Dear America (RE: 2016 Presidential Election)…
by Brittany B.
November 9, 2016
I cried while driving to work today. I had to call a friend who works in the same building as I do to come outside and calm me down and we cried together and hugged in the parking lot. I cried at my desk. I cried in the bathroom. I cried on my drive home. And finally again when I watched Hillary Clinton’s concession speech.
I. Never. Cry.
Let me put this into a little more perspective for you – in my adult life, I have cried maybe ten times (so long as you’re not counting today). It isn’t that I’m not connected with my emotions or whatever speculation that you want to make. I was raised to be a strong independent woman by strong independent women. At a young age, I saw that when other women would get upset and begin crying they would instantly start to lose whatever argument they were in or would lose the attention or respect of whoever they were talking with. I was even guilty of getting annoyed with my own mother because I thought she was too emotional whenever her eyes would water. So, at a young pre-teen age, I decided I wasn’t going to do that. I decided that I was going to keep my emotions in check and that crying wouldn’t get me anywhere. I don’t cry at sad movies. I don’t cry at ASPCA commercials. I barely cried when my paternal grandmother passed away in February of 2016 because everyone around me was falling to pieces and I was determined to stay calm for them. I’ve made myself a reliable rock for the people in my life and rocks just don’t cry.*
*Let me make one thing clear – I now know that my approach to emotions was pretty harmful growing up and has complicated how I process things as an adult. I know that showing your emotions and letting yourself cry does not invalidate what you’re trying to express. You are strong no matter what. You are strong no matter what gender you are. Emotions are natural. Crying is natural and it is often productive. Having emotions, being in touch with your emotions, and allowing yourself to cry does not make you weak or lesser. I strongly believe that.
But I never expected this.
The 2016 presidential election campaign has been exhausting to watch as a feminist queer woman. The idea of a Drumpf (if you’re confused, please watch this John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight clip) as our President-Elect is terrifying – for a lot of reasons. And before anyone says that calling President-Elect Donald Trump “Drumpf” is petty, I’m allowing myself today to do so. Tomorrow I will call him by his proper title and try to respect the office in which he is to hold. But today I just can’t. Forgive me. Although the man has campaigned and promised to take care of our veterans, which I agree with, his other ideologies are not something that anyone who has a basic understanding of human rights and/or equality can support. If you don’t understand that, then congratulations – that’s what privilege tastes like. But for those of us who are non-Christian—especially Muslim, women, people of color & minorities, LGBTQ+, or disabled individuals among several other subsets of groups, this outcome is not only completely shocking and completely un-forecasted but utterly horrifying. Our future that we’ve steadily been working towards, the equality and progress that we’ve fought for, could all be undone because now the Presidential office, House, and Senate are all controlled by the same party that sat idly by and allowed Drumpf to become the President-Elect in the first place.
After the Pulse shooting, I was heartbroken. I allowed myself some time to process it but then started becoming more outspoken and being unapologetic in my queerness. We were brought together by a horrible hate crime—nay, an act of domestic terrorism specifically aimed at the queer Latino community. I was motivated. I knew that I had to be vocal and that my voice could be added to affect change. We saw some change. Not enough, but some. And it feels like all of that outrage that we felt and that our politicians echoed and had a historic sit in… it feels like it was just screaming into a vacant room.
Today, for the first time in my life, I feel like a second class citizen. I have grown up in liberal bubbles where being a woman wasn’t a deterrent or an obstacle and where being queer wasn’t a death sentence or even cause for being bullied in school. I knew, on a conscious level, that I was privileged over other queer people growing up because just as I was getting into college the It Gets Better campaign began. I knew the name of Matthew Shepard growing up. I knew that I was lucky to be raised where I was by a family that loves me and supports me no matter what and now I know that that is the privilege that I have over others. But today – despite living in the same town I grew up in and have felt so safe in – I have seen the Drumpf signs all over. My State gave our three electoral votes to Drumpf. Today is the first time in my life that I am scared to be a woman and to be queer.
I understand that I have little personal experience in regards to the injustices against the LGBTQ/Queer community, as I’ve never personally been targeted, nor am I Muslim, or a person of color and I know that plenty of people have had a much worse go of life than I have. And me talking about how scared I am may sound like an attempt at attention grabbing or just cursory shock, but I can guarantee that it is not. I have a platform to express my opinions and concerns and you’re damn sure I’m going to use it to help be the voice for those who can’t, for those who are too scared or would endanger themselves if they spoke up, or those who don’t know how to put their hurt into words. We have elected a person into office who has repeatedly preached hate against Muslims, people of color, and shrugs off talk of sexual assault as “locker room talk” and “guy talk.” By electing this person into office, we have told the rest of the United States that what he says is okay to say and okay to think and okay to act on. I have already seen people share stories about gloating Drumpf supporters calling people homos, fags, niggers, threatening the marriage of queer couples, making threatening statements to women in hijabs, just because their nominee won. They feel empowered in their hate because their candidate, who based his campaign in hate, won and therefore they must be in the right.
So yes, today I am terrified at what the United States voted for and allowed to happen. Today I am ashamed and disappointed in America and am having a hard time being a proud American citizen. Today, I’m horrified that so many people would overlook so many things because they think that the propaganda against Secretary Hillary Clinton was somehow worse than anything that Drumpf spoke of.
“…and that’s a problem for a lot of Americans. They just don’t love the two choices. I mean, do you pick someone who is under federal investigation for using a private email server or do you pick someone who has called Mexicans rapists, claimed that the president was born in Kenya, proposed banning an entire religion from entering the US, mocked a disabled reporter, said John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured, attacked the parents of a fallen solider, bragged about committing sexual assault, was accused by twelve women of committing sexual assault, said some of those women weren’t attractive enough to for him to sexually assault, said more countries should get nukes, said he would enforce the military to commit war crimes, said a judge was biased because his parents were Mexicans, said women should be punished for having abortions, incited violence at his rallies, called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, called for his opponent to be jailed, declared bankruptcy six times, bragged about not paying income taxes, stiffed his contractors and employees, lost a billion dollars in one year, scammed customers with his fake university, bought a six foot tall painting of himself with money from his fake foundation, has a trial for fraud coming up in November, insulted an opponent’s looks, insulted an opponent’s wife’s looks, and bragged about grabbing women by the pussy—how do you choose? Because… it’s so…it’s so even. It’s so even.”
So what do we do?
Move to Canada or New Zealand or some other country?
No – if we flee, they go unopposed. If you look at the statistics for Millennials, you’ll see that our generation didn’t vote for this.
This shows that we want change and progressive action towards equality. We want the equality that our predecessors have fought for and have yet to see. We are the future of this country. If we run away to another country or simply say “it’ll be over in four years,” then we’re doing a disservice to the people who come after us. Too often are we concerned with “me, mine, and now,” when we should be concerned with “me, mine, my extended, the future, and the good of all humanity” because nothing will be fixed in an instant. It never has been and it will always take time and effort. Electing someone into office is not an automatic win. It is electing that person to an office and then holding them accountable for what they promised. To hold all our elected officials accountable. We are a democracy of the people, for the people. Or at least that is what we’re supposed to be. Know who your house representatives are, who your senate elect are. Get their contact information. Flood them with letters and emails and phone calls saying that they are the voice of the people and the people demand better.
Do we throw back the hate speech?
No. Hate fighting hate will only breed more hate. As Michelle Obama said, “when they go low, we go high.” We do stay vocal to the injustices that we see. We do engage in discourse based on reason, academia, fact, and general human decency. We do reach out to our friends who are scared right now and say “I’m here for you. You have my unwavering support and I’ll prove it by fighting for equality.” We come together because we’re stronger together.
Do we stop voting because the system is broken?
No! VOTE. In every election. Local city, state, and nationwide. Vote. Vote. Fucking Vote. We have to vote until we solidify a solution. We have to change the Electoral College, true. The system is antiquated, broken, and obviously did not elect the President that the majority voted for. But right now, because change takes time, we have voting. We have statistics to back up that we do not support where this country is headed. If all we can be is a statistic, be a statistic that showed up and stood up for equality and basic human rights.
What else can we do?
We can make sure that we are doing our own research and that we are not relying on our social media feeds, on one news source, but many and varied. We can try and correct and educate others, but never belittle them. We can respect the differences of opinion and listen to understand and respond with empathy and with the intent to have productive discourse. We can help others understand why this is not only bad for America but bad for the entire world. Don’t stoop to their level. Don’t get into screaming matches. Be like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and be presidential as fuck. Present facts. Speak calmly. Be composed. If you don’t know something, research it—research it from multiple sources and make sure that you come to your own conclusion and not the conclusion that is fed to you by one news source, your social media bubble, or your family.
Follow your elected officials on Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media outlet they use. Know what they’re up to, what they’re voting for, and what they stand for. If you disagree with how they’re representing you and your community, let them know! It is their job to be a representative of the people and if they are not doing that, then they need to know that they do not represent you as a voter in their district.
Bernie Sanders started a political revolution. Although he was not the successful Democratic nominee, he started a fire. A fire that is not going to go out. Bernie spoke to his supporters and said that we are the change that this country needs and we have to hold up our end of the bargain. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t have gotten as far as he did had it not been for our voice, our interests, in the hundreds of thousands of people who donated to his campaign. We believed in Bernie Sanders and now we have to believe in ourselves.
So, congratulations, President-Elect Drumpf—you’ve just kick-started the political careers of the entire millennial generation. You will “make America great again” by having motivated us to become more active in politics because we refuse to sit idly by.
As one of my best friends, Astrid, told me to today while I was crying at my desk:
Today we mourn—tomorrow we get organized.