Tuesday night I sat alone with a cast of millions and watched the political future of my country unfold.
Over the past several weeks since being back in the States, I’ve really felt the polarizing climate of the election. Being far removed from it before, I could see it from an intellectual point of view, but I hadn’t really felt it with such a harsh reality until I was entrenched in it. And here in North Carolina, there is most certainly a divide. It is stark and more than a little disquieting.
As my sister so perfectly put it two days before the election:
I feel like we are at that point in the movie where you are sitting with your knees pulled into your chest….saying to yourself…”the good wins right?”
But the good does not always win. Not in movies and not in life. And I know nothing is ever black and white and many of you may differ in who you thought was on the side of ‘good’. And if we have to politely disagree, that’s okay. Cause that’s what democracy is and despite yesterday’s outcome, I’m proud that such a system exists and we all get to take part in it.
But personally, I spent much of Wednesday grieving for a country I no longer recognize.
And there are many out there who said yesterday that “both choices were bad so what does it matter?” I respect your opinion, but I disagree. A lot. For me, this election did not come down to debates or politics. Emails or scandals. It came down to a fundamental mission statement. About the way two candidates saw the world. I found Hillary’s campaign to be one of inclusivity. A plan going forward that preserved the rights of all people – one that stated loudly and unapologetically who you love or what your gender is or what color your skin is or the country you were born in does not mean you are somehow less. That women’s reproductive rights are important. That science is important. That health care for all is important. And worthy of protection.
What I saw on the other side was a worldview of hate. Of exclusion. Of white, male privilege. I saw a candidate who promoted sexism, xenophobia, racism, bigotry. A candidate that bragged about sexual assault, blatantly professed to favoring torture and of launching nuclear weapons, dismissed climate change as a hoax, and drove fear and anger into the hearts of millions of immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ people and women by telling them they were less. That they don’t belong here. And he did this loudly and publicly and unapologetically. And my heart was broken yesterday for the reality that for every vote cast in his favor, these ideals were validated. And endorsed. Regardless of the real reasons for each vote, to me it was heartbreaking to see just how many people were okay with every racial slur and hateful missive. And it was very very personal.
And as I sit at my computer trying to verbalize how I felt through this process, I realize I had never felt so angry, so scared, so confused, so leveled by an election before. I had always taken part in the electoral process – ever since I could register to vote I cast a ballot and always sent in an absentee ballot during my years overseas. But I had never truly felt fear. Incredulity and disbelief, yes. Frustration, absolutely. But never such an acute fear of the divisive world that lay just beneath the surface. A world of violence and hate, misogyny and bigotry. I’m not naive in thinking that world didn’t always exist, but it is terrifying to see it validated. And championed. And actively, actually bubbling over.
As my sister predicted, there I sat Tuesday night, knees up and biting my nails. Watching the screen, waiting. And little by little, as each State was announced, slowly the knot in my stomach clenched further. Throughout a lot of this election I felt I wanted to ask this country, “Who ARE you?” but as each vote ticked over I started to recognize her less and less.
I realize that I don’t often get political here on the blog. And that these opinions may lose me readers who disagree with me. And that’s okay. I think discussion and respectful dissonance is important. I debated whether or not to write this at all, because I don’t want to alienate anyone or get into a long political debate. But it’s things like difference of opinion and really having to stand up and advocate for something we believe in – and challenge those opinions and positions – that incites true progress. This is not the time for silence or to cower to fear. And this blog has become my space to share my innermost thoughts. And right now, my innermost self is terrified. Genuinely.
Because, as a woman, feminist, scientist and conservationist; as a friend and family member to many in the LGBT community; as a visitor of many countries and an emotional welcome wagon for people from other countries and of every race and color of skin; frankly, as a human being, I sat, hoping with every fibre of my being that history would be made and the candidate I felt was most qualified would be the next to lead our country. Ready for the glass ceiling to be shattered and for all of the children out there to grow up without a gender bias towards who “can” be president. Waiting to be grateful that my reproductive rights would be preserved and millions of immigrants could sleep knowing they were safe. And that didn’t happen. I am horrified by the future that I fear awaits us in the next four years.
To all those who feel this is an overreaction. Who have flooded our social media feeds with talk of how it’s “really no big deal.” Again, I respectfully disagree. To me and many, it’s a very big deal. The news yesterday spoke of KKK rallies and racial slurs written on locker doors in high schools and shouted at African Americans. Of Hitler’s insignia’s spray painted on shop windows. There are news reports of rape culture gratified, where women are being sexually assaulted on subways, with men shouting “grab her by the p***y!” Tearful teachers telling stories of children taunting their Hispanic classmates and chanting “Build a wall!” Minorities being assaulted and threatened. Muslims afraid to express their religion. Female friends enrolling in self-defense classes. The list goes on and on. This is not about a man on a stage who said mean things. This is about an active, violent outpouring of hate crimes and divisiveness. Open-faced, emboldened ugliness. Day 1. This is. A. Big. Freakin. Deal.
So I woke up this morning, still grieving but with resolve. I want to focus less on the anger and the sadness and more what we can do going forward. I will fight the negative by doing what I can to stand up, step in, and engage in a veritable Care-Bear-Stare of love. As my wonderful husband said, this is a reminder to us all to relentlessly take action. To not become complacent. To stand up for racist and sexist actions we see; to write letters to our Congress representatives. As a society, we have the power to dictate the behavior that is and is not acceptable. To teach our children what is right and wrong. To take a note out of HRC’s book and walk onto that stage, proud and strong, and declare we will never stop fighting. We do not have to feel powerless, as so many of us feel right now. We do not have to normalize the behavior that started to run rampant the minute our President-elect was announced.
I want to believe that good will win in the end. That Love Trumps Hate. That the hateful actions I see around me are the minority, as the good stands up in swells and fights against them. That those who did not cast the same vote as I did truly aren’t okay with the racism, bigotry, misogyny, and hatred that I associate with our President-elect, and will fight beside us. And to all of you out there who feel mocked and ridiculed and marginalized. To everyone who is afraid and under threat. To everyone who has already been broken – I will fight beside you. I will help glue the pieces together. And I will never stop.
We are stronger together.