I have never truly known a president that was not Barack Obama. Before 2008, I wasn’t aware of anything political. I have no recollection of my family mentioning a single thing about our government. I have been spoiled the past eight years by a wonderful, progressive president who truly cares about every person in this country.
I turned eighteen at the perfect time. I don’t even have a driver’s license, but you can bet your sweet butt that I was there, waiting four hours at the DMV so that I could register to vote. I got into politics. I sat for three hours in the heat of summer, in the mess that was the Democratic caucus in my district. I sat, and I cheered, and I caucused for the candidate who promised to bring everything I was looking for into our government over the next four years. I was hopeful. I Felt the Bern. I watched as the caucus numbers rolled in, and they were too close to call. I laughed at the candidate on the other side of the fence, and then slowly realized, in horror, that it wasn’t a joke.
I was deeply disappointed when Bernie didn’t get the Democratic nomination, but I was fine. “Surely- surely,” I thought, “Hillary will beat this candidate with no political experience, no policies, and a lot of hate in his heart.”
I was reluctantly with her, she was my second choice. I watched for months and months as the parties duked it out. I watched Hillary maintain her lead in the polls. I watched Trump demoralize everyone in this country who was not straight, white, and a man. I watched him spout his hatred and stupidity at every corner, and I thought to myself that surely America would be smarter than that.
I went away to college, and I applied for and filled out my absentee ballot. I filled in the little circle next to “Hillary Rodham Clinton” as dark as I could, as if the magic of dark ink could make my fellow countrymen understand the importance of this election, and the importance of not siding with hatred. I spoke to everyone I saw, encouraging them to vote, silently begging them to help keep those I love safe.
I sat down to watch a live stream of the election at 7:30 on November 8th. I waited. I waited. I waited. I watched Trump stay in the lead all night, thinking, “Of course, they haven’t counted the states with common sense yet- the states that aren’t full of people who hate their fellow countrymen and women for their differences.” I waited. I felt progressively sicker and sicker as the night wore on, until finally, at nearly two a.m., I watched Mike Pence take the stage to the cheering of red baseball caps. I listened as he welcomed the president-elect to the stage, and I promptly burst into tears. I cried into my pillow for ten minutes, trying to muffle the sounds so as not to wake the roommate sleeping blissfully five feet from me.
I haven’t stopped crying- not really. My heart has that dragging, hollow feeling that you get when you watch a really sad movie. I’m physically sick to my stomach at the memory of seeing that man, that accused rapist who somehow still won the presidential election, take the stage instead of the woman with political experience and a campaign that wasn’t based on racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. I’m grieving for my country in a way that I never thought that I would have to.
It is appalling to me that over half of the population in this place where I have grown and learned, where I became aware of politics and freedom and rights, is standing so firmly on the wrong side of history. Over half of my country has let hate beat love once again.
I don’t care if you “don’t agree” with the things Trump has said about women, Hispanic people, Muslim people, LGBTQ+ people, black people, or any of the other people that he has so profoundly disrespected. I don’t care why you voted for Trump, because that vote speaks volumes about you as a person. It tells me that you are selfish. It tells me that you don’t care about the rights of your fellow Americans. Your complacency speaks volumes about your character, and it disgusts me. You enable this rhetoric that has silenced and killed people for thousands of years, and continues to do so. You, my fellow Americans, ought to be ashamed. You ought to feel this deep loathing that I feel, be actively ashamed to be a citizen of the United States in this moment. You should take a deeper look at yourself and ask what it is you have just done to this country that was founded on freedom. You have raped it, enslaved it, and condemned it.
The good news is that all hope is not lost for you. You can and you should seek redemption. You should recognize what it is you have forced upon this country, you should recognize what a huge step backward for human rights this is, and you should grow. You should listen to those people who you have effectively just told are nothing to you. You should hear their stories, see their humanity, and realize the awful mistake you have just made. You should be a good person- love more and hate less. Because let me tell you something- even though hatred has been the victor throughout most of history, even though hatred was the victor tonight, it will not always be. This is a battleground, and the war is not over. Maybe you were on the wrong side of history tonight, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be tomorrow. Love is unkillable, and it will win in the end. So grow and heal from this. Choose your side. Choose love. Please. From this moment on, choose love.