Being overseas during the U.S. election
On November 8, the unthinkable happened.
I stayed up until about 1:30 a.m. London time. The London news station we were watching had just showed how improbable it was that Trump would triumph. I went to sleep, sure that Hillary would be elected. Sure that America wouldn’t elect a man who has made sexist, racist comments and perpetually lied on camera. Sure that bigotry wasn’t dominating the country. Based on the sentiment of people back home. Based on the sentiment of people here. Based on common sense. Based on my faith in humanity.
When I woke up, I immediately rolled over and checked my phone to read about Hillary’s victory and watch her speech. I was shocked to see Trump’s face instead. I didn’t believe it. Really, I didn’t. I thought perhaps the first news site that popped up wasn’t credible. Then when all other news sites repeated the same painful words, my stomach sank and I felt numb. What in the actual fuck.
Kris and I didn’t speak much. We went to our hotel’s breakfast and picked at our food. We just kept looking at each other with blank stares, only saying every so often, “How can this happen?”
This was the first day we were to work at our employer’s London office. How could we pretend everything was OK? Will they even welcome us as Americans? I was afraid to speak, fearing my American accent would repulse them.
When we got to the office, we put on our best fake smiles. Fortunately, instead of being greeted by anger, we were greeted by compassion from the receptionist. “You’re from America, are you? I’m so sorry for the horrible news.” (Interesting to note that people immediately assumed we were disappointed in the election.)
Everyone else we spoke to that day and into the evening expressed similar compassion. A lot of “These are scary times, right?” A lot of “First Brexit, now Trump. What is this world coming to?” 2016 has proved to be a scary year. We seem to have taken a terrifyingly large step backward.
In researching the other side, I’ve seen some comments like this:
“OK. You lost. Time to move on and stop crying about it.”
But that’s just not the situation here. This is so much bigger than a loss. It has nothing to do with a Republican occupying the Oval Office. I’m not just disappointed. I’m scared.
I grew up in a red state. I am used to being governed by politicians I disagree with as a Democrat. That I can handle. This election is so very different.
I disagreed with Ted Cruz immensely. I disagreed with Marc Rubio quite a bit. If either of them were elected president, I would most certainly be disappointed, but not afraid.
So let me be clear: It’s not that Donald Trump is a Republican that’s the problem. It’s that his messages are fueled by hate.
To those who supported Trump and think that I, as well as millions of people voicing similar concerns, are being sore losers, know that it’s not about that. This is so, so, so much bigger than a difference of opinion.
I’ve tried to understand the other side. I’ve tried to think that perhaps those who voted for Trump just wanted change. Perhaps Trump had some actual plans that weren’t backed by hate. Perhaps I was missing something.
But I’m not seeing it. The more I read, the more terrified I become. His plans are lacking. And those he does have are fueled by hate. Just like his messages. He has empowered people like the KKK to speak up. And while I do believe in free speech, I don’t believe in hate.
He’s normalized sexual assault by dismissing it as “locker room talk.” He’s referred to women as “nasty,” “pieces of ass,” “ugly” and “fat.” How do we explain to our daughters, nieces and grandchildren what our president is saying about them?
He’s referred to African Americans as “thugs” and Mexicans as “rapists.”
He plans to ban all Muslims from entering the country. And build a wall. A fucking wall.
I strongly disagree with his tax plan. But I can swallow that. I cannot accept the hate.
I believe the only people benefitting from this election are wealthy white men. And it really, really hurts to know that our country voted for a man who has belittled so many populations, including one I’m a member of — women.
I was born with privilege as a middle-class white woman in a nice community. I am afraid, and I can’t fathom how afraid my black, Hispanic, Muslim and LBGT friends must be feeling now. I want you all to know that I will stand with you and up for you, and you aren’t alone. That’s what I believe we must do.
I’m not a politician, but I was born with power in the form of privilege. I can choose to stay silent with that privilege. Be polite. Politically correct. A good little girl, like I’ve been all my life. Like generations of good little white women before me have been.
We have to use our privilege to help with progress. We have to stand together.
Not just minorities. All of us. We have to work together to fight for love, peace and equality. This is a world-wide effort. We’re in this together.
At the end of the day, there are two things we have in common. And when either of those are in danger, we have to take action.
- We’re all just trying to put food on the table.
- We all just want the freedom to be ourselves.
If you’re with me, please act. Quit the “polite” act and do something. I won’t be speaking in a microphone to lead a group of protestors. That's not my strength. But I will show up for them.
As a first step, Kris and I have decided to forgo Christmas gifts this year and give more considerable donations to organizations that fight for equality. That’s step one. It’s most certainly not it. But it’s something, which is more than I was doing before.
I believe in the world. I believe in America. I believe in love. But I believe it’s in jeopardy, and we (me included) have to stop standing on the sidelines. Change doesn’t come from an angry Facebook post. It comes from action. And it doesn't come from violence. It comes from peaceful resistance.
Read. A lot. Educate yourself. Know what you believe in — YOU, not your family and friends — have a personal stance and fight for it. I'm only sorry I didn't fight harder. That I was naive.
If there's any silver lining here, it's that this election's results have only made me see more clearly that there is much more hate in the world than I ever imagined. And it's made me realize that I can't just let others do the fighting anymore. I must take action.
So, what’s your next step?