The first time I felt sick was when I thought of my grandpa. He had been a black Tennessee college student in the Civil Rights Movement, watching his community be constantly belittled, attacked, and discriminated against. 40 years later, he would watch a black man become president. He cried, knowing his parents never would have dreamed of seeing such a sight.
When I watched Trump win, I felt hopeless. I felt anger, I felt devastation, I felt disbelief, but mostly I felt hopeless. Like nothing would ever change. People will be how they want to be. This is what America wants. I thought of what my grandfather must be thinking, what a giant step we’d just taken back into hatred and misunderstanding. I thought of him crying for a different reason. I cried and cried and cried until I made myself sick.
But this is not what America’s about. America was founded on ideals of rejecting what is imposed upon you, in the sights of a brighter future. It does not give up in the face of defeat. I fully believe in the rights of democracy. Under our current system, Donald Trump won. I accept that, just as I will reluctantly accept him as our president, though I despise him as an individual. But just because I have to accept that does not mean I have to accept the notions that racism, sexism, sexual assault, xenophobia, and other forms of hatred can be brushed under the rug and forgotten–or worse, normalized–if the candidate wins.
The whole day, I told everyone I talked to, “I just wish I could do something. I have to do something. I can’t just sit back and take this.” My reaction in crisis is always one of action, be that to try to be part of the solution or simply comfort others who are hurting too. I cannot sit idly, and I will not take things passively.
The second (and third, and fourth, and fifth) time I felt sick was when each person I hold near and dear to me told me that there was “nothing I could do about it.” They instantly, dangerously, absentmindedly shot down any ideas of resistance, fighting back, or attempting to create lasting change for the future. Because he’d already won, so that’s the end of the show, right?
Wrong. I was disgusted by the overwhelming sense of apathy I was seeing, though I know they meant well. My Facebook feed faded before my eyes from thoughts of rage and despair to “well, nothing we can do now.” As if everyone was on the same collective emotional rubber band that was just temporarily stretched, but was quickly brought back to its resting state. Cue the nausea.
Through my tears, my first instinct was to grab my laptop and do what I’ve always done when I’m overcome with emotion—write. There are a million ways to do something about it. Lobby for legislation, talk to your local representatives, care enough to be informed and vote for people in the future at the local level, in the hopes they’ll be the candidates of the future (or just because whoever runs your city or state is important too.) If you’re disillusioned with the system by now, donate money to an organization that will support and protect one of the countless groups Donald Trump has endangered with his politics. Volunteer for a suicide hotline—many Muslims, LGBTQ+ citizens, Mexicans, women, immigrants, people in the country illegally, and members of other minority groups will now feel like there’s no hope. Give them that hope.
Read. Read every book on politics, rhetoric, and the media that you can. Pay attention to world politics. The fear tactics in the Brexit campaign foreshadowed what was to come in the election. I should know, as I was in London in the months leading up to and during the election. But for me, I’m going to write.
I will write until my fingers turn blue, to anything and anyone who will listen. Try to change hearts. Try to invoke passion through poetry, essays, and the ever-appreciated Facebook status clogging your newsfeed. Refuse to let my voice be silenced, by those who hate and those who love me but do not understand me. By no means will I incite, encourage, or support violence in any way. I don’t need to. Words can move mountains. They’re what won Donald Trump the election. Voters didn’t care about the “truth.” They cared about the story he was telling. They cared what he said. Sometimes, I don’t blame them. I know what it’s like to be so fed up with the system that you’re called to believe a totally wacky, out-of-left-field narrative, because you feel like it’s your only hope. That’s why I’m writing this.
Do not believe that there’s nothing you can do. Fight back, but fight smart. Fight fire with fire, but a fire that moves you to spread good in the world and viciously seek to protect those who very soon may not have the ability to protect themselves. Do not be provoked to destroy.
If you’re in a position of privilege, PLEASE use it to help those who aren’t so lucky. Donate to causes, speak out against injustice. Pray to whatever being you believe in (or throw coins in a fountain, or simply hope) that Donald Trump never manages to turn his own prejudice and hatred into law. Engage in conversations with those who disagree with you—don’t ignore them, cut them off, or remove them from the conversation. True change is messy, and involves having the hard talks with the people you don’t want to talk to.
Please. If you are at all called to do something, do. You are not powerless. You are not voiceless. Do not be silenced.