My First Heartbreak (for Fahrenheit 11/9)
My wonderful friend Eric Flayton is putting together an anthology of reactions to the day after the presidential election called Fahrenheit 11/9. This is getting put in the anthology. The pieces can be anything from essays, poems, quotes, etc. If you would like to submit a response, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I remember waking up on the morning of November 8th, with a smile, excited to watch the results come in that night. I wore a white dress in solidarity with suffragettes who, less than 100 years ago, fought for women to get the right to vote. How proud they must be, I thought. How they must be smiling down on us to see that we are about to elect our first female president, a woman who was so qualified for the job, a woman who would inspire thousands of girls to run for office and ultimately make this country a better place. I put on an “I’m With Her” pin and walked out the door, so proud to be a woman and a liberal, not caring that I went to an extremely conservative high school. I was ready for the backlash that I would get from the “Make America Great Again” idiots that populated my school, because I thought that the entire country was about to prove them wrong.
School was a blur because I couldn’t keep my mind off of that night’s excitement. I was about to see history being made. The first female president was getting elected, and I was finally going to see myself for the first time on the highest political stage in the nation. She had incredible domestic policies and would do wonders for healthcare, education reform and equality. Well, she would at least be better than a screaming idiot who was endorsed by the KKK. Twice. Surely, America was better and more progressive than Donald Trump. We couldn’t possibly elect him. At least, that’s what the polls said.
I went over to Eric’s house wearing Hillary Clinton pins and a Hillary Clinton t shirt. A bunch of us liberals crammed onto his couch with CNN blaring on the television, anxiously awaiting the results.
At first, it was good. She was ahead by a decent number, and I felt so safe that I had no doubt in my mind she was going to win. It would be close, but my country would never betray me or anyone I loved in such a way.
I was so stupid.
The details are fuzzy to me, but I remember seeing Eric’s face fall. He went from joking around with the rest of us to complete devastation, and amidst all of the laughing and screaming he yelled “Shut up, guys!” and that’s when I knew that things weren’t going well.
People still wouldn’t be quiet; I guess reality hadn’t really hit them yet. Eric, me and a few others went into a separate room with a TV so we could try to fully understand what was happening.
Trump was ahead. By a lot. And that was when everything started to crumble around me, and my breathing got heavy and quick, and I couldn’t stand still and I started crying and I just said “What’s happening? What are we going to do?” Eric then looked me in the eye and said: “Just stay with me. The polls close in fifteen minutes.”
When the polls closed, I went home. I remember being in my room, and trying to do some yoga to calm down, but I was frozen. I just lay in my room with this awful lighting, in shorts and a sports bra, and watched the live election coverage, hoping against hope that she still had a chance.
But there was no way she could win.
I did not sleep at all that night. I lay in bed, surrounding myself with heavy blankets. I called my best friend at midnight. We didn’t even say anything to each other. We just sat on the phone and cried.
I knew that I would not be able to go to school on 11/9. Not only was I crying incessantly and barely able to get dressed—-I wasn’t ready to face all of the hate at my school. I go to a school where majority of the population loves Trump and his ideology. People who make fun of the black lives matter movement, who think that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married, who think that all Mexicans are drug dealers and rapists. The fact that Trump was elected validated every hateful feeling in their body, and I was not emotionally ready to get attacked or witness someone else being attacked. I needed to surround myself with people who understood what I was going through.
I didn’t just sob that day. I screamed. I was screaming constantly, and everything would trigger me being upset. My face was swollen. My eyes hurt. There were times when I couldn’t even talk, and could barely even breathe. I spent all day watching Gilmore Girls, calling my friends to cry, and bingeing on junk food.
I don’t remember the last time I felt so utterly hopeless.
People always cite their first breakup with their significant other as their first heartbreak. This was my first heartbreak.
My entire country dumped me.
One of the major responses I got after the election was the whole unification crap. Forgive the people that elected him, and let’s all just hold hands and sing kumbaya. And to that I say, screw you. How are we supposed to unify with people who hate us because of who we are? Because of our race, our gender, our religion, our sexuality? How are we supposed to unify with people who hate us for being fundamentally human?
People have also told me that he’s not really as bad as he seems, that he’s not going to do most of what he says. They say this to try and justify their vote for him. Trump supporters are honestly the most sore winners I have ever encountered. But the thing is, even if he’s not going to do any of the things that he has said A.) He has appointed people to his cabinet that will and B.) He has validated all of the blatant hatred and bigotry that was somewhat “hiding” (at least for those of us with privilege) in this country. He has validated all of the people who think segregation should still exist and who would murder someone if they found out they were gay. Trump’s entire rhetoric was based on hate. And he got elected president. What’s going to stop the average Joe from actually doing what he says? What’s to justify my friend saying to me that she’s afraid someone will shoot her when she is walking to school because she’s black? A classmate saying that he think’s it’s okay for businesses to discriminate against gay people?
People were telling me that day how sorry they felt for me. And it’s true that I am terrified. I am terrified of Roe v Wade and Title IX being overturned, of Planned Parenthood getting defunded, of me not having access to birth control or affordable healthcare. I am terrified of workplaces treating women even more horribly and of sexual harassment and rape culture becoming even more normalized in society. Those are legitimate things to be terrified of.
But I only get a snippet of the Trump administration. I am white, cisgender, agnostic, heterosexual, able-bodied, and middle class. The only thing I have holding me back societally is that I am a woman. I am scared for everyone who doesn’t have my privilege. I am scared for Muslims being even more targeted for acts of hate and getting put on a registry. I am scared of gay marriage being overturned. I am scared of my trans friend not being able to get access to the healthcare he needs. Climate change, conversion therapy…the list is never-ending.
I am sitting here, writing this to you, feeling that all hope is lost, suffering from anxiety about all of this. I guess I’m not crying incessantly anymore, but I am not okay. Most of us are not okay, because this situation isn’t okay. It all feels so hopeless and out of control. I am terrified for my life, and for the lives of all my loved ones. I have no idea what I am going to do, but I know that I can’t just watch this shit show happen.
I will end with the post that I wrote on Facebook on November 8th:
I am honestly horrified at this country right now. Trump’s presidency was a huge slap in the face. If you don’t understand why, that is your privilege speaking. If you are NOT a rich white heterosexual Christian cisgendered middle class man, you should share my feelings, because Trump aims to marginalize anyone who doesn’t fit those qualifications. Bigotry has been his entire campaign.
But I refuse to back down. I refuse to give up on this country, because it was already a great place. We don’t need to make it great again. I refuse to let a bully ruin all of the progress the United States has achieved.
I am a woman of action. I am an activist. I am going to fight for myself, and for everyone else feeling devastated and hurt right now. Trump may have won the presidency, but he has not defeated us. If we as individuals continue to stand up against hatred, we will be a force of nature.
Remember that there are still people in the world who will love and fight for you unconditionally. I am not letting this election blind me to that fact.
Instead, I am choosing to use my voice. You need to use your voice as well.
Every voice matters.
Don’t ever forget that.
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