Unlike my friends in the US, it’s easy for me to watch the news and not be bombarded with Donald Trump, his political appointments and latest shenanigans. Living in Norway, I still follow it all closely online, but I’m not overwhelmed by it on TV, social media, or in cafes and shops.
It wasn’t always like that. Right after the elections, even across the pond, I felt overwhelmed by the incessant chatter: How did Trump win? Was it a mistake? What were Americans thinking!?!?
And the kids in my son’s class were talking about how Trump would bring about the third world war.
Like many Americans, I was depressed about the President-elect because I feared a sharp increase of hate and ignorance toward people who are not white, Christian males.
As I mentioned before, during the campaign I found myself Trumpsplaining a lot. Though it grew after he was elected, frankly it was the last thing I wanted to talk about. Even the local newspaper tracked me down and wanted to do a story on what the neighborhood’s American thought. Being a journalist I wanted to help the guy out, but the other part of me wanted to just think about something else.
The day after the election, I went to pick up my son from band practice and as soon as I walked in, one of the dads gave me a bear hug. If you know much about Scandinavians, you’ll understand how shocking this is.
Many say Norwegians are just like their weather: Cold. I think that’s a bit harsh, but it’s generally true. There’s not much hugging or physical contact between adults. (I swear I have yet to see any PDAs in the year-plus that I’ve lived here.)
But you know what? It was exactly what I needed at that moment. His hug was followed up by other parents giving me their condolences, and it was really cool. It felt like they “got it.”
I even decided to do the interview.
The article turned out well, especially considering the local newspaper is obviously in Norwegian and my Norwegian is probably on a pre-school level at best. I talked a lot about how I hoped America would pull together and work harder to support each other.
And it’s true. I feel that the election and the rhetoric around it has pulled back the curtain on a lot of racism, sexism and other bigotries that are commonplace. Of course for those of us who have been on the pointy-end of the discrimination stick, have always known it’s there.
I would always be flabbergasted at people who asked me if racism still existed in America and when they talked about this fable of a post-racial America. Now I see that more people are enlightened, they have seen the “casual hate” with their own eyes.
Now maybe we can have more honest conversations surrounding race, class and religion. I think the fear of being offensive has handicapped people from reaching out and finding out what it’s like to be “the other.” I’m not talking about interviewing your black or gay or Muslim friend as if they’re a research project, I’m talking about making real connections and really listening.
Like Mister Rogers’ mom told him, when there’s scary things on the news, look for the helpers.
That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve read stories such as the increase in post-election hate harassment and articles about kids bullying others for being Mexican, Muslim or from LGBTQ families. But I’ve also read about the influx of donations for some nonprofits, or moms getting their kids together to write letters to refugee children living in the U.S. to reinforce that they’re welcome in America.
So let’s not just look for the helpers, let’s be one of the helpers.