Two days after I returned home someone burned down the house of the director of the new Pride Center in my hometown. Two days after that torch-carrying Nazi’s marched through Charlottesville and murdered a counter protestor. Things were different. Yet something felt off about saying that the US had changed.
The day after Charlottesville I celebrated the ordination of one of my seminary classmates. One of our professors preached at the service and attempted to make sense of the tragedy of the day before. Afterwards we spoke for a few minutes, and she finally put into words what I had been feeling: everything is different, but nothing has changed.
After the 2016 election I heard a lot of people, in their distress and confusion over the results, saying this wasn’t the country they knew. And I heard a lot more people criticize those people for not recognizing that this is how our country has always been, it’s just that people with privilege were able to overlook it before. The racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia that fueled Trump’s campaign were always there, it just finally came out into the open. Nothing has changed. People of color, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and religious minorities face the same bigotry and discrimination as before, but the majority can’t ignore it anymore. Even in my white, conservative, birthplace-of-the-Republican-party hometown, people are being forced to address these issues. Everything is different because the bigotry that our country is built on is out in the open now for all to see, but nothing has changed, because it’s always been there.
Since the elections three days ago I’ve heard many people say, “this is the country I knew.” But that statement is just as problematic as what they were saying a year ago. We never really truly had a country that chooses love and acceptance over bigotry. So in response to the election, in which people of color, women, and LGBTQ people won positions that have never been held by minorities before, I would like to say, this is the beginning of the country I would like to know.