It's November. In fact, it's the end of November. I missed writing a love note for October and given the amount of times I tried to write this one, I'm surprised I didn't miss a love note for November as well. It has been an incredibly difficult month. Hell, it has been an incredibly difficult year. It's about that time of year when we start to look back and reflect on the year we had. For me personally, it has been a rollercoaster – so many highs but unfortunately a lot of lows too. Which is life of course but no matter how many times I say that, the anger, sadness and pain of the lows doesn't magically go away. That being said, it doesn't take much to remember that things could be a lot worse. All I have to do is turn on or read the news to see just how horrible it is out there for others. I don't need to list all the horrendous things that happened this year, instead I'll just leave this video of John Oliver's season finale. Jump to the last 5 minutes for a comedic relief and recap on this insane year:
Out of all the horrible things that have happened over the last few weeks, I'm choosing to write about the election results. It has been very hard to process and for maybe the first time in my entire life, I have been at a complete loss for words. And it's not because the world or at least this country as I knew it was flipped upside down. That would mean I lived inside a naive protective bubble where everybody was great to each other and nobody was racist, homophobic, misogynist, Islamophobic, antisemitic, xenophobic - did I miss anything? I wish I lived inside that naive bubble but in reality, I don't. I wasn't shocked that there are hateful people out there who now feel empowered by a person who ran his campaign using similar tactics that the KKK and Hitler used and in turn, went out and voted for this candidate. I'm not shocked that people didn't like either option and didn't vote. I'm not even that shocked that some people thought that not voting for Hillary was a “fuck the system” kind of vote. I think the surprise is on my own misjudgment of just how many people there are who are privileged enough to be able to ignore the racist, misogynist, Islamaphobic, homophobic and xenophobic, etc. etc. etc. etc. comments and say things like “he won't be able to do the things he said he was going to do” or “let's give him a chance.”
When I hear these statements or ones like them, I sigh a heavy sigh and try to refrain from flipping over a table. No, this country, wasn't flipped upside down, it was flipped inside out. Not only can we see people driven by hate and fear waving their confederate flags prouder and more bodly than ever but we can also see all the people who, frankly, just don't get it. And sure, as Hillary's popular vote continues to rise, it has made me feel slightly better. Of those who voted, there are more people, more than 2 million in fact, who agree that someone who says and does hateful things to anyone who is not a rich, white man is probably not an awesome choice for president. Yet, I keep looking at that other number: 62,206,395. That's how many people who essentially condone the hate that Trump spews and represents or, because they aren't directly affected by it, can look the other way. I thought about this on election night - early on when I still had hope that Hillary would win. As the map of U.S. turned red, I realized no matter what happened, we still lost. Trump actually winning just felt like a good extra kick in the stomach when we already were down on the ground.
To back track a little, when I say or imply that people who voted for Trump or sat back and let Trump win by either voting third party or not voting at all don't get it, I mean it. It's not a Republican thing, it's the "ability to have compassion for other humans" thing. I had a family member, on Facebook, try to equate how "horrible Hillary is" to Trump and implied that he was less so in some way. It was unsettling. I will be the first to say that Hillary is flawed and she wasn't the candidate I wanted going into this election. I haven't agreed with a lot of the decisions that she's had to make over the years. Simply put though, I know that I could be in same room as her and she would acknowledge me, she would respect me and she would listen. I know this actually because I have been in the same room as her and she did all these things (well, besides listen, only because I didn't say anything, I just stared in awe because she also happened to be standing next to The Roots, I was 24, I was at an event for my fairly new job and my mind was exploding). I haven't been in the same room as Trump (THANK GOD) but literally this idea scares the shit out of me. I'm confident if he did acknowledge me it wouldn't be out of respect. Trump has made it clear through words and actions that he does not respect women. Therefore, I couldn't really handle the “I read Hillary's emails on wikileaks and boy, what an asshole" mentality. It doesn't make me upset that people voted for the Republican candidate, it makes me upset that people could vote for a man who has definitely sexually harassed women and has actually bragged about sexually assaulting and violating them.
It's hard to talk about it, it has been hard to admit, but one of the lows in my personal life this year was that someone I considered a friend, violated my trust and violated my body. It was a hard week and a confusing few months after it happened. I blamed myself for not knowing better. I blamed myself for not being able to say no. It took me days to understand that I had been sexually assaulted. It took me months to call it rape. Luckily and unfortunately, it didn't take me long to realize I'm not alone. And I still struggle trying to get back to feeling “better” or “stronger.” I was okay with this road of recovery being long but when Trump was elected, I had to comprehend all over again that most people do not understand rape culture and that too many don't even believe it is something that exists. Trump downplaying his comments about sexual violence was triggering. It reminded me of when the person who violated me told me that it was “bound to happen.” I questioned myself, not him. And now I can't help but wonder if all the people who heard what Trump said but still voted for him will question me instead of him too.
And this is just how Trump's words and actions affects one aspect of being a woman. I could write for days on how his words and actions affect the other parts of being a woman, or how it affects people of color, the LGBT community, immigrants – again, anyone who is not a rich, white man.
So yeah, on November 9th, I woke up feeling paralyzed. I had to start a new job that day and as I walked to work in downtown Milwaukee, I stared at strangers on the streets thinking: DID YOU DO THIS? Did you vote for him? I was scared of everyone I saw.
On Thursday after the election, I went to an Emergency March Against Trump rally. About 1,000 people gathered in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. In the first few moments it felt like we all were attending a funeral. It was somber. The air was heavy. Students and leaders from different organizations started to speak and as we all cheered for these young people, I started to feel a little better, I think we all did. We marched in the streets, again, together. We shouted cheers together: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA," “Say it loud! Say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!” Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like! “My body, my choice! Her body, her choice!” “Black lives matter!” and many more. This time in the streets of Milwaukee, I looked into strangers eyes and I mentally thanked them. I thanked them for understanding my pain, my fear, my hopelessness. I thanked for them for being there, for showing that they care and showing that they want to do something.
The last couple of weeks after the election have been particularly hard. Not just politically but personally as well. I oscillate between being heartbroken and enraged. And while everything this month, this year, has taken a huge emotional toll on me, I refuse to let these feelings be belittled or to let them go. It's not that I want to operate out of these raw emotions but I think it's important, more than ever, to not become desensitized now. I think being strong now, isn't the point. And I hope that somehow out of my vulnerability I can figure out how to teach compassion. To me, this is what 60 million people, probably more if we consider all those who didn't vote, are missing or don't truly understand. Luckily, there's 60 million who do and if you're one of them, which you probably are because I have the amazing fortune to have truly incredible human beings in my life, well, we have our jobs cut out for us. We always did but it's a lot more visible. We all have to be activists and teachers now – whatever that looks like to you. Maybe it's organizing, volunteering, raising money for organizations doing great work, maybe it's just having that hard conversation with somebody who doesn't understand why so many people are upset. Whatever it is, it's time to step up and speak out. For people who do this work already, I know it feels like we were walking up a steep hill and someone from the top threw down a boulder and now we have to walk up this crazy ass hill with a God damned boulder, but hey, together we can push that bad boy up. I don't know this for certain but it isn't going to stop me from trying.
If you got all the way through this post, thank you for reading. It was hard to write and I'm sure it was hard to read. And if anyone wants to talk more, let me know, I'm here. With all my love, from Milwaukee.