It's been nearly four weeks since Election Day. It's been an exhausting four weeks. But hell, it's been an exhausting year, hasn't it?
We had an Election Night party at our house with some newer friends. It turned out to be the absolute worst party I have ever had or been to - as I'm sure was the case across the country: tons of progressive-minded people turning out in droves with their thumbs on their champagne bottles, ready to pop them any second. We thought it was in the bag.
A friend of mine showed up around 8pm, tied in knots with nerves, and before we even sat down she said to me "I think he's going to win." I'd been fearful, obviously, but I didn't actually consider it a real possibility until about two weeks prior to Election Day. And even in this moment when she said my fears aloud, I did what my mother does when she's afraid and doesn't want me to see- I shook my head, averted eye contact, said "Pssshhhh no way" and I ushered her into my cozy warm apartment, crossing my fingers that she wasn't right.
We all sat around, eating pizza, drinking wine, chatting and trying to catch up- which apparently is very hard to do when you're a tangled ball of anxiety with eyes glued to a television that isn't giving any answers and won't for the next several hours. Sometime around 9:30 we tried turning on some music and keeping the TV on mute. That lasted for about 15 minutes. Back to the news- a screen with a map that displayed an alarming amount of red. The room grew silent. People excused themselves to go smoke cigarettes on the patio. I cleaned my kitchen furiously and kept apologizing for throwing this awful party- an anxious tick. I sat down with friends, got up again to fidget with things. Cozied up to Lauren, then briskly excused myself to clean some more. Made a cheese plate. More red states. Tidied the bathroom.
Around 10:30 I had a lump in my throat and the blood had drained out of my limbs. This was happening, wasn't it? None of us could look at each other as we said our goodbyes around midnight. It was still Tuesday, after all, and we had jobs to tend to in the morning. Lauren and I went to bed stunned, not saying much. We didn't have definitive answers yet and there was still a part of my brain that was holding onto the slimmest possibility that this could somehow swing our way.
Wednesday morning I woke with a jolt around 6am. I grabbed my phone. I had a CNN alert announcing Donald Trump as the president-elect. I woke up Lauren and I said "It happened. He won." We sat up, trying to wrap our heads around this new idea of a country- a country that all of a sudden did not want us- two queer women in New York City. A country that we had apparently completely misunderstood, or ignored. We turned on the news. We watched in horror. We held each other and cried.
I immediately clicked onto Facebook, which for better or worse has become the quickest way to take the temperature of my peers. The first thing I responded to was a post that said "Well, we voted, now all we can do is pray" to which I responded "THIS IS IGNORANT AND NAIVE." Admittedly my response was CHILDISH AND STUPID. I immediately deleted the app off of my phone (though not the response. I knew it was childish, but it's how I felt and I also felt down with pussyfooting around). Then I re-downloaded it. The next post I saw was a meme of Kermit the Frog for some apparent reason with text that read something along the lines of "This election is no different than any other, chill out", posted by a fellow Millennial white dude who I was pretty sure did not vote for Trump. These two posts, by people in my former Christian life, who are relatively progressive, were so incredibly upsetting to me and I've been trying to understand why for the past few weeks.
Liberals/Progressives have been making a huge mistake in believing that this country is further along than it is. We've become complacent (especially us Millennials, as all we've ever really known is Obama for most of our adult lives) and we've stopped trying to understand those around us. There was a great article I read yesterday (From the Washington Post) that mentioned how same-sex couples have opted out of the conversation with anti-LGBT folks. We've declared ourselves too-educated and too-progressive to engage in that kind of "idiocy" from "such archaic people". Well, the fact is that 45% of Americans still believe that same-sex couples don't deserve to be married. And that is now well-evidenced in our entirely anti-LGBT Presidential cabinet-elect and our soon-to-be ultra conservative Supreme Court. The two people I mention above hit a nerve because a) we can't just pray about it. Policy not prayers. We have to be out in the streets fighting tooth and nail every step of the way. And yeah, protests included. And b) this is not like any other election and your place of privilege is completely blinding you to the fact that anyone that is not a white heterosexual male is scared shitless. It takes a toll on you to not be heard or seen by people who supposedly have your back. Which brings me to my next point...
Through all of this, I keep finding myself thinking "This is what people of color are talking about and have been talking about and it did not get through to me until now." I am finding empathy, not just sympathy. I thought I was safe. I'm white. I'm queer, but I live in a country where we passed same-sex marriage on a federal level and my President embraces who I am and is willing to protect my human rights. Sure, when I'm in a rural area, I don't hold hands with my partner. And yes, I worry when she goes into the bathroom by herself in a less-than-sanctuary city. But I could live with that. What I cannot live with (or I'm struggling to find a way to live with) is the fact that my president-elect is someone who stands for nothing, who talks about harassing women like it's nothing, who has made xenophobic jokes on stage and who is electing straight-up lunatics to be a part of his cabinet- and this effects my every day life because now I walk down the street and I'm acutely aware of my gender, my queerness, my progressive mentality- and I'm afraid. This has helped me realize what it must feel like to be a woman of color, or anyone of color, knowing that everyone above you doesn't get it. They don't understand your fear and they don't care to. They will tell you to stay calm. They will tell you not to overreact. Because they don't stand up for you. White allies who want to have your back and probably have good intentions won't march for you, won't vote for you, won't actually do anything substantial to have your back, because it does not effect them. They'll "Pray for you" and that's about it. I do not claim to know what the black experience is like in this country or any other. But I do know that I have the taste of fear in my mouth and a fire in my belly. I am enraged. I am broken-hearted. And I am more motivated than ever to fight.