Today, my heart aches. There’s a tightness in my chest and my stomach is in knots. I feel nauseated, confused, concerned, gob smacked, and terrified. I think many Americans feel this way, or at least that’s what the popular vote would indicate. Today has been surreal and I keep expecting myself to wake up… but I’m already awake.
Last night, I went to sleep in Vienna, Austria quite confident that I’d be waking up to news of the first female president of the United States. At 6:24am, I woke with a start. I had a dream that my friends were crying. In my dream, Hillary turned to me and squeezed my shoulder, took a deep breath, and climbed on stage to deliver her concession speech. Yes, her concession speech. It was like the drop in Inception tumbling off a bridge trapped in a car into icy water, and I shot upright and grabbed my phone. Trump 238. Hillary 215. I thought it was a dream within a dream.
It wasn’t. I grabbed my laptop, loaded up the CNN broadcast and my heart sunk. It was over. I just knew it. As I watched the political commentary unfold, I couldn’t help it. I felt tears streaming down my face—it was really over. Everything she had worked for, everything we had dreamed together… over.
I finally pulled myself together enough to get ready for work. As I sat on the tram winding through Vienna, I watched Donald Trump’s victory speech. I was shaking my head furiously when the woman sat next to me poked me. I took my earbuds out and she said, “I’m so sorry.” I stared at her for a moment and couldn’t formulate words. She continued on saying, “I’m so sorry, I just never thought this would happen. How could this happen? I work in environmental issues… and now, it’s all over.” I started to respond but couldn’t, because out of nowhere, the spring deep inside me welled up and I burst like the levees during Katrina. I was sobbing and I just couldn’t stop. People stared, some looked on sympathetically. She patted my arm as I stood to get off the tram and said, “It’ll be okay…. Maybe.”
I’ve been sitting at my desk now with minimal productivity, trying to make sense of what has happened. In my daze, I’ve been outraged receiving work e-mails, spam even. How dare the world go on. How dare it continue turning when I feel as my own is falling apart. There are two things that I feel I must express.
The first is that I know that I set myself up for this heartbreak. I surrounded myself with a bubble that I felt comfortable within. Trump supporters on Facebook were met with a swift “Unfriend.” Anything even mildly supportive of Trump was ignored and quickly forgotten. That was my own mistake. I surrounded myself with what I wanted to hear. I wanted to believe that everyone I knew and therefore by extension everyone in the world was as passionate about electing a credible president, of continuing President Obama’s legacy. I was wrong.
I also failed to realize that my own country was so deeply divided even before Trump came along. I assumed that rationality would see the light of day. What I did not realize was that to many Trump supporters, they made a rational vote. Rarely do people go and make irrational choices at the polls. What I failed to account for was that our realities were so starkly different.
I’m a dark-skinned daughter of two immigrants who grew up in the Silicon Valley. I attended UC Davis and graduated with honors. I speak three languages and I’m learning my fourth. I have lived in Paris, London, and now Vienna. I am fortunate and wildly blessed, spoiled even. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard too, but I’m also very privileged. I believe in a woman’s potential to do whatever she chooses to do. I believe in same sex marriage, the right to start a new life and seek the American Dream. I like people, and I believe in people. Apparently, I am not the norm. I made the mistake of assuming that every American is just like me, that my friends who are like me are representative of the wider population.
I was living in London when the Brexit results came in. Londoners could not believe it. The world couldn’t believe it. But it really made sense, didn’t it? People were disenfranchised, tired of being ignored, frustrated with what they believe is a corrupt and unfair system. We in London just couldn’t see beyond our bastion of liberalism. The same exact thing happened here.
Sure, it was about race and gun control and women’s reproductive health and immigration and religion. But at the end of the day, what really screwed us was our conflicting realities… which brings me to my second point.
Anyone who follows me on social media saw my immediate reaction. It was rage and confusion with a shot of betrayal mixed into a poisonous cocktail. I wielded my words like a sword and lashed out on all social media platforms. I think many of us did. I vowed to my friends and loved ones, to my own parents, that I would never return as long as Donald Trump sat in the Oval Office. I was upset and dramatic.
But now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I believe that the only way forward is not to run away in denial. It wouldn’t be right to demand a recount as much as we’d like it. While Donald Trump is #NotMyPresident and never will be, I’ve reached a certain depressed acceptance. I respect our system of democracy and the voice of some American people. So we’ve hit rock bottom? Then the only way is up.
Our only option as Americans is to be better. Those of us who have been walking around dazed and confused all day must take on the heavy onus of educating our fellow Americans. Ignorance is not an excuse. Disillusionment should never be a contributing factor to an election. Education and understanding, compassion and empathy will be our way forward.
America is already great, but America is not the greatest country in the world, as Aaron Sorkin solidified on the show Newsroom. The world watched with baited breath last night, curious to see how we would take on this challenge. But now the world knows that the United States is a country battling its own demons. Who knows? This election could bring chaos and xenophobism, misogyny and more, but it could also bring about a complete reconstruction of the U.S. Political system. It might even give governing bodies like the European Union a chance to step up to the plate and prove their own greatness.
I’ve always been turned off by people who complain endlessly without taking action. So enough complaining. Those of us who are furious and shocked should be galvanized to contribute to society– to educate, to include, to go into politics! I’m giving myself the rest of the day to mourn, but like so many have already stated, tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow we fight. We live to see another day.