one nation, indivisible

My next post was originally going to be a letter to my sixteen-year-old self on the eve of my twentieth birthday, apologizing to her and warning her of what was to come her way. But as I reread the draft of that post, I realized how foolish and self-centered it would be if I published it, especially now, in light of recent events that are going to dramatically affect the country, and the rest of the world. The tiny bubble I’ve been living in has popped. I wanted to refrain from my blog, my public domain, becoming political, but I want to use my voice for what I think is right, despite any criticism or backlash I will receive.

Yesterday, in the early hours of the morning, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. That is a sentence that shakes me to my core. I haven’t even been able to say it out loud yet. I could go on and on about how heartbroken I am, how scared I am, but I won’t. I put so much faith into my fellow citizens during the final weeks leading up to Election Day, only to watch that faith crumble in seconds. 

And yet my political views, my feelings about this election, my knowledge about what this election means, have been invalidated by those who I consider closest to me. You’re a bright kid, but you don’t really know what’s going on. You’re stressing yourself out too much. What rights are you going to have taken away? And so on. 

I did not vote for the president-elect because I value my rights as a woman and a human being. I value the rights and safety of others who are not me, who are not white, who choose to express their love and spirituality in ways that are different than my own. I did not vote for the president elect because he mocks the disabled, only considers the existence of women valid as sexual objects, is endorsed by the Klu Klux Klan, considers enemies of the state to be black and brown, believes that global warming is a hoax, and several other atrocities that I do not want to list. I did not vote for him because I do not support his hate-fueled rhetoric that has elicited terror in millions of people. I did not vote for him because I do not want younger children, including my 3 and 4-year-old cousins who are still learning right from wrong, to look to this man and condone his behavior like millions of other Americans already have.

In third grade, I was attending a Catholic school as a non-Catholic. I was not allowed to receive communion during school-wide masses, and in second grade, we had to undergo months of rehearsal for the communion ceremony that would be attended by our family members and members of the church. Since I was a non-Catholic, I could not receive communion itself. Instead, all my months of rehearsal led up to getting a blessing from the priest. The following year, when my brother was in second grade and preparing for the day of communion, the school contacted my family and said he was not allowed to attend the ceremony at all. I thought this was wrong. So at nine years old, I decided to write a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican expressing my disappointment with the Church and its discrimination towards my family and my other classmates who did not identify as Catholic. Months later, I received a reply, but it was only a generic copy-and-paste letter filled with religious anecdotes from a member of the Vatican thanking me for my letter. He attached a photo of the Pope.

I attended a very liberal, diverse charter school in Hoboken, New Jersey during my middle school years. We called our teachers by their first names. In seventh and eighth grade we had Humanities, a blend of English and Social Studies. We wrote essays, we wrote poems, we learned about politics and watched documentaries like Food, Inc. Towards the end of eighth grade, we learned about writing and passing bills. We had a student body election, and I ran. I called my party the Equal Arts Party, and my platform ran on freedom of self-expression and individuality with an emphasis on the importance of arts education. I didn’t win, but my opponent had good ideas and I was confident he would be a good leader for us eighth graders.

This past March, I attended a Women in Leadership retreat in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement. I learned about the Suffrage Movement, and I stood in Weslyn Chapel, the place where the first meeting of the Women’s Right’s Convention was held in 1848. It was an empowering day. It took women 72 years to pass the 19th amendment, and I was so grateful to be able to contribute to democracy months later after I went on this retreat. On Election Day, I wore white in honor of the women suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul, because weeks before, the president-elect’s supporters took to social media that they wanted to repeal the 19th amendment. My voice, as a woman, matters. And I had to watch a woman who dedicated 40 years of her life and career preparing for November 8th, lose to a man who picked up politics as a hobby last year.

I’m tired of my generation being swept under the rug and labeled as the ungrateful Millennials – I recognize the privilege I have as a straight, white woman and what it will mean during a Trump presidency. I don’t hate my country, I don’t believe in burning the American flag. I understand that many did not grow up the same way as me, were not surrounded by the same influences as me, did not receive the same education as me. And I’m not going to hate, pity, or judge them for that. I mostly stand alone in my political views when it comes to my family, but I am going to stick to my beliefs. You cannot unlearn the things you grew up with, you cannot change the minds of people who have had specific ideologies drilled into them since they were young. Every generation is different, and just because my generation doesn’t like to stay silent and believes that everyone should be equal, it does not mean we are going against our country. Our dislike of the president-elect does not at all mean we hate the country we live in. A lot of people didn’t like Obama, Reagan, Nixon, Bush. What makes our dislike of Trump any different? Do not tell us, or me, to “grow a pair” when now millions of people don’t feel safe in a place that promised them freedom.

In the past 36 hours since Trump has been elected, the Klu Klux Klan has been celebrating. People of color are being told to sit in the back of the bus. Men are yelling “Grab her by the p*ssy” at women. An African American doll was found with a noose around its neck  in a college dorm elevator. Women are having their hijabs ripped off them in public and in schools. A gay man had a beer bottle smashed on his head. People are posting phone numbers to suicide hotlines. Swastikas are appearing. At my eleven-year-old cousin’s middle school, a seventh grade boy stood up in the lunch room, raised his fist, and yelled “White power!” I am confused by what year I’m living in now, as are many others. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence says

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

 Donald Trump does not believe that all men, all women, or all people who are different from him are created equal. He does not believe that all men, women, LGBTQ, African Americans, Muslims, Latinos and immigrants deserve the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Which is why I am disappointed that the progress we have been making is going to be reverted in the next 4 years. I realize that there are checks and balances within our branches of government, but watching his campaign unravel in the past year and a half or so, it is hard for me to be optimistic. 

But this is the man that is going to be leading the country as I head into my twenties.And I want to dedicate this next decade of my life, especially the part of it that will be spent living with a Trump presidency, bettering myself, and the lives of others. I want to spend my twenties making sure that when I have children, they will have positive leaders to look up to. I want to spend my twenties making sure that the part of the Pledge of Allegiance that says “one nation, indivisible” will still ring true. I want love to trump hate, once and for all.