On Tuesday night, I watched, in stunned silence, as the unthinkable happened. One by one, slowly but steadily, the electoral map turned a bright, bold red. States that were historically blue, counties that had voted for Bill Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama over the years, instead chose a man who is the antithesis of everything that their former votes stood for. My glass of wine on the table sat full, forgotten. My cell phone buzzed with messages of disbelief first, then fear, and finally, hopelessness.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up before my alarm with a jolt and immediately leapt to my computer. I watched with horror, with my hair still plastered to the side of my face, the video of a sedate and almost seemingly stunned Trump giving the acceptance speech that confirmed him as the President-Elect of the United States. But the tears didn’t start flowing until I scrolled through Twitter — tweets assuring Muslim women that it was okay to remove their hijab if they felt unsafe, that Allah would understand. Another one of a gay, black woman asking what kind of future she had in our country. Of women advising other women to get an IUD before the funding for birth control pills was taken away.
Like a sleepwalker, I went through the motions of getting ready for work. A few moments after I stepped out of my apartment, a black man walking the opposite direction gave me a sad smile. He held up a newspaper with Trump’s face and said, “We’re fucked, aren’t we?” I felt the effort in my face as it twisted into a grimace. The subway train was quiet, somber. Women with bloodshot eyes and puffy faces made eye contact with each other, looking away quickly, wordlessly acknowledging the failure of our country to uplift the accomplishments of our gender. According to the numbers, 47.5% of my country saw me as both something lesser AND something to fear and fight against. At face value, that number translated to half the room, almost every other person in my subway car. Was it you? I studied the anonymous faces one by one, without my usual shame or embarrassment. Are you the one at war against me? The one who believes that I don’t belong here because of my gender, the color of my skin, my parents, my last name, my education, and where I was born? Was it you? IS it you?
The insidious sexism, the systemic racism, the fear of the other, the constant mistrust of what is different, the never-ending resistance against progress. This week’s election showed us that all those things are not only very much alive, but thriving within our country. To quote my wise friend Lily,
This is who we are.
And it’s fucking uncomfortable.
And it’s fucking awful.
And it’s fucking real.
And we have a lot of fucking work to do.
Indeed, there is work ahead of us. We need to learn from our failures, to stop isolating ourselves in the bubbles that blind us, and to try and treat everybody with the compassion and kindness that we also want for ourselves.
And with such darkness and hate flooding our lives, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the little things that give us joy and happiness. So yes, in a short time, there will be the cakes, the cookies, and the desserts that bring you here. The pretty pictures, the light-hearted stories, the trivial tweets.
But right now, there is this.