What I Learned in This Presidential Election

This isn't the post I thought I'd be writing today. I was ready and excited to compose a celebratory piece about the first woman president of the United States, the breaking of the ultimate glass ceiling. I couldn't wait to quote Michelle Obama in saying that, thanks to Hillary Clinton, my daughter would now take for granted that a woman could be president. Instead, I'm writing a much different essay about a much different America.

Yesterday, I learned the term "confirmation bias." It turns out that when you subscribe to Pantsuit Nation, unfollow your ultra conservative friends, and mute Tommy Lahren on Twitter, your country looks a lot more like the one you want it to be. I let myself become, if not cocky, at the least complacent. I lived in a bubble (what Michael Moore calls the liberal echo chamber), and I never saw this coming. Once the election had been called, Trump supporters came out of the woodwork all over my social media. And that's pretty much the story of this election.

A lot of people in this country are angry, and Donald Trump rode that wave of anger all the way to the White House. I understand that after eight years in one direction, the country often the swings the other way. I also get the desire to fight against elitism, the establishment, and the status quo. I can sympathize with people who feel disenfranchised by a system of two parties that left them behind. What I don't understand is supporting a candidate who spews racist, misogynistic, hateful rhetoric, mocks the disabled, war heroes, and Gold Star families, threatens to jail his opponent, and brags about sexual assault. Trump appeals to what is basest in human nature, and it grieves me to know that half this country either liked or looked past it.

I've learned a lot of important things about my country since Trump's victory was announced.

We do not live in a post-racial society. In case there was any lingering doubt, which there certainly wasn't for me. I knew systemic racism was endemic in the US, but Trump opened the door for the more blatant variety. Consider this: our president elect was endorsed by the KKK. He may have tried to distance himself from hate groups, but he's spouted the same garbage (birther movement, anyone?). The alt-right is convinced that "white identity" is somehow threatened by political correctness (actually, it's called respect) and the social justice movement, and they’ve been emboldened by Trump’s antics. We need to debunk the myth of reverse racism. It is the very essence of privilege to be able to cast your vote for a racist because you know he'll never come after you or your family.

Misogyny is alive and well. Hillary was held to a higher standard than Trump or any other male candidate for that matter. She was criticized for her hair, her clothes, her laugh, and her likeability. Hillary is flawed (who isn't?), but she is infinitely more qualified than Trump to hold the highest office in the land. White men showed up in droves for Trump, and their hatred for Hillary is visceral.  They claim to hate her for Benghazi and her email, but I can’t help thinking they just couldn't cope with the idea of a woman in the Oval Office. By choosing a man who has consistently objectified and denigrated women, they've given that behavior their tacit approval.

Rape culture is real. We just elected a man who boasted about grabbing women "by the pussy." It's disgusting and terrifying. Sexual assault victims are already reluctant to come forward for fear of retribution, not being believed, and lack of justice (look no further than Brock Turner). How will they feel now that the revelation of Trump's appalling behavior was utterly of no consequence in his quest for office? It sends a dangerous message to our young girls that their bodies are not their own, and to our boys that consent is optional.

I accept the results of this election, but I do not accept that this (hate, fear) is what the people want. This is not a mandate; this is a cry for help. You want change? Believe me, I hear you now. But your values aren’t under assault – I promise. Education is the order of the day. I think Van Jones got it absolutely right when he named this phenomenon "whitelash" against a black president and a society that is increasingly inclusive. People want to "take their country back," but what they don't realize is that ensuring equal rights for others doesn't take their own rights away.

My first reaction as I watched the swing states turn red was that I want nothing to do with this. I've since realized that I can't afford to do that. It's irresponsible. I owe it to my LGBTQ, Muslim, and Latinx friends, to the Black Lives Matter movement, and to the women and children of this country of whom my daughter is one, to keep on keeping on.

I held it together pretty well until my husband messaged me from Afghanistan to tell me he loved me and that it was going to be OK. Then I lost it. I have since picked myself up and dusted myself off. I'm here writing, and I will continue to write about diversity, equity, and the importance of ensuring the rights of the marginalized. I will work with educators on making our schools welcoming for all children. I will teach my daughter about consent. I am dismayed, shocked, and disappointed, but I'm not giving up. Buckle up, folks. We have a lot of work to do.