So. Here we are. A post-election milieu characterized by divisiveness, contradiction, shock, fear and judgement. In the Oak Park – River Forest community, it is hard to fathom that victory goes to someone whose campaign was filled with rhetoric lambasting our basic beliefs in diversity, human rights and respect for all people. And yet, here we are. The (other) people have spoken.
According to the Cook County Clerk website, voters in the Oak Park and River Forest townships voted 83% for Clinton, 12% for Trump and 5% for third-party candidates. Are we really that different here, with different lives and different values?
Our best hope is that people voted to send a message about politics, government, the economy and the establishment. Our best option is to continue fighting for the values we believe in, while helping to mold the change that voters demand.
We also owe it to those who feel threatened under this new world order to stand up for dignity, opportunity and even basic human rights. We all have friends, neighbors, co-workers and community members who now feel unwelcome or even more marginalized than before. People are scared about being deported. People feel unsafe, bullied, intimidated. Stories are circulating across the country about those bent on hate now emboldened to act on that hate.
Many schools and large employers have taken the unusual step this past week of formally announcing to their stakeholders that they will not tolerate acts of hate within their organizations. They have gone so far as to offer help and support to anyone feeling uncomfortable or targeted. True, our community was imperfect before, but now more than ever we need to re-commit to building a world free of hate and intolerance.
The Oak Park – River Forest Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to support the local business community. That mission of support includes providing a safe place for business owners, employees and customers who feel threatened or uncomfortable. Please, call the police if you are in harm’s way. But if you need a place to talk, brainstorm available resources or just feel welcome, our doors are open to you.