Yesterday was hard. Today, I’ll admit, was even harder.
It’s not about my candidate not winning. I’ve voted for more than a few candidates that didn’t win. You buck up, you brush off, you settle in for a presidency you did not choose but that you think will at least not bring the country to civil war, and you wait for the next election. It’s politics.
But this election, this president elect… It’s very, very different. We have elected a man who behaves the way most of us tell our children never, ever to behave. A guy who makes fun of people, who divides us, who incites riots and fear and hate. A bully. A man who has no respect for women. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
There were protests today. Today I saw friends post things their children overheard or endured at school. Today I saw photos of spray-painted swastikas in public places in our country, in the United States, in 2016. Photos of scrawled racial slurs on school lockers. Stories of kids crying as classmates chanted “build the wall.” When those who cast their votes for him were voting on Tuesday, is this what they wanted? I have to hope that most did not.
Yesterday and today I fielded texts from my college-student daughter who, like me, has spent the past 48 hours vacillating between sadness, fear, worry, anger, and an occasional glimmer of hope. I have run out of words to soothe the both of us. She lives in a liberal area and I can only hope for her safety. I tell her to hold her tongue, don’t argue with anyone right now. I want her to feel she can speak her mind, but it frightens me in this climate, and I’ve not done it myself for fear of backlash, of offending someone, of upsetting or wounding, of making someone mad. I don’t like conflict. I try to be nice, polite, easy-going, but I see that many times I’m not afforded the same courtesy.
When I was my daughter’s age I was an intern at a small magazine when the Persian Gulf war began. I remember vividly our minuscule staff crowded around a little television in the office the night war was declared as we tried to finish laying out the magazine. It was the first war I was experiencing and I couldn’t wrap my brain around what it meant. My dad talked me down from the ledge later that night by phone, with soothing words that reassured me my life wouldn’t change because these are the things a sensitive young person who has not seen war in her lifetime must hear. This is what I remember as I search for words to heal my daughter’s heart today. My dad has soothed me many times since then, and I still needed his soothing words yesterday, although they were less reassuring this time.
I don’t want things to change now, either. I don’t want my kids to be fearful, or attacked for their liberal views, or find themselves in harm’s way because they stand up for someone who is being wronged. I don’t want them to see their friends suffer injustices of the sort that I hoped were in this country’s past. I can hope for sensibility to take over, but I can’t promise it will. When we can’t tell our kids that everything will be alright, even when our kids are adults, well, it kind of sucks.
For me, for today and for moving forward, hope is the operative word. But I’m not leaving this transition and these next four years up to hope. I’m going to donate to the causes I know will need help under this administration. I’m going to offer my time to civil rights causes. I am going to get active and I’m going to get educated, because while the president elect is not my candidate, my muted voice helped to elect him. And I won’t be muted any longer.