Friday, November 11, 2016

Still We Rise

What a week, friends. What a year. 2016, you have made your point, okay?

As many of you may know, I was very excited to vote for Hillary Clinton as president. This is not, as some would have you believe, simply because she was a woman, or because I do not like Donald Trump. (Although let the record state that I don't.) Whether you agree with me or not, in my mind (and in the mind of the majority of those who voted) she was the best candidate. I was anxious for the election to start because I felt sure that good things were on the way.

I had class on Tuesday night, so I kept refreshing the results on my phone as the states started reporting their results. I don't think I heard a word of that class. As much as I wanted Hillary's win to be inevitable, it wasn't. THANKS FLORIDA. (I know it wasn't only Florida, but come on. First they gave us Bush, now Donald?) I watched as state after state flooded red and I felt a deep, all-encompassing fear. I had hoped that Utah would at least vote for McMullin, but nope. By nine it was pretty clear that our first black president was going to have to hand over his power to someone endorsed by the KKK. I drove home and sat in my car for twenty minutes in the clutches of a panic attack.

I am not afraid of what a Donald Trump presidency will mean for me as a straight, white woman. I am afraid of what it will mean for my LGBT friends, my immigrant friends, my black, Muslim, and Hispanic friends. The fact that a campaign of hate and fear won at the ballot boxes crushed me; I thought America was better than that. Falling from my raised expectations left me figuratively crumpled on the ground and literally shaking in my car.

Tuesday night was bad. After spending several hours crying, swearing, and trying to figure out how the hell this happened with my boyfriend and my roommate (gotta love losing those elections the Republicans kept saying were rigged), Justin and I decided to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer to calm down. Guess what episode we were on?

Sometimes life has a twisted sense of humor.

Petition to move voting from a Tuesday to a Friday. After the harrowing and exhausting election process, people need time to recover. Especially if you are heartbroken. Wednesday morning came and I could not face the idea of talking to people who didn't understand how vulnerable and disappointed I felt. I used sick time. It was necessary. I still felt like I was living in a version of the world where Marty McFly didn't do his job right. It didn't seem real.

I kept thinking about Susan B Anthony. She spent her adult life campaigning to give women the right to vote, and she never got it. Women didn't have that right until fourteen years after her death. (Watching the live stream of women leaving "I voted" stickers at her grave on Tuesday made me so emotional.) She must have felt like this many times-- that she had lost, that things were never going to change, that it might be easier to stop demanding what she knew was rightfully hers. And yet she always got up and kept going.

In a way I have to thank Donald. Because of his election, I will not be so complacent the next time elections come around. Although I supported Hillary through donations, facebook posts, and a bumper sticker, I did not volunteer for her campaign. That will change. I will be on the front lines for the next challenger. Hillary Clinton gave a beautiful concession speech in which she said, 

I am confident that our first female president was watching. She is watching this spectacle unfold and she is making plans. I'm going to do everything I can to see her in office before I am one of those hundred year old women on the news.

This commitment to act began on Wednesday night, when I checked off the bucket list item of attending a protest. I haven't been this upset about an issue since Ferguson, and although I was unable to attend rallies then, Justin and I took trax downtown to Washington Square last night to meet with hundreds of others who felt the way we do.

Being in that crowd was electrifying. It was very peaceful, but charged with passion. We had speakers from all walks of life: an evangelical pastor, the LGBT community, immigrants and the children of immigrants, even a woman who just finished her run for the Senate. She was the first woman in Utah to run for the Senate, which I find unbelievable. We heard from poets, teachers, and activists. My favorite sign: "Today we mourn. Tomorrow we mobilize."

The main thought exercising my right to assembly left me with was that I refuse to sit down and shut up. This nasty woman isn't going anywhere. It isn't enough to be upset with the election results, we must commit to stay active, and not let this happen again. We will be a thorn in the side of a broken system. Progress has always been a slow road full of discouragement. My favorite quote from last night: "We stand on the shoulders of those who have dreamed before us."

One moment especially won't be forgotten. We listened to a poet recite her version of Maya Angelou's beautiful poem, "Still I Rise."  They can push us down a thousand times and we will rise a thousand and one. We will have justice. We will have equality. We will have love. After listening to this incredible poem we chanted "STILL WE RISE. STILL WE RISE. STILL WE RISE." I felt so empowered and connected. Things are going to be difficult, but they are not all lost.

This theme has been echoed again and again by those I admire, even Leslie Knope! We must not sink into despair. Four years of a Donald presidency doesn't mean four years of sitting around wishing things were different. Here is a list of charities and organizations that you can volunteer or donate to. Find your team, and go to work. 

Friends, I hope we'll be able to come together and heal over the next few months. I am not interested in spreading or engaging with hateful rhetoric. This election had quite enough of that. We are all Americans, and we all have to deal with what comes next. However, being kind does not mean being silent. As Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good (wo)men to do nothing."

I am deeply disappointed, but I am not going away, and there are millions like me. The future is female, the future is progress (as painfully slow as it may be), the future belongs to those who are willing to struggle against what "has always been." Susan B Anthony wasn't willing to settle for people telling her to be quiet and neither will I. If you thought I was an annoying feminist before, I hope you're ready for the next four years.