On Tuesday night I was talking to a friend and told him that I was trying to recall a time that I felt so sick, so lost, so heartbroken. It dawned on me that it was over a year ago when I was breaking up with someone I loved deeply who had also hurt me deeply. Watching the states go red I felt that same destitute, lonely feeling, the, “What do I do now?” that ran through me when I thought of a life without my partner, my best friend, my often emotional abuser.
Times like that, and times like these, are risky for a person like me. I am empathetic to a fault and it can oddly make me seem quite cold. As my brain fires on all cylinders and my emotions course through me quickly, fiercely, dangerously, I struggle to find the words to explain to someone how what they’re feeling makes me feel. Sometimes I say nothing or I say what I know is the wrong thing. Often it’s because I haven’t begun to make sense of what they’re going through, often it’s because I don’t want to seem ridiculously involved in their situation, taking the ownership away from them. In the past two days, however, I’ve been anything but cold. I sat on my couch on Tuesday night, into Wednesday morning, and cried. They weren’t the full body sobs I have experienced at other times in my life, they were quiet tears, a slow mourn. And I knew I risked falling into a hole I would not climb out of for days, an emotional whirlpool, and I was thankful for having booked Wednesday off to take care of myself and have space to think and feel as needed.
For me, the new President Elect of the United States of America is a figurehead, representing everything that terrifies me in this world. Xenophobia, bigotry, racism, misanthropy, misogyny. He encapsulates the hatred I try to live my life without.
Hillary Clinton, to me, represented hope in the same way Barack Obama represented hope. I am thankful I had the chance to see the Obama hope come to fruition. I deeply feel that the Clinton hope will do the same, at some point, in the not so distant future.
As a Canadian I did not cast a ballot, sitting on the sidelines watching it unfold. At one point during the evening, after ten and before one, I said out loud to only myself and my cat, “Does the world really hate us this much?”
“Us” were the people of colour, those that identify as LGBTQ, women, immigrants… the list goes on. Marginalized groups. The people that have fought and are still fighting to be viewed as equals.
In between tears I thought of years ago when a man I thought liked me looked me up and down and said, “You’re surprisingly smart, given how hot you are.” I thought of every time I’ve gotten myself in trouble for speaking up when someone has said something sexist or misogynist as if I were an inconvenience. I thought of when my ex-boyfriend’s drunken, unwanted advances would have to be fended off as successfully possible. I thought of my niece and the other brilliant young girls I am lucky to know. I thought of the people I know and love in the States, especially the women. I thought of the women in my family who have fought for their children, their families, their professions, their own lives.
I will never pretend that my preference for Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with gender but it was not simply because she was a woman. Yes, she represented an ultimate shattered glass ceiling. She represented recognition of years of hard work. She represented overcoming obstacles that only marginalized groups face. But she was also up against a man who is everything I fear when I walk home alone, everything I remember from my most terrifying moments in my past, everything that worries me when I think about how far we’ve come and what we face to get where we need to go. And she was qualified. Incredibly qualified.
Comparatively, for me, it would never add up.
But that’s all behind us now. We don’t have to like it. We can stop at tolerating is because we are so seasoned in tolerating we know we can do it and we will do it again.
But it also doesn’t mean we have to stop. We won’t stop.
The women and men who came before us didn’t stop. They didn’t stop when their friends were beaten and murdered. They didn’t stop when they were wrongfully incarcerated. They didn’t stop when they stood up for justice and were laughed back down.
Now is the time we hug our friends. Now is the time we make our voices heard, louder than ever before. Now is the time we dry our tears and wear our labels with pride, louder than ever before.
A way has begun to be paved. The opinions have started to sway.
I refuse to hate anyone who voted red in this election. I want to understand. I would love to know the reasons why because I don’t believe that everyone who voted that way is what that man represents to me. I would also like to know why he seemed the better option to the qualified woman running against him.
Until I get that chance it’s time to dry my tears and stand up tall. We have work to do.