I thought I was okay, or at least on my way to okay, but I was wrong.
No matter who you are or what your personal ideology is, this is a strange and uncomfortable time to live in. Elections always bring out the best and worst in us–create new wounds where old ones have healed, sow seeds of discords and frustration, ramp up tensions until they’re almost too much to bear. That’s normal. We clash and use our votes as our weapons, but when the battle is over, we come together to repair the damage caused.
The truth has been an illusive beast this past year, which isn’t altogether uncommon for politics, but this election cycle was beyond the norm in every conceivable way. Allegations abounded: of foreign leaders interfering with our elections, of the FBI interfering with our elections, of classified information in unsecured emails, of sexual assault, of rape, of fraud, of racism, of crookedness, of being in bed with Wall Street. We all found our own version of truth amidst the fragments of information we could gather from varying news sources, and that truth led us to cast our ballots.
I’ve been nervous for a while. I’ve seen Trump’s loose-cannon personality steamroll entire groups of people. I’ve watched his narcissism prevent him from staying on track, derailed at the mere suggestion of personal attack. I’ve listened to him vacillate between viewpoints and spew hatred like a poem he once memorized for a middle school English class, so ingrained in him like it’s tattooed on his heart. The idea of this man leading my country made me uncomfortable, but I prayed that my fellow Americans would hear the same warning bells that had been ringing inside my head for months.
It wasn’t the case.
At first, I was in disbelief, which is an emotion I’ve carried with me through much of this election cycle. It all felt like a joke that went one step too far. My nervousness turned to fear for the first time, not for myself but for many people whom I love and respect–people who were reeling in the news, wondering how best to protect themselves from the inevitable surge of violence. I tried to be an ally, an advocate, a friend. I tried to believe that this was a temporary phenomenon and that there couldn’t possibly be enough people in the country to believe in the darkest hate. I fixed my face in grim acceptance, hoping that the man I so vehemently opposed would bring my country prosperity and hope.
It’s too early to tell if my optimism was unfounded. I have to believe that the future holds light because the alternative is too much to bear. But right now, my boundless optimism is crushed beneath the weight of hatred. I see photos of swastikas painted on community dugouts and read stories of Mexican children being tormented by classmates and teachers alike and wonder how to exist in a world so contrary to my own beliefs. This time in my life is marked by a thousand little internal battles and the process of trying to integrate this experience into my existence without having to rewrite everything I knew about myself and the people around me.
That undertaking was something I thought I could do with ease, but it’s not turning out to be that way. Until this morning, I truly believed I could stand by my principles and be the person I want to be, but my foundation has been shaken too much to be able to stand with confidence. The hate around me is seeping into my pores and fighting its way to my heart, and I don’t know if I have the strength left to fight it. I stand on my soapbox and preach acceptance and tolerance, but how long can you continue to speak those words when no one is listening?
I’m trying with everything I have to understand where Trump voters are coming from. I’m a democrat, but that doesn’t mean I believe that my party is correct about everything. I understand limiting the size of the federal government and giving more rights to the states. I understand concerns over the morality of most forms of abortion. I understand fears of economic instability. If this were any other election, I would not think twice about anyone filling in the oval for the republican nominee, because there are facets of policy on which I agree solely with republicans. Voting is a complex thing, filled with research and learning and viewing situations from every possible vantage point. If there’s anything I can say with certainly that I resent, it’s when people accuse me of not doing my homework or of believing everything the media says. I’m a rabid consumer of knowledge, and I don’t take voting lightly.
That being said, I’m still having trouble coming to terms with the idea that people could overlook the immaturity and hate Donald Trump has displayed throughout his campaign. I have reasoned with myself and given justifications of what would lead someone to vote for a personality like Donald Trump, and I understand the rhetoric: anti-government/anti-corruption candidate, Washington outsider, restore the country to some former state of glory. But even if you believed in every plank of his platform, I still have trouble understanding how you could, in good conscience, ignore his instability of demeanor and his unending hatred for nearly everyone. I’m not even referring to allegations of sexual assault, because until there’s an indictment or conviction, they are only allegations, just like the FBI case against Clinton was only an allegation. I’m referring to things that were directly observable to the American public without the lens of any media–without any interpretation handed to us by left- or right-leaning news outlets: undoctored footage of Trump mocking a disabled reporter, unedited audio of Trump normalizing the objectification and sexual assault of women, his suggestion of making an entire ethnicity register with the federal government, his call for the mass deportation of Mexicans (with the rationale being that all Mexicans are ne’er-do-well rapists and drug dealers), and on and on…
I will not–and will never–equate voting for Trump to being a racist, a bigot, etc. I can, however, say that voting for a candidate who actively endorses those things means that they’re not so egregious that you would consider an alternative vote. It means you’re not upset enough about it to let it change your mind. In essence, there are more important things to worry about. Maybe that’s true, but I can’t wrap my mind around being comfortable with bigotry being the face of our country–not just at home but around the world.
At first I was only upset in the sense that Trump’s victory offered legitimacy to radical groups of people rooted in violence and intolerance. It wasn’t Trump so much as the minority of his followers capable of doing real damage without, in their minds, fear of repercussion. It was the fear of people believing that, in Trump’s America, it’s okay to beat up LGBT youth because of their sexuality, or it’s okay to rip hijabs from Muslim women’s heads. That was my fear, and even though I felt like I was allowed to be afraid for myself, I wasn’t. I was afraid for my friends and classmates.
While this may sound trivial, I wasn’t able to address how I, as a woman, felt about the election results until I watched Kate McKinnon perform in SNL’s cold open.
I should have known the day after the election that I wasn’t okay on a personal level. I wasn’t able to watch Clinton’s concession speech because I knew it would stir in me a disappointment that reaches well beyond seeing my candidate lose. For many women, this is deeply personal, and I ignored that as if focusing on other people’s pain would somehow erase mine.
Then I heard Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton sing, and something inside me broke.
I did my best–it wasn’t much. I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch. I told the truth; I didn’t come to fool ya. And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the lord of song with nothing on my tongue but ‘hallelujah.’
I did not want Hillary Clinton to be my president because she is a woman, nor is that the reason I voted for her. I truly felt she was the more qualified candidate, and when you compare her 30 years of public service to Donald Trump’s zero, she was, in every respect, wildly qualified to win this election. Her loss is more complicated than attributing it to one variable, and I’m not enough of a reductionist or cynic to believe that her gender was the only thing holding her back. However, I am enough of a realist to know that it was a factor.
I recognize that being a white woman in America holds its own privileges, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Hillary Clinton’s loss, in a way, speaks to every woman who has ever lost out to a less-qualified man. It harkens back to every time I was told as a kid that only boys were allowed to do certain things. It underscores every “I want to speak to a man” I endured as a service technician at an Apple store. Unless you’ve been treated like a second-class citizen for an aspect of yourself you can’t control, you can’t possibly fathom what it’s like to be “less than.” Clinton came into this race with a resume several pages long, and Trump had a sheet of paper with his name on it.
And, with a collective voice that still reverberates in my head as I try to sleep at night, we chose the latter.
Hillary Clinton’s heartbreak is my own. I have to own it–wear it on my sleeve like a badge of honor, if only to remind myself of how long of a road I have left to walk. She feels like she has let me down, but she gave me hope that one day I might not be treated like my ideas are less legitimate because of my 23rd chromosomal pair.
I will still continue to promote tolerance, even if that means shaking hands with people whose ideals I cannot–and possibly will never–truly understand or be able to support. I will promote peace on both sides of this divide: no swastikas, no burning flags, no threats, no destroyed police cars. I will try my hardest to embrace all Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.
But that does nothing to rid my mouth of this sour taste or to staunch the bleeding of my stubborn, complex, and confused liberal heart.