By Olivia Pan
I woke up the day of the election feeling overwhelmingly confident that we would finally shatter the glass ceiling and elect Hillary Clinton, however flawed a candidate, to be our next president. I had always felt that her strengths outweighed her flaws, especially in light of her opponent. Please note that this election for me and many others was not about Republican ideology versus Democratic ideology but about something more insidious and more dangerous.
Like many Americans, I had felt confident from the beginning that come November we would finally bid farewell to Donald Trump and welcome in another term of progressiveness championed by a woman who has spent virtually her entire life fighting for children’s education and women’s rights. However, I was horrified Wednesday morning to find out that the nightmare many of us had been dreading for the last year had come true. Trump had won the presidency. To add insult to injury the Electoral College, an antiquated system, had again robbed the candidate with the most popular votes of the office. The American people were robbed of choosing their president to the tune of, what is predicted to be, a couple of million votes.
I was in a state of utter disbelief, which quickly turned to sorrow. I wept as reality slowly sank in. I kept thinking to myself, “How is this real? How did this happen?” I couldn’t comprehend how a man who had said every vile and despicable comment possible about women, minorities, immigrants, Muslims, and countless others, a man who had the support of every white supremacist group in the country, a man whose supporters screamed racist and sexist obscenities and slurs at his rallies, could possibly be our new leader. The very idea of him leading my country was and is unfathomable to me.
On day one of “Trump’s America” I read about countless incidents of racism being perpetrated by Trump supporters across the country. Students at a high school in Pennsylvania shouted “white power” as they walked through the halls and held Trump signs. A gay couple returned to their car in North Carolina to find a note pinned to it stating, “Can’t wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president. Gay families = burn in hell. Trump 2016.” Students at Royal Oak Middle School in Royal Oak, Michigan chanted, “Build that wall” during lunchtime in the cafeteria.
This is the very demographic that Trump manipulated and counted on to bring in those swing states. How can we go from our nation’s first black president to a man who incites hatred? The only consolation regarding some of his rhetoric is that he is a Barnum and Bailey snake oil salesman and does not believe in most of the hate speech that won him the prize. He manipulated the racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, disenfranchised people of this nation, because it served him to do so.
Sadly, the fallout from Trump’s sales pitch is that many Americans feel his win allows them to validate a hatred for others. The fact that women, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, minorities, and Muslims now fear that they are in jeopardy angers me more than anything else. Because now, even if Trump is not coming for them, he has incited many who will. With so much at stake, I am struggling to find a glimmer of light in the heaviness that is weighing on America right now. So, the questions are: Where do we go from here? How do we continue to wake up every day and face the unknown that is our country’s future?
For me personally, I am beginning to pick up the pieces of my shock and sadness and turn them into something else: action. For those who feel as if they are powerless right now, stop. There is much that needs to be done and can be done. We essentially need to walk the talk. Support and volunteer for women’s groups and organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, which support “reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice, voting rights, and free speech,” according to the Huffington Post. Talk with Trump voters and try and understand what motivated them to support this man. The lack of civil discourse and tolerance between the left and the right in this country is harming rather than helping us.
To the crazy, hate-speech, disenfranchised crowd wanting to rob others of their civil rights—you can go home now. To the lost middle class of citizens (a big voting base for Trump) who only wanted a better stake on the economic playing field, I suspect Trump is done with you too. Trump will not save you and does not need you now. Buck up everyone; Trump is now our president-elect. In the words of Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts…it’s going to be a bumpy night” (four years). As for me, I am choosing to unfasten my seatbelt and get out there to support what I want to see in my country as an American. Oh, and Mr. Trump, I hope to say to you in four years, or maybe even sooner, “You’re fired!”