On Tuesday night I went to bed hopeful. It was just barely Tuesday morning in the US, and my sister texted me to say she got to the polls at 5:45am to vote. I planned out a white outfit to wear to school, in a nod to suffragettes. I proudly pinned my “Future is Female” pin on my sweater and fell asleep after crying, because I truly thought the next day would mark the election of America’s first female president, and I was overwhelmed with joy and hope.
Wednesday morning (Tuesday night in the US) I got to school and caught only the first few states before I had to leave my laptop and teach two classes. The staff room TV was tuned in to the election, and several teachers had asked me about it. They all asked if I liked Trump, and when I said no they smiled and said they agreed.
When I got back to the staff room 2 hours later, the mood had clearly changed. Everyone looked at me, then at the TV, a look of concern on their faces. When I realized what was happening, I literally ran out of the school to get my phone and call home. I listened as my sister watched the election coverage, and I cried again, this time because I felt hope was lost.
America, we have just elected a man who has the full support of David Duke and the KKK. We have elected a man who will go on trial next month for child rape. A man who has used hateful and degrading language to talk about women, Muslims, people of color, people with disabilities, and anyone who is not like him. This is not about economics, or a push for smaller government – this is about spitting in the face of civil liberties because people who look different are scary.
I know that some of the people I love voted for him. I would like to think that they hesitated, they felt some slight shame or concern, and I am angered and disappointed that in the end fear won out. Many of my friends are posting notes on Facebook telling anyone who voted for Trump to remove themselves from their lives. I understand, and for many of them this is important for their safety and sanity. I will support them.
I wish I could do the same, but I know that’s not how we fix this.
Family and friends who voted for Trump, I am angry, I am disgusted, and I want us to talk. I need you to understand why my friends, many of whom are Black, Asian, and queer, are afraid for their lives in the coming years. I want you to tell me why, knowing full well what he stood for, you supported this man and pushed him to the highest office. I want you to explain why Hillary was such an abhorrent choice, because I sincerely don’t get it.
I worry about the future of such a divided nation. But I also know that we have risen above in the past. I hope those of us who are shocked and hurt today are motivated into action. We must support organizations that work to uphold our civil liberties, especially when they are threatened. We must recognize those who will be hurt most in the coming months and stand up for and with them. We must remember that political action is not limited to voting every four years. Our government still exists to serve us, but we must take action to demand their service. Call your representatives about issues that matter to you. Vote in midterm elections. Donate your time and money to organizations like Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. And most of all, talk to people who don’t look or believe as you do. Don’t shy away from the chance to change someone’s mind. After all, that’s what got us here in the first place.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I’m going to fight like hell to make it better. I hope you will do the same.