I’ve never really dreaded my job before. I’ve been more and less excited to teach, of course. Handing back bad grades or dealing with problematic behaviors is not something I relish. But Wednesday, the day after the election, I went to work with cold dread in the pit of my stomach.
How could I stand in front my students—during of all times, our weeks of talking about gender inequity and racial discrimination—and pretend the election results are anything but a triumph of misogyny and hate?
How could I stand in front of my students—people of so many different ethnic and religious cultures, sexual and gender identities—and assure them they will be safe in a Trump-led America?
How could I stand in front of my students—bright and inquisitive souls, so many concerned with social justice—and be anything but mortified that fully half of voting adults in this country chose an inexperienced, unqualified man over a woman with 30 years of public service experience and substantive credentials?
I couldn’t, so I didn’t try.
After student presentations, I opened up the remainder of class for general discussion and reflection.
Students shared candid and heartfelt concerns. Fear for families at risk of separation. Anger at the possibility of hard won women’s and marriage rights being reversed. Disgust at an openly misogynistic person who ran a campaign of fear and hate as the figurehead for our country and ambassador on the international stage.
But what really shocked me was the way students engaged in civil dialogue—including, especially, with their conservative colleagues (proudly clad in Make America Great Again gear, naturally).
I was so impressed by the students’ ability to listen, respectfully disagree, LISTEN, revise their statements in some cases, and meaningfully consider others’ points of view. You know, the way democracy and deliberation is supposed to work.
What’s more, the kid in the Trump shirt and the kid in the Bernie shirt both implored the class to come together, find common ground, and work to improve the country and the world. I couldn’t have been more proud.
Without any words of real wisdom, I asked them to think about ways they could use their communication expertise to shift the conversations around them—to confront discrimination and micro aggressions but also spread kindness. To know that this, too, shall pass, and maybe we can end up better people for it.
** Post originally written 11/10/16. Will be playing catch-up after being internet-less during the National Communication Association conference.**
National Blog Posting Month 2016
– November 1: Talking feminism and controlling my face. Kinda.
– November 2: My patronus is a class of budding feminists
– November 3: The Cubs won! And other things on my mind.
– November 4: Magical thinking never works. Also: I hate cancer.
– November 5: Emotional states of a last-minute conference submission.
– November 6: Happy links, in case you need a break from politics
– November 7: Reckoning the leaves of change
– November 8: Voting brought this nasty woman to tears
– November 9: No words.