This American Life

Yesterday was one of the most depressing days I can remember. It sounds dramatic, but the feelings of dread bubbling within me were similar to the feelings of fear and uncertainty I felt after 9/11. I was in shock. I think I still am. Now, before you read this and think, “CALM DOWN. Your candidate didn’t win the US election. GET OVER IT AND MOVE FORWARD,” I want to express why this isn’t about winning and losing.  

Besides my festering disbelief that America elected Donald Trump, a self-serving, often-bankrupted reality show personality as the 45th President of the United States of America, I experienced anger and deep sadness in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election. This campaign season was filled with stress and mud-slinging from both sides, which most of the time I tried very hard to stay out of. Yesterday though, it was something different. I saw citizens who voted Trump not only taunting those who did not, but also suddenly becoming beacons of goodwill and peace. I saw handfuls of commentary on social media about “accepting the outcome,” and “coming together for the sake of our country.” The thing is, I actually agree that we need to do both of those things because it’s the American way and the only action that will move us forward. I was bothered by the hypocrisy of it all. Are Americans who voted for Donald Trump bad people? Most definitely not. I was surprised to find several friends, family and acquaintances voting for him, and it was their right to do so. What I struggled with was that somehow, those people found a way to justify voting for a man who consistently spewed (grammatically incorrect) hatred, racism, sexism, sexual harrassment and more, plus touts literally zero political experience. That’s what felt right to those voters, and as an American, I have to respect their decision to lean that way. I respect the process.

What I can’t stomach is the holier-than-thou preaching to be cool and come together. I am not upset because Hillary Clinton isn’t going to be president. If we’re being completely honest, I was not excited about Hillary. Never was. As the election droned on, I saw just how essential it was that I cast my vote for her, NOT BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN (as is so erroneously pointed to as ANOTHER reason people are upset she didn’t win,) but because she seemed to be the candidate who would preserve a safer society for my friends of color, the LGBTQ community, and those from other nations. I am upset because I am scared. This isn’t a, “my horse lost the race,” sadness. This is a “black baby doll hung from the ceiling of a Jesuit college, Indian-American told to go back to India, Swastika grafitti” sadness. The surge of fear comes from the actions of people who do mean to spread hate and terror, and guess what folks, those were not the people who voted for Hillary Clinton. 

Not one of us knows what the future holds, and sorry, I find it terrifying BASED ON what Donald Trump verbally said during his campaign. Could he turn out to be a well-meaning and solid leader? Dear God, I hope so. I will root for him. It is the only option. But this morning, I had to seek comfort in something else.

I spent the last 24-hours thinking about other less than desirable leaders: George W. Bush (affable, doesn’t look so bad now,) Silvio Berlusconi (Italian media tycoon/former corrupt Prime Minister,) Rob Ford (too soon? RIP) and how citizens survived them. We’ve survived before under diffifcult circumstances, we can do it again. I also thought about our system of checks and balances (though potentially trickier with a same-party Congress,) and remembered that the president is one person. Hell, sometimes the president isn’t even the one actually running the country (ahem, Nancy Reagan, Dick Cheney.) We the people do have some say, and now more than ever it is our duty to stay active and make a difference.

What I now see is that the election of Donald Trump doesn’t mean we are rendered victims, it means we are in the position to rise up and be better than ever. I mean that on every level. There will be those who stand up strongly and publicly against injustice, intolerance, and anything else that threatens the traditions of American life. Those warriors will be at the forefront and will take the brunt of criticism and resistance. Many will have to make a difference closer to home. I realized this is the time for myself and my family to get our finances in order, take full control of our health and well-being, and get more involved in our community. We have to love our kids and teach them what is right and wrong, and lead by example. Where our leaders may lack, we must fill in. We must care for each other and love harder than we have in the past. We must become the best America we can. Perhaps now more than ever, our fate is in our own hands.

I think with Obama, I got lazy. I felt so comfortable with his politics and treatment of our overall democracy that I went about, business as usual and perhaps not rising up to be my best self. Life would go on. Everything would be okay. Money issues would work themselves out. Healthy living was on the horizon, but not an emergency. Someone was looking out for our climate; I didn’t have to worry. I felt Obama always had mine and my family’s best interest at heart, even if he couldn’t always make things happen as quickly as I would have liked. He is a good person, a good president, and a solid family man. Now that Donald Trump is going to be our president, I have to pay more attention and become more educated. Each individual has to be stronger than ever in creating an American life that reflects the light of liberty and democracy our country was built on. We must redefine what it means to be a patriot (and that’s hard for me to say- Go Bills.) There is much work to be done, but also the opportunity to unite and become the strongest America we’ve ever known.

I saw an electoral map of what it would have looked like had Americans 18-25 been given the final say on Election Day. It filled me with great hope. Our future is bright. We have to stand together as one- yes, I mean Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, to make sure those young people have a country worth fighting for. On November 10, 2016, I pledge my allegiance to the flag, and to the next generation of Americans who deserve the hope of a bright future. 

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