Repeat, this is not a drill.
Last night, I couldn’t watch. I could not bring myself to watch what I knew was about to unfold for our country. It’s hard to bring myself to say the words: the United States just elected Donald Trump as our next President.
I want to reject that truth, to explain it away (California went for Hillary! It’s not my fault!), but I know that I have to remain rooted in reality. We are staring in the face of a very unknown future and now is not the time to cower or run for cover.
For months, I’ve been defending America in the face of claims that Americans are racist. I’ve been deflecting Jamaicans’ fears that Americans hate black people and assuring them that my fellow citizens are too smart to buy into a reality where our country is led by a bigoted fear monger. I believed wholeheartedly that my fellow Americans would hold up my claims and that we would cast ourselves toward a more progressive future where a woman could be the President, where people of color do not have to fear for their lives based on the way they look, where understanding and empathy outweigh fear and hatred, where religious freedom is valued, where college education is affordable, where We the People know in our heart of hearts that love trumps hate and that we really are stronger together.
And you know what? We did prove all of those things. It’s just that we didn’t equate to a majority in the Electoral College. Right now, my newsfeed is full of messages of fear, of hopelessness. But it’s also full of messages of hope, of strength, of a desire to carry on and face this day and the next days with a powerful force built on love. It’s full of a desire to keep a hold on the progressive values that so many people have fought for in the history of humanity.
Peace Corps Volunteers are ambassadors of world peace and friendship. The ugly truths that came out of hiding this election cycle might make our host countries view that message as hypocritical and will certainly make our job more challenging. It is embarrassing to be an American living abroad in this moment. All we can do is be the best example of America that we can be and continue to work toward a better future. Complacency is not a wise option to entertain.
So many Trump supporters say that they don’t feel heard. This is a horrible way for someone to feel – neglected, abandoned. There is so much racially-fueled rhetoric embedded in that sentiment. I’ve heard so many Trump supporters claim that they are not racist – but it’s so much more complicated than that; the thing about privilege is that we often don’t realize that we have it. I do not excuse their choice, but I acknowledge their truth and see where we can all work to help our fellow citizens to see a better way forward. This is not over.
CNN’s Van Jones summed up exactly why this “victory” hurts so much:
“This was a whitelash against a changing country,” he said. “It was a whitelash against a black president in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes. And Donald Trump has a responsibility tonight to come out and assure people that he is going to be the president of all the people he insulted and offended and brushed aside.”
As we sit with the crushing truth that our next President is a demagogue, xenophobe, misogynist fear monger who really has no place in the White House, let us not retreat into hatred and fear, but charge forward in love and hope. Let us continue working to bridge the gaps and build understanding among each other.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” -Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
We have work to do.