Barack Obama has been president since I was in fifth grade. I remember his first inauguration; my mom bought us all shirts with his face on them. We were going to watch the inauguration in school, but my mom pulled my brother and me out so we could watch it as a family. I had never seen her happier.
Four years later, we got to do it all over again. Four years after that, I was finally able to participate. Unfortunately, it did not go my way. This time, hate took control.
Unlike many others, I am not scared for my life, but I still feel fear. I am a white, middle class woman with immense privilege that will keep me safe in my bubble. But I am scared for the millions of people in this country who do not have the same luxuries as I do.
I think about my gay and POC friends and the fear they must be feeling. I read their stories of encountering hate and I am disgusted. I am ashamed. I am shocked. This seems to be the word of the day. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has related how shocked they were. How could this happen? Who voted for him? Who are all these racists?
While I am glad you have never personally encountered someone like this, this, too, is privilege. Thousands of people face racism and sexism and homophobia head-on daily. They have had to put up with this for their entire lives. People like me only hear about these things, but we have never been forced to stare into bigotry’s ugly face. We live in a bubble. ‘No. People aren’t that bad. Americans aren’t that bad.’
I am glad some people have never had to face hate head-on. I hope that someday no one will. But now, we must realize: it is worse than we thought. People are like this. Lots of people are like this. People hate.
I resent immensely that my first election, the first time a major party has had a female candidate running for president that all that was on anyone’s mind was hate. Hate is not an American value. Hate can not and will not be the foundation upon which this country stands. I know that there are people who agree with me, if only on this. But as we learned last night, every person matters, even those whose views differ from ours.
People seem to either believe that we shouldn’t judge people based on political affiliation or that political affiliation is a viable judge of character. I believe that actions are the most obvious and accurate expression of someone’s character.
I do not want to vilify Republicans. I do not think the words ‘republican’ or ‘conservative’ have negative connotations. I know that they may not understand my views just as I do not understand theirs. I do not agree with them, but I do not hate them. I will not attack them for their beliefs. I do not think they are less human for being different.
But the people who voted Trump into office are no longer just some random people who have different beliefs than I do. These people knowingly voted for a violently racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic (I could go on) person whose comments about women, disabled people, and people of color have shocked the world. He has threatened the security and safety of millions and voting for him is an extension of this violence.
And I need to know why this was a popular campaign. Why do you support him? Why are you afraid of what is different? Why do you think people are worth less based on the color of their skin? Why do you feel these things? Why do you hate? Where did we fail you?
Babies are not born hating that which is different. Hatred is taught and we need to identify the teachers. What aspects of our communities teach these values? How can we change their message to one of tolerance?
I want desperately to be someone who feels no resentment toward people who hate. I could live in nirvana, knowing that I am spreading only love and respect. But I am incapable of respecting someone who does not respect their neighbors. I cannot tolerate intolerance. Prejudice is unacceptable.
It disgusts me that after over 200 years of the United States of America, we are still fighting for rights. Rights, by definition, are meant to be given freely. We should not have to fight for them, but here we are. And here we will continue to be if we let this discourage us. The fight is not over. The fight will never be over. Struggle is the essence of existence. We struggle and we fail and we struggle again and we succeed and then we struggle some more. We keep fighting.
Had Hillary won, the fight would not have been over. Now more than ever, the fight remains. The last 240 years have been spent fighting like hell for progress. The battle against hate will never be over; the only way we can continue destroying hatred and building tolerance is to keep fighting.
Many are afraid that the country is going to be set back 50 years. That the next four years will be a period of regression. I believe that the president-elect will do everything in his power (and maybe sometimes out of it) to make sure this happens. But I know that millions of Americans will be fighting everyday to make sure this doesn’t happen. In fact, they will be fighting for the opposite- progress. And we must bolster our troops.
I urge everyone to unite at this time that could easily cleave this country in two. This must be a period of depolarization. I know that we can all agree–across party lines–that hate is not the basis of this country. I know that liberals are not the good guys who are free of hate and the conservatives are not the bad guys who did this. Now is not the time to unfriend every Republican you know on Facebook or stop talking to family members you don’t agree with. Now is the time to come together, to find our similarities. I do not think that the majority of Americans are capable of possessing the immense magnitude of hate that our president-elect so clearly values above all else. We can unite in the fight against hate. And in order to survive, we must.
This may not be what you want to hear. You may be completely pissed off and sad and scared all at once. You may not be thinking about unity or love or anything but your anger. And by all means, be angry. Be furious. Be terrified. But do not let this drive your actions toward the destructive. Construction is what we need. We must let our anger and our fear be the fuel of progress. That is all we can ever hope for. We are so scared of what could happen if we gave up that suddenly the only option is to fight.
So. Where do we go from here?
Everyone must begin living their lives with the most love of which they are capable. There is a daunting amount of progress yet to be made. This is an opportunity to band together and make this country great.
Four years. One big fight. Bring it on.