Election Day 2020. I can't believe we're here; I can't wait for this to be over; and I hope it all ends without too much unrest. No matter what, about 50% of the country will be disappointed and feel unrepresented. As I get older, I find myself seeking to understand more and utilizing a lens of empathy to see the perspectives of others. But as I think back to the 2016 election I remember a weird experience I had the day after Election Day and I struggle to view it through an empathetic lens.
I was working as a trainer and group exercise instructor in Arlington, Virginia at the time. I taught the 5:30 and 6:30am classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so I went to bed super early on Election Night to wake up at my usual 3:45am, as I did on all training mornings. I checked my phone the second I woke up then shook P and just said "he won". He mumbled "no he didn't" and rolled over to go back to sleep. I went downstairs, had coffee, drove to work, and taught two classes to a mostly stunned and mute group that just wanted to get a workout in before work on this now very odd day. During my break before the 9:30 class, I went across the street to a coffee shop. I held the door for an older gentleman (maybe in his 60's?). As he got the door from me, he said "well look at that. A young pretty girl AND you have some manners. A rare thing these days". I was prepared to ignore his passive aggressive response to having a door held for him but had to get in a little opinion of my own, and just said "you're welcome! I think we all need to be a little kinder to one another from now on. Today especially". His expression darkened immediately and he responded "oh so you are one of those. A snowflake. You're all beside yourselves today because you don't live in reality". I hadn't heard the "snowflake" term yet so I was confused and was becoming aware that the barista and other customers were looking at us uncomfortably. I smiled (make sure to smile - older men don't like it when young women don't smile) and said, "I hope you have a great rest of your day". He scoffed and got his coffee. The barista was incredibly warm after he left and said no way was she charging me for my drink. ☕
To recap: I held the door for this man. He was then creepy instead of just saying thank you. I didn't directly call him out on it (like I would now) but made a comment about being kind. He was rude and called me what he considered a derogatory name. Not that he knew this but I had gotten up for work at 3:45am - is that a "snowflake" quality?! I didn't think about this exchange much during the rest of the day as I cried, watched endless videos of other people trying to make sense of the results, and selfishly tried to calculate what might change and impact me over the next four years. But I remembered this moment the other day and still find it so emblematic of one of the core differences between the current president and both of his past Democratic opponents - basic human decency.
There is no middle ground here. Among the many horrific things he's said and done, the video mocking the disabled reporter stands out in my mind the most. I think I was nine or ten when I told my mom about little boys in my class making that gesture while calling other kids "retarded". To say she hit the roof in fury is an understatement. How can we allow a grown man to get away with (and be celebrated for!) behavior we wouldn't tolerate from young children? It just boggles my mind. I know and love people who voted for him in 2016. Maybe they will vote for him again. I hope not. No matter what, I'll still love them AND will still be trying to understand.
Be kind to yourself this week. Be kind to others this week. And if you haven't already, go vote!