Yesterday, I proudly voted for a criminal. Voting for a criminal meant supporting a leader who values the lives of all people regardless of race, heritage, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or class. It meant supporting a leader who recognized the severity of climate change and its certain destruction to our planet. It meant supporting a leader who values equality for all: women and men, gay and straight, rich and poor, of every different skin tone.
Last night, I watched election results come in with a group of new friends who shared my values—the values of a criminal—and felt my stomach sink lower and lower with each state called. We stress-ate Oreos and brie and Chicago Mix popcorn, sloshing everything down with patriotic Jell-o shots and hard liquor. What other choice did we have? I did my part to avoid a national crisis, but with each passing moment an unthinkable tragedy settled in around us. I turned to the only coping mechanisms available.
This morning, I drifted awake from a dream where I was in the women’s suffrage scene from Mary Poppins: clearly a dream given the unfolding of events from the night prior. I felt emotionally hungover, trying to “cast off the shackles of yesterday.” But it felt like the shackles had found their way back onto my wrists and ankles after nearly a decade’s work of freeing them. Back to square one. Back to fighting the fight all over again. I kissed my husband goodbye, grateful to have someone in my life who shares my fears and fights my fights.
Today, I walked through my city where nine out of ten people shared my dismay. Chicago was quiet today, at least in the moments when it wasn’t angry, frightened, fearful, or resentful. This place took almost a complete 180 degree turn from the exuberant joy following the Cub’s World Series win. I felt connected to this place just as much today as I did during game 7 of the World Series, though the sentiment was not nearly as enjoyable. I haven’t felt this unified with my community since attending the University of Michigan. The city’s joys are my joys. The city’s heartbreak is my heartbreak.
Tonight, I planned to come home, make some dinner, and watch a movie with my husband. But Sam comes home later, I don’t feel like eating, and I felt like creating content instead of consuming content. I’m not political, but tonight I need to be selfish and take this time for myself to write and understand. Writing is what I do when I need to understand something. Writing is what I do when I’m hurt, confused, and scared. So tonight, I write, reflect, and try to understand.
Tomorrow, I will wake up and go for a run, then go to work, then come home so I can do it all over again. I’ll ask myself hard questions with what I hope will be a clearer mind and a lighter heart Should I consider getting an IUD before it’s impossible to get birth control? Can Sam and I imagine bringing a child into a world when our planet will be unlivable for future generations? They can’t really build a wall between Mexico and America…right?
Tomorrow, I continue giving all the love, joy, hope, and positive energy I can the world, just as I have always tried to do. I will not fight hate with hate, or fear with fear. Even though I’m allowing myself one day to process what this election means for my country and the world, I will not allow it to break my spirit. No one can bully me into losing compassion for all mankind. No one scare me into losing hope for a future where everyone is treated with the respect they deserve. I am strong and brave, and I believe my country is, too.
In the next four years, I will do my best to further understand people who believe different things than I believe. I will act from a place of love and empathy, and respect people who want different things our of this country than I want for this country. America has traveled a rocky road ever since its inception hundreds of years ago, but I must have confidence that goodness will prevail. I will do my best to extend a hand across the aisle, listen before speaking, and learn before assuming.
Regardless of who you voted for yesterday, I hope you will join me in building a better future for all, even if it’s an uphill climb the entire way.