Fear. Sadness. Anger. And finding the silver lining in one of America’s darkest days.
I woke up around 4:45am this morning hoping that last night was a dream, a joke, or a nightmare. It was none of those things. It was the harsh reality that half the country voted for and elected, as David Remnick from the New Yorker puts it, “a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hears of the vulnerable, the weak, and above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted.”
African-Americans, Hispanics, women, Jews, Muslims. I am none of those things. I’m a middle-class white man that makes up the largest contingency of people that proudly went to the polls and voted for Donald J. Trump, and now, maybe for the first time ever, the sadness and anger and outright fear I feel for myself, my family, and my country is making me understand, as much as a middle-class straight white male can understand, the sadness and anger and fear others who don’t match my demographic feel every day.
As I write this, there has been no concession speech from Hillary Clinton. She hasn’t said a word and clearly is still processing what in the world just happened. This alone is unprecedented. There’s no questioning that she was a flawed candidate, but she also was and is exponentially more experienced, intelligent, calm, and competent than Donald Trump.
Agree or disagree with her policies, I can’t help but feel that, instead of electing someone who continued to build on the hopeful message and mission of Barack Obama to, if nothing else, make us a more accepting nation that embraces diversity and equal opportunities for all, a majority of the population stripped us of a huge milestone in electing the first female Commander-and-Chief, stripped us of the positive momentum of our nation, and instead, based their votes largely on fear of things they do not understand with the blanket explanation of “at least he’s not a politician.”
In what has been the ugliest, most divisive campaign to ever take place, how do you accept defeat gracefully and take the high road? When nearly everyone I follow on Facebook and Twitter is afraid, how do we come together and reassure each other that things will be ok and that there is a positive path forward?
Will he build a huge wall and make Mexico pay for it? Will he deport all Muslim-Americans in a reactionary closed-minded attempt to “defeat terrorism”? What will he do with our taxes? Will a conservative majority spin the wheels backwards on marriage equality? Will stop-and-frisk lead to more racism and pain amongst minorities? Will continued access to assault weapons lead to more mass-murders?
With Donald Trump as President, a Republican majority, and a Republican Congress, these terrifying ideas can and may very well be realities. Many of us were naive to think Donald Trump could ever possibly win this election, and here we are friends. Here we are. Anything, clearly, is possible.
It seems nearly impossible to find the silver lining in all this. I am baffled that we’ve arrived here and bluntly, thought we, as a nation, were better than this.
As someone who is soon to be a father to a little girl, who for the first time ever is starting to think about not only protecting a child but ensuring that she’s able to have the same opportunities as I’ve had, I can’t help but feel afraid, sad, panicked, and mad.
But if this is the path our country has chosen to go down, the only way through is forward. We must come together. We must do more and never ever assume that what we’re able to do as individuals doesn’t matter. We must exercise our right to vote, and vote wisely. And more than vote, we need to be active community members and do what we can to share our opinions, be them right or wrong, to push the momentum of this country — our nation — ever forward.
David Remnick, the Editor of The New Yorker, closed out his article with a plea and call to action:
“…But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals — that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do…”
Today we are tested to look through the darkness and find light. To keep putting one foot in front of the over and to not become complacent in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years ahead. And above all, to hold true to our integrity as individuals and as the United States of America.
It seems almost fitting that I went back and watched V for Vendetta last weekend (November 5th). And for those who have seen it, you’ll remember Natalie Portman’s character, Evey, beaten and broken in her cell clinging to nothing but Valerie’s hand-scrawled letter to keep her alive which reads:
“…Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. And within that inch, we are free…”
Our integrity, now, is all we have. It’s what makes us free. As a nation that has come so far over the past eight years and throughout history, and in-knowing there is still a long, long way to go, its up to us, the people, not the politicians, to continue pushing forward. To continue coming together. To block hate and fear with community, hope, and love. And to always, always, keep moving forward.