Wednesday morning’s headline came like a punch to the solar plexus. For my children, though, and many of their friends and children of my friends, the election results came as more than a momentary loss of breath. They were devastated. “I’m terrified and so deeply sad,” a young friend texted me.
They had recoiled from Trump’s 18 months of bigotry and bullying tone, from his ugly threats and innuendo, and his victory could not erase that history. And there was, I think, something more: this seemingly endless campaign barely spoke to issues that concerned them. The air was so filled with immediate grievances that the future was ignored.
All politicians pay lip service to the future, but only the young have to worry about it. The solvency of social security in 50 years matters far more to them than to me, as do the cost of college and the size of the national debt. And then there is the state of the earth and its relentless warming, which is very real to my children – but which for Trump and the entire Republican Party is a subject of derision.
Now that Trump is president-elect, what are we to make of his rhetorical bile? Was it campaign tactics or is this the character of the man? There is simply no good answer to that question, but yesterday’s meeting with President Obama gives me hope of an orderly transition and a resilient system.
Most of all, though, I take heart from my children and their friends. They are seeing that the arc of their lives is not so orderly and preordained that they can live removed from the world. And each is resolved to become more involved in the public space – and to build and share a commons with people with whom, on the surface, they may seem to have little in common.