November 8, 2016

Today something happened that I, like many, thought would never happen — Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States of America.

This is an article I never thought I would write.

I could sit here and write angry — Donald Trump is an ill-equipped ego maniac who has repeatedly shown disregard and contempt towards racial and religious minorities and women while telling bold-faced lies with bravado.

I could go about it with humor too — how come Trump can become President of the United States with no military or political experience but I can’t get an entry level job with my college degree without 2 years of experience?

Instead, I’d like to share some thoughts on my own personal journey through the Election from Hell 2016.

I was raised in the Bible Belt by steadfast Republicans. At the time of the last election, I was two months too young to vote. Despite living in liberal Southern California, I was unsure of my position on Obama’s re-election. Not because I disliked him or his policies, but simply because I was uneducated on what my values were and how they aligned with those of the candidates. Over his second term, I came to admire his strength, poise, diplomacy, and cool-factor (sorry, I am a millennial). That’s why I vowed to study up and make an educated decision when my time came.

When I registered to vote, I decided to be an independent. Call me selfish, but I wanted whomever I chose to support to woo me. I refused to be a politcal sheep that followed blindly where my party leaders told me to go. I watched both the Democratic and Republican primaries unfold and found myself both facinated and terrified at once. To be honest, I had reservations about every single candidate. I wanted to be confident in my candidate’s ability to reach across the aisle and make significant progress in areas I cared about.

When we arrived at convention and as a nation, we were handed our two choices, I was not yet convinced. Like many Americans, I had my doubts about Hillary Clinton. From the email scandals to what her last name evoked, I wasn’t sure that she was the candidate for me. But on the other side, once the spineless weenies (oops, I mean Republicans) chose Trump, the choice was made for me.

I know, I know. I am just such a nasty woman, right? #Trump2016 #MakeAmericanGreatAgain #DraintheSwamp #BuildaWall #Hashtag

Really, it came down to the future I wanted for myself, and more importantly, those around me. When my brother was small, a kid told him he did not want to play with him because he was “brown.” My heart broke that day. I have several LGBTQ family members that I want to enjoy marriage equality. I have a friend whose parents are Middle-Eastern who fears for his safety. I know victims of sexual assault who never spoke out due to fear of the reaction they may get. I know people who are disabled who are, simply, people and want to be treated as such. I myself have just earned a degree and want to be more than just something pretty to look at in the office at $0.79 on the dollar until I become a mother.

To back up my initial gut decision, I did my research. I took quizzes on my political alignment, I watched all three debates and the VP debate, I read up on the issues, and I made a date on November 8 to hit the polls. In the end, Secretary Clinton had the experience and values that spoke to me. I took to heart when people told me that my vote mattered, that my voice needed to be heard. I know how many countries would cherish that right, if they had it. I know how many years women fought for that right. I marched in to my old middle school gym with my sample ballot filled out and left wearing my “I voted” sticker like a badge of honor.

So tonight, it was hard to cope when the Associated Press called the election.

On one hand, this is proof that democracy is real, and it works. People woke up this morning ready to make their voices heard in an arena that they felt they had been ignored in. I am just not sure that is good enough for me.

Because when I look at what happened today, I think of how the rhetoric that has been so prevalent in this campaign has hurt so many. The numbers prove that Trump supporters are not just scary, gun-toting white dudes who say things like Obama was “never in the office,” during 9/11. Racism and sexism are alive and more prevalent in this country than I ever could have predicted.

As I mentioned before, I come from a largely Republican family so I was berated by more than one relative about my support of “Killary.” Somehow, I thought these people that I knew, loved, and respected were outliers. They were good people who were loyal to a party, not a person. They didn’t mean to support such a hateful narrative.

This widespread shock is unprecedented. It’s nearly 3 am on the day after the election and I still am trying to make sense of how I studied so hard, yet got it all so wrong. How the media and polls and jokes on SNL got it all so wrong.

I never claimed that Hillary Clinton was the perfect candidate, only that she attempted to uphold what I thought were widespread values. That is what shakes me to my core.

America is supposed to be the home of the free and the brave. Why, then, is there support for someone who threatens freedom of religion and speech?Why were we not brave enough to stand up to a grade-A bully and tell him that his middle-school antics would not be tolerated?

At the end of the day, this loss is not about me. Not in the slighest. I fear for what this could mean for immigrants, people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims, journalists, and all those who dare to have a different opinion. I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but as we have seen with Brexit, these situations can become volatile quickly.

Am I shocked? You best believe it. Am I afraid of what is to come? Absolutely. Am I still crying a little bit? *sniffles* Maybe the microphone is just broken…

This election has brought out some horrendous behaviors in people of all ages, from grandparents to children. As I pondered the implications of this election, I saw many of my friends on Facebook turning to scripture. Whether you believe in God, Krishna, Allah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or nothing at all, think the principle is the same:

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” -Proverbs 10:12

My initial response was definitely anger and sadness. However, I feel it is more important to grab on to people, especially those who may feel marginalized, love them, and find a way to keep progressing. We cannot continue to indulge in this harmful dialogue a minute longer. We have a long way to go as a country to become the harmonious melting pot our founders imagined but it starts with how we treat each other.

Even if you were a Trump or third party supporter, you have to admit, we are #StrongerTogether than we ever could be apart. Though the Dow is down and protests are happening, we still go to work tomorrow, take the kids to school, live and carry on. This doesn’t have to be the end.

Let’s remember this moment and use it to get involved, fuel a movement. Let’s evaluate our nation’s values and vote them in 2018 and then 2020.

Let’s find a way forward. The world is watching.