Dawn is a reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

Opinion: Truth matters more than hunger for change

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History was made with the election of Donald Trump but not the way half the country expected or wanted. Photo/AP
History was made with the election of Donald Trump but not the way half the country expected or wanted. Photo/AP

At least we live in New Zealand.

That's what I told my 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son when they asked what would happen to America when Donald Trump was president.

I awoke the morning after the election, having slept fitfully for the second night in a row.

It was like digesting a dismal medical diagnosis. Did this really happen? Did my fellow Americans really elect a reality TV show billionaire who brags about groping women, slams Mexicans, Muslims and disabled people, can't name the country's allies and probably couldn't find New Zealand, let alone Aleppo, on a map?

I voted for her. Hillary Clinton, the woman with three decades of public service, including four years as Secretary of State. The woman with the email problem, the husband problem and the likeability problem. And maybe the female problem.

In the 58 presidential elections held since 1788, US voters have failed to do what voters throughout the world, including Germany, Argentina, Lithuania, Bangladesh, Kosovo, Denmark, the UK ... and my adopted home, New Zealand, have already done.

America - land of the free - has been unable to elect a woman to its highest office.

We've made history with this election, but not the way half the country expected or wanted.

I don't blame sexism entirely, but I won't dismiss it either.

An article in last month's The Atlantic cited a study by the Public Religion Research Institute, which found 52 per cent of white men held a "very unfavourable" view of Clinton.

That was 20 points higher than the percentage who viewed Barack Obama very unfavourably in 2012.

At the Republican National Convention, a reporter tallied T-shirts emblazoned with Trump That Bitch and Hillary Sucks But Not Like Monica. Those are the tamer slogans, but still not phrases I want to explain to my children.

My son turned from the CNN website election night, announcing, "Mom, Donald Trump is President." Mr Eleven has said many strange things, but this one takes the cake.

We had invited fellow American expats, their Kiwi partners and one of my colleagues, who's British, to our house for what we hoped would be a celebration.

Instead, we shared a melancholy meal of sausage rolls, chicken salad and lemon meringue pie. We soaked our sorrows in bubbly and wine.

I awoke Thursday morning to Clinton's concession speech.

She thanked supporters, spoke of healing deep divisions, of accepting election results and of looking to the future.

My eyes started to well with tears when she said: "And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."

I tell my daughter she and her brother can be anything they want - as long as they're kind. As long as they seek facts and evidence, which still matter, even in our post-truth, claim-your-own-conspiracy-theory world.

Gravity doesn't care if you believe in it or not - step off the cliff, you're going down.

Good people in America supported Donald Trump despite his endorsement by the KKK, not because of it.

Educator Ali Michael wrote: "Many of them voted for him because they feel frustrated with the economy, they feel socially left behind, and they are exercising the one power they have. We need to challenge Trump and his supporters to differentiate between their fears and the bigotry catalysed by those fears."

Trumpers voters for change. But I believe, as my friend Michelle, back in Spokane, Washington wrote: "Truth matters more than hunger for change. Standing up to bullies matters. Agency over our own bodies matters and no one, not even a president-elect, has the right to touch my daughter or anyone else without consent."

I tell my children we cannot change the election but we can, as Desmond Tutu said, do a little bit of good where we are.

We can be ambassadors of our native land; greet strangers; volunteer; host travellers; speak out against racism and sexism. Listen more. Also, my dear children, you can do dishes every night without complaint.

The last bit might not change the world, but this election has worn me out.

Kindness, kids - I see it in each shiny plate.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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