When I was eight years old, I got into an argument with a girl on the playground jungle gym because her parents voted blue and mine, red.
I grew from eight years old, however, as anyone grows from eight years old; I saw a bit more, heard a bit more, and then thought a bit more for myself, and others.
“Perception is more sophisticated than perspective,” I once heard someone say, and whether or not that’s true, there are times when perception—the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses—should help inform perspective, and not the other way around.
This, I suspect, is part of the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Fact from fiction. Truth from untruth.
It’s been a week now since the election.
“No one mentions The Elephant,” Abby writes on day one of four. “It has never felt more like a literal elephant.”
My friends and I don’t want to mention the elephant either. On day three, we sit in a parked car. “We can’t talk about it in there,” I say, and she shakes her head. “No,” she says. “We can’t.” We spend the rest of the night eating french fries.
But the elephant is still there. Always there. And on day four, my co-worker and I decide that we just need to talk about it.
All along, I can’t shake this feeling that if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t acknowledge it, if we don’t perceive what’s happening right before us, then we run the risk of coloring inside the lines that someone else has drawn for us. That’s how things like racism, sexism, and homophobia become—and remain—objective reality.
On day two, my friend sends me an email telling me she’s afraid to walk by herself:
overheard at the gas station:
you’re about to find out what it’s like to have your pussy grabbed—now that my man Trump’s in office i’m going to fix your dyke ass.
posted in the building where i teach:
now that our man TRUMP is elected and republicans own both the house and the senate … time to organize tar & feather VIGILANTE SQUADS & go arrest & torture those deviant university leaders spouting off that Diversity Garbage.
a student reported that walking through campus:
a group of young white men chanted “make america white again” when she started to cry they said “poor beaner—don’t worry—you won’t be here long anyway.”
In the past week, I’ve heard voice after voice encouraging humans to think about good things, whatever is right and pure. There, there’s value. Let’s think about nice words: Compassion. Civility. Joy. Comfort. Friendship. Laughter…Angel food cake.
But also, let’s not ignore the bad.
Whether intended or not, this election gave hatred a platform. Rather than empowering humans on the margins of society, our country empowered those with disdain for others.
And, quite simply, that’s not okay.
So often our perspectives inform what we see, how we listen, and what we do. But history, if anything, shows that all times are critical times to pay attention. Perhaps now is a good time to see. To listen. To process. To try and understand. To distinguish right from wrong, fact from fiction, and truth from untruth.
Cassie Westrate (’14) graduated with a double major in writing and international development studies. She currently lives in West Michigan, where she works as a writer, hangs out with her pet bird, and fights crime by night. Just kidding about the crime.