This is a photo of me on Wednesday morning. I got out of bed in a haze around 7 a.m. I had taken a shower at 3 a.m. because I couldn’t sleep, and tossed all night long, periodically checking CNN on my phone to see if this was real. I couldn’t stop crying.
My husband couldn’t sleep either. We both walked around the house that morning like ghosts. Silent.
We were shocked.
I took that photo because I am a documenter, and I wanted to document how I was feeling in that moment and remember that if I ever feel myself getting too complacent. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was afraid to leave the house. And I didn’t. Not because I was afraid something would really happen to me, but because I was afraid to face the world. I was afraid to enter into a place where this was actually happening, where this was my reality. I had thankfully already planned to work from home, so I sat on the couch, tried to work, and watched CNN all day long. Kyle was on the phone with his coworker before 8 a.m., both of them in disbelief. I cried on and off all day. I talked to my siblings. Tried to write. Tried to read. But I often just found myself checking the secret Facebook group Hillary mentioned in her concession speech, and crying more from the heartbreak we all felt.
After a few days, I’ve been able to find a few more words for how I’m feeling. But most of all, I’m heartbroken. Not because “we lost,” or because “I didn’t win,” or because “things didn’t go my way,” as I’ve heard so often this week. Which honestly, has just pissed me off.
This was never about the people running for president. It was never about putting my life in anyone else’s hands. I am a grown, strong woman, and I can take care of my own damn self. It was (and is) about what our candidates stood for as human beings, and therefore, the example they set for our people. People can argue all they want that Hillary Clinton didn’t align with their moral, religious, or political beliefs. They can spew out “emails” and “Benghazi,” but in the end, she was the only one qualified for the job. They can call her names and crucify her for doing the best she could in the circumstances she was placed into, but you know what? She was the candidate who was going to fight for human rights. She was the candidate who made people all over this nation feel safe and worthy. She was the candidate who wanted unity.
And instead, our country decided to turn a blind eye.
Our country decided that standing against the hatred being spewed by the now president-elect wasn’t as important as his promises of outlawing abortion and building a wall as immigration control. Of course, not everyone who voted for him fall into the -ism categories we have all heard so much this year. But instead, we, all of us, decided that we didn’t care enough to make sure that wasn’t allowed. That we didn’t stand for that as a country.
We heard what we wanted to hear.
Already, I have heard countless stories of harassment. And no, not just on the internet. Fellow students at Marshall have been harassed on campus for being openly gay. A professor was yelled at in the Kroger parking lot across from my house, because she wore a hat with the Hillary logo on it. My cousin texted me and voiced her heartbreak for her sons, who can’t wrap their precious minds around why this is happening, why our country has chosen hate. When the president-elect has spent the entirety of his campaign spreading hate, isn’t it likely that people who align with those views will feel comfortable doing the same?
And things seem to just continue spiraling out of control.
I hope our president-elect isn’t actually any of the things so many of us think he is. I want to believe that he has just fooled all of us. But what is left after that? Even if he turns out to be an okay person, what does that say about us as a people? What does it say about us that we voted for someone so hateful? I can’t simply forget what has been said and done over the last 18 months of campaigning. If you saw the 60 Minutes interview, you know that he is standing by his plan to reverse Roe v. Wade, which was passed in 1973. He also said the legalization of gay marriage is already “settled” and is “fine with that,” but apparently Roe v. Wade being a 43-year-old law isn’t settled. His cabinet members are already terrifying, as well, so no, things are not looking up.
The only thing looking up is the growing multitude of people in this nation who are protesting and making their voices heard in the aftermath of all this. That secret Facebook group is growing. Protests are growing. The sound of our voices is growing. The stories I’ve read and heard of perseverance and strength are inspiring and have kept me positive and uplifted.
I’ve never felt the need to protest anything. As a straight white woman, I’ve got that little thing called privilege that we all so often need to check. But after I came out of my coma on Wednesday, and entered back into the world of the living, I was ready. That feeling of being gutted was turning into something else. I’m working on turning my heartache and worry for this country into something stronger, something more fierce. My siblings came to my house Wednesday night and we discussed what to do. I looked at them and said “I’m ready to march.” And if it comes to that (which it is looking like it will), I’ll be there. One day, when I have children, I want to be able to tell them I did what I thought was right, even if people disagreed with me. I want to be able to tell them that I was brave enough to speak out. And even more than that, I want to be able to look myself in the mirror every day and know that I did everything I could to make this a better world.
I know so many of you who supported him or voted third party feel the same way. I know you did what you thought was right. And I hope it is. I hope it all turns out to be okay. But right now, I’m worried. I feel alone and uncertain and outraged. We have turned our backs on one another, and that is why we are failing.
Whatever happens, whatever you believe, we are stronger together. And together is the only way we’re going to get out of this mess. It’s time to rise up.