Thoughts from November 9th, 2016. A date which will live in infamy? Because there’s no better way to get to know each of us than on a day when when we all woke up crying.
If there’s anything that we knew that morning, it was that we were glad we had our girls. And that writing was a way out, even when Facebook writing invited gremlins to participate.
Swear off wings
Swear off drinking
Fall asleep on your best friend’s shoulder
Hold back throw up
Practice deep breathing on imgur
Kiss your cat
Swear off sex
Wish your brother was here to say something stupid and funny
Wish your best friend’s dad was here to say something to make us all feel better
Wonder if there’s a heaven from which they’re looking down on this mess
Reevaluate your timeline for having kids
Reevaluate your timeline for marriage
Bargain with God: if You make at least part of this year a dream, I’ll stop using paper towels and only use hand dryers, even the shitty ones
Bargain with God: if You make at least part of this year a dream, I’ll floss every day
Consider shaving your head again
Consider getting a tattoo
Swear off food
Take up smoking
Repent for the Hillary Clinton drag number you performed last year
Repent for every cynical thing you’ve ever said about America
Double down on every cynical thing you’ve ever said about America
Ask a French friend to marry you
Cry on a stranger’s shoulder
— mourning in America, 2016 (or: the complete list of things I did on 11/9/16)
I don’t usually write posts like this.
This time yesterday, I considered buying a last minute ticket to DC for the inauguration of our first female president. I was more fired up than I expected to be. I knew Hillary wasn’t a perfect candidate (literally no one is), but she was wholly singular for her 30 years of service and life in the public eye. She handled it with grace and poise and, most importantly, with respect for others. Hillary worked hard to bring people together. Donald himself admitted that the one thing he admired about Hillary was that she never quit. And I will never quit her. This was something we should be proud of. But it is not enough.
Someone recently asked me where my commitment to social justice came from–if there was a childhood memory that I could point to. I paused before I held up a Wednesday morning assembly at my elementary school where we honored the boys basketball team. The girls had recently won a tournament and no mention was made. This Wednesday morning feels much like that one but obviously to the exponent of devastating. Will we always reward men’s barely there attempts over women’s all in ones? Will we forever treat women like their accomplishments and qualifications are disposable?
When Obama won in 2008, I was spending the weekend in Berlin. After election results were announced in the wee hours of the morning, echoes of people yelling in the streets could be heard: “Obama! Obamaaa!” The world was with us. And we continued to believe in change and to stand for an American dream that included everyone. Sure, in 2008, people thought this might herald a time of post-racial America. We know better now, but Obama in the White House meant so much more was possible. It meant that America was still herself, welcoming the world’s huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Last night, my sister texted my mom and me: “I can’t breathe.”
I recently visited the Museum of Tolerance for the first time, which might have been a mistake during an election where a candidate should have come with trigger warning, but there I was. I carried around a notebook writing down moments of parallel between Berlin in the 1930s and America in 2016. When someone pointed out that the rhetoric being used to rile up the public was false, Joseph Goebbels said, “Repeat a lie often enough and people will believe it.”
The fear mongering against Hillary and inclusivity and lives mattering and progress has proven to be enough that people believe it. Even if the American dream started as something we willed into existence, we had created it together. My American dream wasn’t for 2.3 kids, a picket fence, and a house. My American dream was and is equality and respect and dignity. For all. We weren’t there yet, but we were working on it. We had a vision for the future of this country that included everyone. We have it, still.
So I want to thank everyone who spent time on this campaign. Thank you for getting out there and giving time and voting and for having tough conversations and for making teachable moments. Thank you for believing in this country and our potential and for choosing a future that brings us together. Liberty isn’t easy, but we work hard for what matters.
So where do we go from here? I feel like the best way to get started this morning to go back to the words that have set me right so many times in the last 10 years since I first heard them: Who am I? What do I stand for? Where am I going?
America, same questions to you. Let’s do this.
I haven’t entirely known what to say. The words seem to come out jumbled and I’m not entirely sure what to focus on. The anti-semitism that cuts deep? The sexism that cuts deeper? The rampant racism and Islamophobia that makes me ashamed and also terrified for my friends? The irresponsible media stumbles and the messy rollercoaster they’re on to try and rectify? The desire to fight, but the uncertainty of what’s the “right” way to do so? The scary realization that a foreign entity interfered with our election? The unbelievably horrifying cabinet appointments that evoke more fear than I’ve ever felt? The sadness I feel for Hillary Clinton, the woman I’ve wanted to see president since I was 8 years old? The realization that it’s only going to get worse before it gets better? The impact this election will have (and has already had) on familial relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, and work relationships? The knowledge that the racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobic so present now have essentially just been dormant for decades while we thought we had progressed to a “post” society? And it just. doesn’t. stop.
Too many things to think about. It’s too much for any one of us to comprehend, to speak on with authority or elegance. So I think about what I know for a fact: I do not feel okay about this. My family, my friends, my neighbors, my coworkers, strangers in my subway car do not feel okay about this. And whether it’s one thing or a hundred giving them that sense of unease, I now exist in a world filled with fear, discomfort, and anxiety. That is not a world I want to live in. That is not a world I want to bring a child into. So I think back to my favorite poet’s last line before death – “I gambled on what mattered most, the dice were cast. I lost.” I would rather fight for what’s right, what I know is important and risk losing than not fight at all. Yes, there are an insane number of things that are wrong, things to fight. So I fight the way I know how to fight, with words, with art, with speaking out against hatred, and speaking up for love.
Since I was a child my mom’s called me her “little touch-me-not,” a nickname meant to call attention to my general fussiness. When an anxiety grips me I can’t be still. I get itchy and antsy, I wiggle, I need you to not touch me, okay? I like it as a nickname—it evokes an image of me as a diminutive and bitchy flower that doesn’t like to be handled, or looked at.
I felt that restlessness on election night. I was eager to go to a viewing party because I half-hoped there would be something to celebrate, and I also thought it would be comforting to be around like-minded people if we found ourselves grieving instead. But, as the results came in, as state after state was called for Trump, I felt my husband reach an arm around me and I immediately clucked my tongue, shifted further to the edge of the sofa, and eventually moved to the far side of the room. Later, when reports of hate crimes and vile bigotry would infect our timelines, we’d hold each other and cry but in that moment I refused to be consoled. I refused human contact. I felt, I’m feeling, very dissatisfied with humans.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve been especially exhausted with calls for unity. I know that unity is a good thing, the way that peace and diversity and acceptance are good things but I don’t want to be good. I don’t want to consider the other side, or entertain their opinions, or feel any type of way about them. I’m experiencing a complete lack of compassion, a complete disinterest in unity that requires me to engage with the struggles of Trump supporters.
What we saw this month, and for the last year and a half, and for every year since white people sailed to this beautiful, cursed land is the power of white supremacy. I know many people feel like the only way forward is to try and understand why these large swaths of white people (and of course, not only white people) voted for Trump. It seems logical that, if we can understand why they feel forgotten, the Dems can recalibrate and put out candidates who can better speak to their experiences. Maybe that’s what the Dems need to do, I don’t know. But it is not high on my list of priorities. I think we’re giving this voting block too much credit. I think they’ve made their positions clear. I think if people show you who they are, you should believe them. I think that the “American Dream” (ugh) they feel like they’re losing is one that has always been centered around their own whiteness. On the left, we also have poor people; we also have people who feel like the middle class is slipping away, who aren’t sure what industries will still be here in ten years, who aren’t sure how to pay for their children’s tuition, how to keep their small businesses afloat, and how to navigate systems that ignore them, forgot them, and abandoned them. We need to build unity with these people, reach to them first, because they share many of the same struggles as Trump supporters but they have not couched their fears in nativism and bigotry.
We have to name this thing white supremacy, we have to feel it, to see that it has always been here and has never gone away. I don’t think we can get to a true unity, a true peace, by pandering to people who uphold it.
So, I’m sad but clear-headed, I’m devastated but already numbing. I’m angry at myself for feeling even the tiny bit of shock that I did because I knew this was my country but I didn’t want to believe it. More than anything, I’m pissed off–and I’m reveling in it. Because the thing about bitchy little flowers is that we are, by our nature, stubborn and resilient. We’ll get through this.