New York City is in a lot of ways the center of the Universe - a small 304.8 square mile slice of land that is a city and the World at the same time. Hop on a train in one part of town, and emerge from underground in what can feel like a different country in just moments.
Every once in a while on the train to work I get lucky and an older, gentle spirited man gets on and sings. Just for one stop. Just one song: Sam Cooke's, Change Is Gonna Come. The song was released in the 60's and became one of the anthems of the Civil Rights Movement. It is both sullen and optimistic, with Cooke's soulful vocals belting out palpable pain and frustration of the time. I always felt when he sang "change gonna come" it wasn't because he was sure it would, but because it had to. Because the alternative was too much to bear any longer.
On this morning, the 2nd morning after the Presidential election, it brought me to tears the same way it did the last time I saw him: during the week of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile's murders. Change was indeed here and was not the beacon of hope we dreamed of, but instead a wolf in wolf's clothing. A wolf named Donald Trump.
Tuesday felt like xmas eve. I had proudly worn my Pussy Grabs Back shirt all day. There was excitement in the air. Nerves - would I get what I voted for? If I did, would it even matter? Like many, no part of me is happy to say goodbye to the Obamas. Surprisingly, little part of me felt the expected honor of seeing a woman's name on the ballot for the first time ever. I reluctantly voted for Hillary based somewhat on her experience, but mostly because there was no way me and my "pussy" could vote for Trump. If voting my conscience (voting third party or not voting at all) meant a vote for Trump, I couldn't have that either.
This country could've used a female president now more than ever. Though as a response to chronic sexism, Hillary has denied, hid, and seemingly disassociated from her female identity in order to navigate the waters of Washington. When you spend 30 years second guessing your instincts out of fear, you separate from yourself. When you are told that who you are isn't good enough and you don't belong because of it, you will try to be more of someone else.
After you have been doing it for three decades, chances are you aren't sure who you are. Chances are you will pander, overcompensate, and morph into an audience mirroring chameleon. Undoubtably, there are people who don't like Hillary solely because she is a woman, but I think the real tragedy is how the discrimination Hillary dealt with throughout her career led her to create these self-proclaimed, separate "public and private" personas. The "gap" between the two inevitably led to the public's mistrust of her, ultimately causing her to lose the election. (Clinton foundation and various other scandals aside).
The country is polarized, but not for the first or last time. We are on high alert as we have been forced to give a long, hard look at our fragmented reflection in the shattered mirror before us. Our skeletons have made their way out of the darkest corners of the closet into the light. The veil is being lifted, and the latent voices of America are being heard. Painfully, many people are becoming more "woke."
This is what change feels like. It is uncomfortable. It is scary and exciting. If you are shocked and angered by the ignorant comments Trump and his supporters have made over the course of his campaign (and life), I hope you are also shocked and angered by the ignorance that has prevented you from understanding the hopelessness and desperation of these people, or the 46% of eligible voters that refused to vote at all.
I hope you are shocked by how unaware you've been of the privilege you've had in your daily life that has spared you exposure to the problems Donald has brought to the forefront. I hope you're thinking of times you turned a blind eye when you should've dug deeper, been more curious. The times you wrote off or quickly argued with those who did not agree with you when we should've engaged. When you should've listened to understand, not to respond.
These issues are not new: our land was founded by men who violently seized it from natives, and was able to prosper because of slave labor. Inhumanity is a thread in the fabric of our country's origin that we can not ignore. We were the same country the day before the election as we are today, perhaps you have just not been listening. Donald is not who we are nor our final destination, but he is clearly a part we have willfully ignored from inside our insulated bubbles. There is still work to be done.
How did we get here? Who are we? Who do we want to be? For starters, we are not victims. As corrupt, greedy, and money hungry as politics have become today, we must acknowledge our contribution with our collective apathy, lack of involvement, and general sense of powerlessness. There is more to democracy than voting for a president every 4 years.
There is more to exercising your freedom of speech than posting articles and debating with people from high school on Facebook. When is the last time that your anger turned into action? The system has not been working. The system has been rigged to favor the few not the many. The American Dream has become a lie, and the opportunity of the promised land is not extended to all. If you have been paying attention, none of this is news.
This election proved that the people can create change, even if it is not in the way we expected. A marginalized, uneducated, voiceless group of Americans united and overthrew the Establishment groomed, "shoe in" candidate because they didn't want more of the same shit. Many voted to watch the empire fall. This was the same reason the mainstream unknown Senator, Bernie Sanders, came out of left field and stole the show (and almost the DNC nomination. Sigh, the one that got away).
There is duality in all things, and we all have a choice in the meaning we assign to what transpires in life. I choose to believe that the craving for something more than the status quo was the driving force behind Trump's victory, not the hateful rhetoric. I choose to believe this because when I met people that voted for him I asked them to explain their why to me. It wasn't because they agreed he spoke the truth or had the answers, but because they felt we are in need of anything but the more of the same, so much so that they we're willing to gamble with the worst kind of human to get there. I choose to believe this because I believe in us. While there have already been implications from Trump's words (increase in hate crimes, riots, hateful encounters), I choose to believe this is a phase and not the norm of a Post-Obama America. There is still work to be done.
If we are really the people we say we are, we know that ultimately love trumps hate. But guess what - we were racist before Trump; we were homophobic before Trump; we were misogynistic before Trump; we were religiously intolerant before Trump. He did not create these issues, he gave them a microphone, and hate did what hate does. Trump is the personification of all of our country's demons - past and present. Only now that he is standing in front us center stage, under 2 inches of orange spray tan and a 4 inch toupee, are we forced to really look at ourself. The parts of ourself that we don't like.
By indiscriminately spewing hateful, barbaric, offensive things about nearly everyone, he has resurrected, refueled and rebranded different civil rights movements that have been ongoing in isolation. While we may not have been able to empathize with people different from us and their unique struggles (Black, LGBT, Muslim, Women), we sure as fuck can agree that we are all American and we will not go down with this Trump shit ship. We are forced to address our dark side all at once, embodied in one person. We are forced to own it. To put our money where our mouth is and lay the inequalities to bed once and for all. This is the bridge we needed. There is still work to be done.
If we are the people we say we are, we know that we are stronger together. Trump has managed to bring both the Democratic Party and Republican Party together to a degree, in that both are mortified and appalled by him and what he symbolizes. He does not represent either party's values. He does not represent American values. He has not acted in a Presidential fashion. He has made us the laughing stock of the World. You'd also have to imagine that watching a steak salesman with no political experience, legally be elected to the highest office by a constitution you hold so dearly, has to make the hard work and sacrifice it took everyone else to get there feel... shabby, to say the least.
In Trump's acceptance speech, he said, "it's time," and he was right, but not for the reasons he implied. It is time. It's been time. It's time we look within and ask ourselves how open minded and tolerant we really are. It's time to look around and ask what we've done to contribute to a better society. It is time to become active. It is time to listen. It is time for empathy. It is time to walk the walk. It is time because our identity and national paradigm has been challenged by a villain named Donald. A villain that, whether we like it or not, we actually need. Our evil needed a face. We need the jolt. We need to unite. We need to defend our country in a real way to prove we aren't a sham. To prove him wrong.
How we respond to a Trump presidency will ultimately determine our true colors. What we have shown thus far is that we are weak enough for a ratchet reality tv star to not only bring out the worst in us, but get us to elect him as the leader of the Free World. Only a fool can try to use this man as a scapegoat for our nation's problems, but maybe we all need this fool to rally together against.
Opponents of Trump have been adamant that we need bridges not walls. I believe in the most unexpected way, Trump will be the bridge. He has shifted the dynamic. He has dismantled the throne of the Establishment. Have faith there is more good than malevolent in this country (Hillary won the popular vote). Have faith in each other (your friends aren't tagging Swastikas or harassing Muslims). Have faith in our constitution (the president is not a rogue shot caller). Have faith in yourself (act). Trump has been elected as our new president, but we get to decide what that means. The hand you are dealt is determinism, the way you play it is free will. We have a responsibility here to play our hand, to know our power, and to truly make America great for all. There is still work to be done.
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