3 weeks until Election Day
If you haven’t yet, please check out the previous part of this piece.
It was a painful morning, the kind when you wake up and remember a truth that you wish could have stayed buried. The kind when your first optimistic view of the day is suddenly bulldozed by the realization of horrible events. On November 9, 2016, this was the particular realization that Donald Trump was the President-Elect of the United States. But for me, as for so many other white people in the United States, it was also the general realization that this is the kind of country where Donald Trump could be elected. Although the circumstances of the election — popular vote loss and a slight victory in the Electoral College — had the elements of a fluke, the fact that his election was a possibility at all forced us to recognize that racism and sexism are not relics of the past, but are current forces at work in our nation. Nativism and xenophobia and not fading away into some idealized future, but are real forces at work here and now.
Just a few weeks before, the possibility of Trump’s election appeared frightening but far-fetched. The polls said it would never happen. I didn’t really believe it could happen. We had experienced him saying Mexican immigrants were racists and drug dealers, saying a judge with Mexican ancestry couldn’t be fair to him because of his heritage, criticizing John McCain for being caught as a soldier in wartime, getting into a feud with a Gold Star family, and boasting about grabbing women by their genitals. Surely any one of those acts was disqualifying for the office of President. Surely a majority of Americans could see that too?
On the day of the election, I was in my office at work. Like so many of us, I was refreshing my browser constantly, looking for some sign of how this was going to turn out. Finding none, I kept returning to the tasks at hand, unable to accomplish much of note. That night, I watched the election returns at home with my family, my anxiety turning to disbelief, then to dread at what was happening. I went to bed around midnight, knowing that Trump would almost certainly be the next president.
And so, the next morning I woke to this unbelievable and heartrending realization. I had to go to work. I showered and ate as if in a daze. I played the song The Eco-Terrorist in Me on repeat as I drove to the school where I would be coaching that day.
When it all comes down, Will you say you did everything you could? When it all comes down, Can you say that you never gave up? When it all comes down, Will you say you did everything you could?
I wondered what this meant for my understanding of our country, where I had miscalculated, where I had misunderstood. I wondered what I was willing to do for my family, my friends, for people I didn’t know. Would I be able to say that I did everything I could? I wondered what would happen in these next four years, and expressed my fears in a Facebook post:
Hooray for racism! Hooray for misogyny! Hooray for xenophobia! For those are the beliefs that won the day. But wait, you say, we are not racists! We are not sexists! Well, then hooray for cutting programs to help the poor! Hooray for driving up the number of uninsured! Hooray for barring people from our country based on their religion! For those are the policies that won the day. But wait, you say, we don’t think he will actually do those things. Well, then hooray for ignorance! Because our President-Elect has advocated for, aided, and abetted all those ideas. And if you voted for him, those are the ideas that you supported. Does that mean you are a racist, a sexist, that you don’t care about the poor? Maybe not…but in the end, the distinction is irrelevant. What I do want to say to my friends and colleagues who are women, who are people of color, who are LGBTQ…I am with you. I am worried about what these next 4 years will bring–for our people, for people across the world, and for the planet. But I will do what I can to stand with you as an ally in this struggle. Much love today.
I felt rage and banged the steering wheel of my car. I felt deep sadness and cried. I felt impotent. I know that many people, especially many white liberal people, were thrown into a state of disarray that day. And I know that for some of us, it was a moment that crystallized our commitment to action. I could no longer say the words and leave the actions to others. It was morning, time to wake up, make a plan, and take action myself.
Please check out the next part of this piece.
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