About a month ago, the now infamous video of Donald Trump materialized on the Internet, in which he made lewd comments about women and bragged about “grabbing them by the pussy.” Writing those words just now filled me with almost the same amount of nausea that it elicited when I first read them in print, on my iPhone, in the car ride home for fall break. This was not the first instance that Trump demonstrated the salacious and inappropriate behavior that makes him unfit to be our president. It also wasn’t the first time I heard someone say something that made me feel ashamed as a young woman, and probably not the first for any other woman either. But these comments cut. They cut deeply because these are not the words you want to hear from someone who quite possibly could become the next President of the United States. In fact, the only bit of solace I could take in the situation was that it would maybe, probably, finally open the eyes of the proponents who didn’t care what he said and did. And I kept that hope with me for the next few weeks.
That is, until last night. All day it seemed as though everyone was banking on a Clinton victory, that no other result seemed plausible. Yet as we watched, crestfallen, Trump win state after state and the electoral map of the nation color increasingly more red, the glimmer of hope that was briefly so tangible faded from view. With every hour and every victory, it became more and more apparent that the American people approved of Trump not just in spite of how he behaved, but because of it. I stayed up late enough to see a clear winner emerge, because the thought of waking up the next day and seeing the results was almost too painful. Of course that didn’t lessen the blow of the CNN app’s Breaking News update: “Donald Trump will become the next president of the United States in a stunning victory.”
I’ve never considered myself to be a political person. In fact, I still don’t. But when something like what has just happened to our country occurs, it feels wrong to stay silent. And yet I sit here frantically trying to find the right words to express the fear and disappointment that the results of the election have inspired in almost everyone I know because, quite frankly, there are none. Nothing can adequately express how immensely disillusioning it is to realize we live in a nation with values so deeply flawed that we could choose a person like Trump to lead our country–at least nothing that hasn’t already been said before.
Most elections are pitted against parties. But here the issue isn’t about party positions or partisan lines. It isn’t even about politics anymore. This is about the values of our nation and how our president reflects those values. Time and time again, Donald Trump has proved himself to be a racist, a bigot, a sexist, and a con artist. He has demeaned and marginalized women, minorities, disabled persons, and members of the LGBTQ community. He has advocated the deportation of Mexicans, the punishment of women for abortions, and the abolition of gun-free zones. He has helped to engender Islamophobia and has earned the support of the KKK. Trump doesn’t just reflect the worst of American values—he’s been an architect of them. And when you elect someone with so little respect for others to lead, it’s hard to then expect or demand respect from others.
What’s even more frightening is all that we now stand to lose. With a conservative president and a Congress led by a conservative majority, the possibility that this new political leadership could impose policies overturning progress over the last several decades seems ever more real. Trump has already promised to repeal Obamacare on the first day of his presidency. The fear amongst women of limited accessibility to forms of birth control under the Trump-Pence administration has prompted a groundswell urging women to get IUDs. Many even suspect that Trump might try to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling same-sex marriages. That’s all before we even get into talking about his indifference to global warming and environmental issues. Indeed, Trump’s election to the presidency jeopardizes the futures and rights that so many groups of individuals have fought so hard to gain, and has left many of feeling genuinely scared.
Though the outcome is disheartening, it is important that we find some bit of optimism amidst the debris. Three women of color were newly elected to Congress in yesterday’s election, and the first LGBT governor ever was elected in Oregon. And if we’ve learned anything from the last eight years, it’s that change and progress is not only probable, but possible. It might be hard now, but if there’s anything you can do, be more grateful and appreciative than ever of the strong, brilliant, virtuous people—of any race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation—that occupy a place in your life.
Yesterday, we voted for the future we wanted our country to have. Last night, that future materialized to look a lot like our past—a past with little place or tolerance for people who are different or disenfranchised. In electing Donald Trump, we have consented to a culture that consents of discrimination, of sexual assault, of violence, and of general indifference to the lives and rights of those less privileged. Whatever your political views are, that’s the reality. And although we can say that we deserve a better leader than Trump, we won’t get that until we become the kind of nation deserving of that.
For those of you who voted are upset by the results of the election – it’s okay, you’re allowed. Others might ask you why you care so much or urge you to put it in perspective. Know that you are not obligated to care any less about something that is meaningful to you. This is your life and our future. All may not be lost, but be comforted in knowing that you’re not alone.
And to this great nation, America—I might still love you, but I really don’t have to like you right now.