November 9, 2016

I woke up numb today. Not sure of how to handle the pain.

How? I kept asking myself.

I got dressed, got on the train, and went to work. And on my way there I began to feel.

There was this eeriness present. I tried to read the faces of those around me, searching for a smiling soul. And while everything was, on the surface, “ok”, everything underneath was anything but okay.

I got off the train and walked to work. I walked past the Capitol building, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court, as I do every morning. Just steps away from the White House and the monuments.

Each of these symbols of freedom and liberty, special to me at all times, but today they had a whole new meaning. I looked at them and cried. These beacons of strength, signaling the hope and resilience of our democracy, their purpose now in question.

I walked into work, into the magnificent building in which I have the privilege of serving the constituents of Virginia each and every day, and the cloud of sadness magnified.

My office was grim. Almost each of us shed more than one tear that day. Where did we go wrong?

We felt the effects of it immediately. Our phones began to ring and people called the Senator furiously seeking answers as to how they are to move forward under these circumstances… constituents in tears, fearing for their lives, for their families. Seeking any reassurance they could find that our Senator would work to do whatever he could to make sure we would remain safe.

But, people also called to gloat. To brag that their candidate won, and that “you corrupt Democrats” finally got the loss we deserved. They called to harass us, to rub it in our ears that we failed.

My colleague was told she should consider suicide.
I was told “we are coming for you next.”

They said whatever they wanted to say, knowing that our next president has validated any inappropriate speech they wish to spew.

It hit a cord deep in my heart. To be in the middle of this mess, it’s impossible not to take this loss personally. It’s impossible not to feel as though I lost the most important battle of my life.

And let me assure you, I know that I, ultimately, am going to be completely okay. I am an educated, middle class white woman. I come from a good family, a good home. I have never struggled to find food to eat or a place to sleep. I am healthy, I have a job, and soon I’ll have a Master’s degree. I’ve worked incredibly hard, but I’ve also struggled very very little in life. And while perhaps it just got a little bit harder for me, a woman, to be taken as seriously in this man’s world, it is not myself  for whom I fear. It is not myself for whom I have been crying nonstop for the past three days.

But I have grandparents that are immigrants. Family members with severe disabilities and severe health conditions. I have friends that are black, Muslim, Jewish, Syrian, gay. I have many people in my life who’s fears are incredibly valid right now, and who’s fears have ignited my own. I fear for a future that will not accept them. I fear for the children of the world that now have to navigate this mess. I fear for my future children that will be born into a life of which I might not be proud.

But as I try to make sense of all of this, I know I must allow myself to see all faults; not just the faults of this man, his people and those that voted for him, but the faults of me and my people that played a major role in getting us here.

Because we were so caught up in our own liberal bubble that we failed to recognize the presence of the “silent majority”, rising up against us, against the world we’ve worked so hard to create.

We were so sure that we knew the way. That we would be right. That we had the best interests of our country in mind, that we had the best plan to prosper, that we should be steering the wheel of our nation’s ship.

And while I still wholeheartedly believe that my party and I do hold the needs of our citizens at the heart of our work and will be the ones to create a world that serves all people, I see now that we have left many behind.

 

Nearly half of the country is rejoicing with the news that our next leader has heard their voices. And while I do not agree by any means that Trump will be “your guy”, or that his interests lie in favor of the concerns of everyday working people, I have found it in me to be happy for them, happy that they were able to find an opportunity to speak out.

But the other half, we are terrified. Terrified that these voices will subdue ours. Terrified of our place in this world. Terrified that it took this type of man to surface the cries of our struggling citizens. Terrified that the progress we, and those that came before us, worked so hard to achieve will be rewound years and years back into the past.

And as I try to understand, I begin to see that perhaps this is the dilemma that got us here in the first place. Perhaps we have created an environment in which only one set of voices can be dominant. An environment in which it has become all too acceptable to belittle, look down upon and discount the other side as “less” or “evil”.

Because at this intersection, what we have are two sides of the country starkly divided. One side that lives in coastal, metropolitan areas, led by highly educated and successful elites, who’s concerns are not only our own but also those of “liberalism” — climate change, global poverty, human rights, and so on.

But the other side lives primarily in the space between our coastal havens, trying to hold onto a simpler life that has been almost entirely absorbed by the globalism of the liberal elite.

I see that now. And as disheartened as I am by this election, as I have and forever will see my candidate as the best choice, I also see that maybe this is a starting point for a more united future.

My entire undergraduate and graduate studies have been focused on this idea of globalism. And always we have studied it in the context of the world. We have held America as the one leading the charge, and view those in failing countries as the ones being left behind. Very rarely, in this context, do we discuss or acknowledge those being left behind as our own neighbors.

So my passion for the world continues to hold strong, yet now it has a whole new meaning. I’m not content with the way I view the world right now. It feels invalid. It feels one-sided. It feels ignorant. And I’m sorry. And I will work to change this.

But to “the other side”, let me say this: I need you to see me, too. I need you to understand that I am trying to understand you. I need you to allow yourself to open your eyes, just as I am opening mine, to recognize that the world is changing. It will not be easy to put it back to how you like it. For better or for worse, things are different and will continue to be different. But I want you to know I will work to make things better for you just as I want things to be better for me. I will work to ensure you have a place in this future, if you will allow me to have a place in yours.

Do not tell us our tears are unnecessary. Do not tell us our fears are invalid. Do not tell us our protests are uncalled for. Just because you won, does not mean we must immediately concede. These are unvisited territories, and all we are trying to do is figure out where our place on this new path forward will be. So do not ask us to extend love and acceptance to you, if you will not do the same for us. We both want peace, but for us to show it we will need you to show it too. You have won, we can mourn. Because your winning hits us just as hard as our  protests, our”dramatic” cries, our “emotional” posts are hitting you.

Most of us, we are not calling all of you those bad names. We believe those to be true of Trump, and therefore in you electing him you have now validated the negativity his persona has ignited. I want to work with you. I want to hear you. But if you want to be heard, you cannot silence me. I understand you have felt silenced for so long. And now is your chance to speak up. But we can only succeed if we are both allowed to speak, and if we both know when to listen, and if we both take the time to comprehend. Only then can we move forward to a better place.

I do not want there to be an “other side”. As President Obama so eloquently said, we are one team. One people. So see me, and I will see you, and we will start to fill in these gaps. Because that is our only choice.

 

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