At midnight, I woke up and checked the election results and began to cry. My first thought was about the conversation I’d have to have with my daughter in the morning. She stood by me as I proudly filled in the circles on my ballot. Like many of my friends and family, we were optimistic that the world might look different in the morning.
It does look different this morning. It looks like misogyny and racism and anti-intellectualism are now the colors that this country flies. How could it not look like that? Somebody’s drunk uncle just got elected president.
I got caught up in the news cycles, the Tweets, the demoralizing nature of these campaigns. My heart sank when I realized that what I had believed about my country was not true – that we were kinder, braver and smarter than we are.
It’s a wake up call. For me, as a middle class, white suburban woman, it means that I can no longer be comfortable, residing in my pseudo-intellectual pursuits.
Liberals are often accused of being smug or elitist. I am my own American dream, growing up poor, serving my country, going to college, working my way through a sundry mediocre jobs. I’m not wealthy or entitled or pious or academic. But I’ve been comfortable and am surrounded by people who generally share my views. This election has created a shock wave in my world.
It means that I have to take whatever skills I have and put them to visible and uncomfortable use. I have always been moderate and will continue to be so. I do believe reason and compassion are better guiding lights than anger, but anger also serves a purpose – to light those fires and end silent passivity.
It means that as a veteran, I must argue vociferously against our war culture. It means as a parent, I must defend the right to a decent education for all children. As a woman, I must stand up and fight against those who believe women’s genitals are the politicians’ to govern.
As a human, I must stand side-by-side with my brothers and sisters of color for their right to pursue happiness without being incarcerated unjustly and shot down in the streets with prejudice.
These are things that I should have been doing all along. I didn’t ever believe that at its heart, America would choose a man who has shown no integrity, no empathy and no common sense to lead our nation. As his second, we’ve chosen a theocrat who would, given the chance, impose his version of religious morality upon the country.
We will not be governed well or wisely. We will choke on media narratives and the every day reporting of conservative chicanery. We will watch as America sinks into a recession, while protections for our environment are gutted. We will sigh with every Tweet, every insult, every gauche display of inequity. But it is not the end of the world, just the start of four very long, very difficult years.
I am angry, disappointed and embarrassed for our country, but the facade has been stripped away. We know who we are. There’s something amazing that happens when the tyranny of a slim majority gets put on display. The rest of us get stronger, because we have to fight harder.
What will I tell my daughter in the morning? I will tell her that it’s time to dig in and fight harder. Fight for our integrity as humans on this planet. Fight for our right as women to exist on an equal playing field. That we must pursue intellectual and artistic lives with vigor. That we must stand up at every opportunity and fight for the downtrodden, the disenfranchised. That we must defend the environment and animals and protect the vulnerable.
This is the time when real American heroes can be born. I cannot allow myself to sink into despair. I cannot show my daughter that at the first sign of distress, my ideals and beliefs collapse under their own depressive weight. I will not lose my shit and wail and gnash my teeth.
This is an opportunity to become more – more compassionate, more brave, more creative, and more loving.
For every racist who feels emboldened, we will speak loudly in defense of diversity.
For every misogynist who feels validated, we will raise a son or a daughter to be a decent, respectful, ethical human being.
For every shrill cry about intellectualism, we will read and write more books, compose music, create art.
For every petty whine about political correctness, we will become more inclusive and more sensitive.
For every brazen public display of mob mentality, we will create more space for more voices.
That is the America I want for my daughter.
So take a break from the news, take a walk, read a favorite book, spend time with the people you love, recharge. And then roll up your sleeves, there’s work to be done.