's superior education, experience, track record, accomplishments, brainpower and work ethic, credentials will NEVER BE ENOUGH. As comedian Joy Behar profoundly put it, "I've learned from this election that a man can get away with ANYTHING, and a woman can get away with NOTHING."
The other part of my despair has been about SISTERHOOD. I've come to believe that Hillary Clinton's biggest mistake in this election has been my mistake for decades. The idea that female human beings share a sense of sisterhood solidarity with collective clout that can be leveraged to help lift girls and women throughout the world was a fundamental building block of Clinton's campaign. It has also been one of my core values. "Every woman for herself is a losing strategy," is one of my mantras.
Is Sisterhood a myth? I'm struggling with that. Hillary won women's votes overall (54%), thanks to the support of African American (94%) and Hispanic (68%) women. But I cannot fathom how or why white women -- who chose Trump over Clinton (53% to 43%) -- could turn their backs on a stunningly accomplished female leader who has been on the front lines of championing their economic opportunities and legal rights for over forty years.
In the 2008 presidential election, 96% of African American voters supported Barack Obama. If women had supported Hillary Clinton in numbers anywhere close to that, she would have been elected by a landslide. I'm having to come to terms with the fact millions of "my American sisters" were willing to accept an abundance of t-shirts reading "Trump That Bitch," yard signs advocating "Hillary for Prison" and even video evidence of Donald Trump's fondness for "pussy grabbing," while walking away from an unprecedented opportunity to make HER-STORY with powerful, positive implications for half of the human race.
I'm working to regain my joy and put my shoulder back to the evolutinary wheel pushing uphill for the human rights arc of history, with the help of friends and my fantastic son, Kevin, who took me out to dinner and a Marvel movie (Dr. Strange - it's great!) to get me out of my funk!
What's next? I have a plane ticket to be in Washington, DC in January for what I thought would be an Inauguration for the history books. I'm still going, but it will be to raise my voice and walk shoulder-to-shoulder with my like-minded Sisters and Brothers as part of the "Million Women March" at the Lincoln Memorial on January 21, 2017. That, too, will be one for the history books.
My only hope is to live long enough to hear women's whispering rise to a mighty roar.
Sleepless in Motown, Anne
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