Margaret Jones, 12/4/16
Like millions of Americans, I woke up early the Wednesday following election day and immediately turned to my phone to read what I was sure was going to be terrible news. I had stayed up most of the previous night watching the results slowly trickle in with complete horror and finally closed my eyes for a few hours of sleep just to keep myself from falling apart completely. Every news site I could load in my phone confirmed: Donald “Pussy Grabbing” Trump was the future president of the United States. Since that day, I have heard the words “shock” and “anger” used a lot, but honestly that’s not what I saw all around me in the streets and on the trains of New York City. That’s not what I saw in the faces of my co-workers, many of whom are women, immigrants and/or LGBTQ. When I looked at their faces, all I could see was the same defeat that I felt.
Just the day before I had been excitedly taking part in the Democratic process to elect the first female president of our country, and less than twenty-four hours later I felt like we lost. And I don’t just mean the election, because I know that we did lose that. I mean the fight to be heard and to be equal. I knew that even with a female president, sexism wouldn’t end anymore than having a black president ended racism. Clearly, it didn’t. But I thought it would be a step. The next great step in the right direction for our country. Instead, in what many are now calling a “whitelash,” we took about 500 steps backwards, and I had to wonder, ‘how could this have happened?’ I’ve always known that we, white people, all have relatives who are kind of racist, but I’ve always thought that at the end of the day they were good people. Surely, they wouldn’t vote away another human’s rights. Surely, they wouldn’t vote away my safety as a woman, or my young cousin’s safety as a little girl in high school only just learning what it means to be a young woman under the male gaze. Surely, they wouldn’t, but they did.
Suddenly I found myself being forced to really look at a problem that has existed all this time in order to understand it and figure out what to do next, so the next day I did the only thing I could think to do: I stepped out of my liberal social media bubble. I didn’t go far, just to the profile of a family member that I love and generally consider to be kind-hearted and good, and what I found terrified me. Her post wasn’t so scary at first – she was disappointed by how hateful everyone was being following the election – but her friends who comments said things like “hateful liberal” frequently, as though this was the stereotype that accompanied us. This shocked me. Wednesday night I attended the protest outside of Trump Tower, and the unity and support I found there was truly touching. Every race, religion, gender and sexuality was represented in that crowd, and when we chanted for one (Black Lives Matter; Trans Lives Matter; Women’s Rights Are Human Rights; Immigrants Are Welcome Here; etc), everyone chanted. No one was left out. Women and minorities did not represent any division in this country. So how could anyone call us hateful or divisive?
Here was their evidence: They said that Obama had divided the country when he could have united it, and Trump would make America great again. They said that liberals were showing up to Trump rallies and starting fights, when clearly no Trump supporter would ever do that. Meanwhile in the real world, Trump supporters turn out to just about every liberal rally, in fact two of them marched with us through much of Manhattan today jeering at the crowd and trying to destroy our momentum. But the reason things like that don’t make the news is because liberals don’t beat them for it. Trump supporters physically attacked liberals who attended their rallies. Trump supporters have been spray painting swastikas, yelling at minorities with racial slurs, attacking members of the LGBTQ community and muslims and threatening black people and immigrants. This is the world I live in inside my social media bubble. One in which millions of lives are actually threatened by a Trump presidency, and yet I am somehow the hateful one for calling out racism and fighting back. If standing up for human rights is painted as a hateful act, nothing good could possibly be coming.
Because I had lived so long in ignorance of this conservative social media bubble with disastrous consequences, I have forced myself to continue looking on the occasions I could stand to over the weeks. I have seen false news articles and stories and heard racist comments under the guise of the “disenfranchised white working class.” I have seen the far right demand an apology for being called racist without once apologizing for or even acknowledging the millions of lives they have brought under threat. And the biggest difference I have noticed between this bubble and the one that I occupy is fact checking, or the complete lack thereof. If I posted a fake news article or a misattributed quote, someone would point it out to me almost immediately, even if it was only just one person. On almost every article or piece of information I have seen in my liberal bubble, I have seen comments providing clarification or more information or even challenging information. When I checked the comment thread on a fabricated story in the conservative bubble not a single person pointed out the inconsistencies or bothered to check if it was actually true. They merely accepted it as fact and allowed themselves to be angered by it. If something just needs to be stated by enough people in order to become “truth” then almost anything can be believed, and it is no wonder that I am a “hateful liberal.”
What I found most upsetting was the fact that I found this on the facebook wall of a loved one. A family member who knows me and loves me, and not once did it occur to her that this stereotype of the “hateful liberal” couldn’t possibly be true, at least not in all cases. Not once did she make a move to defend me or even question the assertions of her friends. And I can only assume that her friends also have loved ones who are liberal and are guilty of exactly the same thing. They demonized their own friends and family without the slightest hesitation. This is what is happening outside of my social media bubble.
As it turns out, I’ve learned that my bubble is pretty comprehensive. It is full of voices from different cultural backgrounds, from all over the country and even the world; it contains a range of political views, from the far left all the way over to some of the conservative right – mostly those Republicans who could not bring themselves to vote for Trump. My bubble contains facts and fact checking, science, religion and anti-theism. The only thing my bubble seems to be missing, in fact, are the voices of the alt-right, with which I have no overlap. In some ways it is like discovering that I had a mole just out of sight that turned out to be a cancer I caught too late. If only I had caught it sooner, if only we had caught it sooner, maybe we wouldn’t be worried that we were facing something so terminal.
And even still, I feel as though theirs is the bubble that needs to be popped.