The world changed, alright. Just not how any of us had expected.
I wasn’t going to post today. And then, around 10PM last night – when it was clear what was happening, but before the election was officially called – I turned off the TV and got into the bath. I took a Star Magazine with me because I couldn’t bear to think about anything other than Brad Pitt’s marital woes, and for the first time I actually understood why that kind of blunt-force entertainment is so addictive: it gives us the chance to fall down a rabbit hole of celebrity breakups and makeups and the cutest boots to buy this season, and when we’re in that rabbit hole we can pretend for a moment that the real world doesn’t even exist.
Like many of you, I need a minute to absorb what just happened, and to try to wrap my mind around what this means for the future of the country – not to mention the future for minorities, for women, for the LGBTQ population, for our children, and for thinking, feeling human beings across America and far beyond.
Two nights ago at dinner, my son picked up his burger and announced “I’m going to vote for Donald Trump!” Kendrick and I had been joking around about something or other, but we both suddenly got very serious and quiet and set down our forks and looked at him. “What do you mean?” I asked him. His face crumpled, and he blurted out, “I’m sorry Mom!”
He thought I was mad. I wasn’t mad. I was just surprised, because politics and the election had been a constant topic of conversation in our household for months, and I knew he’d been listening. And then all of a sudden I got it: he is five. He doesn’t understand the difference between Star Wars and the United States government. He wanted to dress up as Darth Vader for Halloween, and he didn’t understand why voting for Donald Trump would be any different. Maybe it isn’t that different; maybe both are about wanting to feel big and powerful when things get scary.
Last night I put my daughter to sleep, and she asked me to snuggle with her. I laid down next to her and petted her head, listening to the faint sounds of cheering when Hillary won Virginia, and whispered to her, “Are you a boy or a girl?”
“A girl,” she answered.
“You’re a girl,” I said. “Which means you can be and do anything. And tomorrow morning, you’re going to find out that you can be the President of the United States.”
Then I went to my son, tucking him in and promising that he wouldn’t miss anything, that I’d wake him up to tell him who’d won. I checked the freezer to make sure we had ice cream for our middle-of-the-night party.
Two hours later, I rubbed the tears off my face with a square of toilet paper and went into the bedroom. I tried to wake him up, just to keep my promise. But he mumbled and turned over, so I didn’t try that hard.
I wasn’t going to write a post today because I thought I couldn’t. But then I laid awake all night long for the first time in years, trying to figure out what the world would look like when the sun rose in the morning. And now it has – just barely – and I can’t say nothing, because in a few minutes a child will come running into this room wanting to know what happened. And it is my responsibility to find a way to help him understand why – how – the “good guys” didn’t win. So this is what I will tell him.
I will tell him that sometimes bullies seem powerful. I will tell him that sometimes bullies are powerful. But I will also tell him that – without fail – bullies are scared. They are scared that they are not strong or smart or big, and they think that making others feel weak and silly and small will make them feel better. I will tell him that real bravery means listening to others – caring about what they say, and what they feel. And then doing what you know is right.
I am devastated this morning, as are millions of Americans and people around the world. But I have to believe that what we have here is also an opportunity. Trump’s election lays bare a reality that existed before, regardless of whether or not we knew it was so, and that reality was going to exist even if the election had gone the other way. Misogyny and racism and hatred and xenophobia were poisoning our country long before Donald Trump showed up, but the difference now is that these undercurrents have a very big spotlight shining on them. Which means that we can no longer pretend that they do not exist. We can no longer sit back and rest on our faith that everything will work out just fine.
That’s what I did, you know. Sure, I wrote posts about Trump, sure, I was vocal in my support of Hillary – but really, I rested. Because not for one single second did I ever actually believe that this day would come.
Donald Trump is the next President of the United States of America, and what that means is that now we have a responsibility – all of us – to remember who we are, and what we stand for, which is nothing less profound than democracy. Humanity. We can feel sad today, but that sadness better turn to action tomorrow. Because you know what? I’m exhausted and I’m terrified and I’m completely heartbroken…but underneath it all: I still believe. America is great. Americans are great. And we will come back from this because that is what we do.
I’m always telling my son that you stand up to bullies; that you don’t just look the other way when someone is doing something you know is wrong. Now, I suppose, we all have the chance to not just “tell” our kids about bullies and bravery…we get to show them. So let’s do that. Let’s show our children what fighting back looks like, and let’s show them how to be strong. And then let’s show them that we – all of us, together – have the power to fix what’s been broken.