Updated: Nov 8, 2020
I have been thinking about that expression "glass half full" the last couple of days. I, like so many of you, have been glued to the TV watching the US Presidential Election unfold staring at the numbers and bright red and blue map. And while I am mostly a glass half full person, I started to think about the empty part of the glass. The glass with the space that wasn't filled with positivity and hope. The space that has dominated the election.
In the lead up to November 3rd, in the four years of the Trump presidency, we saw a country's underbelly rise up to the surface, brazenly showing its ugly face out in the open. The underbelly that was/is made up of division, disharmony, disunity, distrust, and disillusionment. I am thinking about that glass half empty space because in this election, there hasn't been an overwhelming surge against all that negativity. Many had hoped that this election, that November 3rd would be the day we would see the forces of good defeat the forces of evil. But that hasn't happened. Instead, we see an even deeper divide. Joe Biden hasn't won by a landslide (although he has won the popular vote). Trump gained wins in areas and among an electorate that believes in an ideology that may not necessarily agree with how Trump presides but agrees with the sentiment behind it. That's the space that needs to be looked at. That's the space that also has seen parts of Europe vote for far right wing politicians and, 2016, 52% of Britons voting in favour of leaving the EU, a vote steeped in anti-immigration, and a fear of losing their "identity", way of life, values, to multiculturalism.
What this American election reflects is not so much a win by Democrats and a recognition for change. Rather it should make it even more starkly clear that all is not well no matter how much we may celebrate the gains. It is as the professor and author Eddie S. Glaude Jr, chair of the Department of African American studies at Princeton University, said in a recent interview, "Part of what I'm trying to deal with is my anxiety and my anger, is that the contradictions in this country run deep, no matter who wins...I ask myself the question, 'what are these people voting for when they're voting for Donald Trump? The evidence is in. There is incompetence with over 230,000 dead, there's mendacity, there's corruption, there's hatred, there's grievance. What are they voting for? The real story is about white voters. This is a story about white America." The professor would go on to add in a tweet, "The so-called moral outrage around Trump's presidency did not produce any substantive shift in his Republican support. In fact, he expanded his base among white voters. Trump continues to flourish in the intersection of greed, selfishness, and racism. In light of this, whether Biden wins or not, we have to acknowledge that our country is broken. And if we are to fix it, those of us who are committed to building a more just America must forcefully denounce and reject any call to coddle those who are content with the world that made Trump possible."
Michael Goldfarb writes in The Guardian, "The power of Trump, whether you see him as leader or demon, is that he gave a human shape to a fact that predated him and will continue after he’s gone: America is perilously divided, with no sense that society will bind up its wounds soon." What is clear is that America's problems are not their's alone. What is clear is that Trump is not the problem, he is a symptom of a bigger illness. An illness plaguing humanity at its core. A plague that is steeped in fear. A fear of a loss of perceived power of resources, of change.
It comes down to beliefs and strengths of narratives. A willingness to understand, speak, and engage. It comes down to asking ourselves, why there is a fear or perhaps a reluctance for the narrative of inclusivity, equality, and opportunities for all isn't louder and all encompassing. I am at the end of my tether. I was not raised to have to justify my right to occupy space in this world yet the world continues to expect me to jump over hoops to show that I deserve that space. And that is what this election is about too. The right to live, thrive, succeed, be happy, be healthy, to own space. And it shouldn't be the fight fought by just a few. It should be a fight protected by all. If there are more good in this world, if there are more people who believe in all the values that make the human race the positive force that it is, then why aren't those voices drowning out those who don't?
It is as the philosopher and educator Cornel West once said, “The country is in deep trouble. We've forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that's the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.”
So while I am interested in that space where the glass is half empty, I am interested in it not to explore what it is and how it became that way, but more about why the glass is only half full.