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In the election aftermath, opposing Trump’s America

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More than 1,000 people gathered at Market and Powell streets on Nov. 9 2016 to protest President-elect Donald Trump before marching to the Castro, the Mission and City Hall. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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The election of Donald Trump has left many things so very uncertain.

We are uncertain about the level of federal funding San Francisco will lose under a Trump administration given our Sanctuary City policy, a policy that Mayor Ed Lee reaffirmed last week even though it may cost The City more than $1 billion annually. We are uncertain about the future of police reform in this city and others given Trump’s dismissal of law enforcement critics.

It’s uncertain how a man with no political or public service experience can lead a country. It’s unclear how those who voted for Hillary Clinton, who found Trump profoundly unfit for office, can feel hopeful for the future after being gutted by a force many never saw coming.

It feels we have been living in a smaller, sadder world this past week. Students walked out of classes, and people gathered in plazas around town chanting, “Trump is not my president.” These signs of life have been reassuring. Absent these protests, the streets have felt quiet and melancholy. We have seemed reluctant to look each other in the eye on public transit — as if we are disoriented, depressed and ashamed. We are, I sense, trying to be kind and careful with each other — perhaps the most meaningful balm we can produce right now.

One of the most unsettling things is a newfound uncertainty in ourselves, about how to best go forward. The unrest in the streets of San Francisco and in other cities seems a necessary but inadequate manifestation of the unrest in our hearts. How could we not know this country?

Closer to home, the election had mixed results in San Francisco — the progressive faction’s 6-5 edge on the Board of Supervisors seems to have shifted to a 6-5 majority for the moderates; Scott Weiner appears to have beat Jane Kim for the state Senate; voters rejected a sales tax to improve homeless services and transportation, but opted for a measure to kick homeless out of tents. And, in light of the national results, some local pundits glumly dismissed our local political divisions as petty squabbling.

With Trump in the White House, does it really matter whether Kim or Wiener, with their overall similarities, is in the statehouse? Of course it does, but we are still in shock, grasping for our bearings. As Supervisor London Breed, who won re-election Tuesday, said in a Facebook post Friday: “Given the terrible national election results, the work we are doing on a local level matters more than ever. While I know we are all still reeling from the results and our new reality, I feel a renewed sense of purpose and fight.”

The challenge is to find ways to engage locally, statewide and even nationally. The task is how to not lose heart, even when you feel heart-broken.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week that he was disgusted by the national results and found solace in the people and politics of California, which he lovingly called “a cause, California as a mission” — in opposition to the foul fever gripping the nation. Mayor Lee, likewise, promised the national results won’t “change who we are.”

For those of us who disapprove of the Electoral College winner — remember that more people voted for Clinton than Trump — it’s important to remember that opposition is a form of engagement. It is not walking away. Even if we feel disgusted and beaten, we cannot afford to slink away from the fight.

It’s tempting to want to blow up the system, to back somebody that seems bent on destroying the political establishment as we know it because it seems so broken. But such a destructive urge is self-defeating. Case in point: It is painfully poetic that Billy Bush lost his job for being an unwitting, mostly passive participant in a disgusting conversation while the instigator, Donald Trump, who bragged that he liked to grab women by the genitals, was elected president of the United States. In what possible universe is that OK with anybody? Apparently, the universe we all live in. Who knew?

Anyone who says such hateful things, even in private, is more than unfit to be president, an ally or even a friend. It is in those unguarded moments, of course, that you see the real mettle of a person, and I’m afraid Donald Trump is rotten inside.

The morning after the election, I hesitated getting up because I knew I would have to tell our 10-year-old daughter whom the next president would be. We had been hoping for a different outcome, one that could encourage her that the future was boundless and full of potential. That morning, though, I had to tell her that our next president was the man she was aware had said mean and awful things about women.

I don’t know how you feel good about that in any scenario. But it turns out that my daughter’s fifth-grade class is starting a course on puberty education this week, and it seems a cruel confluence of events that it is just as our country has inexplicably elected to the White House a man who bragged of being a sexual predator. The point is, this is all happening as our children are trying to learn how they can fit in this world — for some of us adults, this has become an unanswered question as well. I fear what lessons are available to them and what behavior has been sanctioned by this vote.

It feels like, for our children and for all of us, less is possible this week than we believed was possible last week.

Michael Howerton is editor in chief of the San Francisco Examiner.

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