“Get over it. There’s nothing anyone can do about it now.”
This sentiment has been expressed by many of my friends and acquaintances who voted for Trump and even by a few who did not.
Three men in my life, about whom I care deeply, have voiced variations on this theme to me since the election. All three voted for Trump. Two of them are my age, but one of them is fifteen years younger than I am. I have known all of them for decades, and I love them. All are men of character who are good to their wives and who would give up their lives to protect their daughters.
Yet they voted for Trump.
And now, all three seem confused by the fact that some of the women they care deeply about get angry when they suggest we should “get over it.”
These men have one thing in common: They are men who, in their relationships with women, are generally charming and gentlemanly. When conflicts arise, they turn on the charisma and apologize, diffuse the situation with humor, or stand strong for the verbal barrage and hope that if they ignore the anger, it will dissipate and life will return to normal.
I have never believed—and still don’t believe—that everyone who voted for Trump is racist, sexist, or misogynistic. Though it is beyond my comprehension how women and Christians could have voted for him, I refuse to believe that nearly 63 million Americans are horrible human beings.
In the days since the Women’s March on Washington, though, I’ve had a slowly dawning awareness that men like my three friends are baffled and bewildered. I think they truly believed that after the election, women would eventually accept Trump, and life wouldn’t really change that much.
Perhaps many women might have—if Trump had set a different tone from the campaign. Had he been more conciliatory, he would still have had to deal with feminists and liberals who are angry about his policies. But he would not have roused the ire of so many other women who find the nastiness of politics distasteful.
In recent weeks I’ve seen women friends and acquaintances on social media who have never shared political posts or voiced their own opinions begin to participate in the conversation. I’ve read stories on Pantsuit Nation by women who say it is the first time in their lives they’ve ever engaged in a public discussion about politics. They tell heartbreaking stories of trying to protect their very young children from the ugliness of public discourse or trying to explain to their older children how America could have elected a man who seems to have no moral compass.
Men like my three friends don’t really want to hear these stories. They want to return to their insulated lives and pretend that the increasing anger of women is an aberration—a momentary blip in history.
Many a marriage has been destroyed by such thinking. Good men have walked away from the women they love because the women couldn’t “get over it.” And many good women have walked away from the men they love because they just couldn’t get them to understand that some things can’t be fixed by charm, humor, or detachment.
Something similar seems to be happening in our country right now, and divorce isn’t really an option. Our society is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. We are like a marriage in need of counseling. It seems to me that we can either continue the patterns we’ve set in recent elections—and particularly in this election—or we can face up to the root causes of the conflict, change the patterns of how we talk to each other, and try to move forward together.
The survival of our democracy depends on a willingness to listen to each other and to engage in searching for more effective ways to relate to each other.
Charm, humor, and detachment are no longer viable options.