09 November 2016

Now What?

     "Now what?" are the words that have been going through my head for the past three hours. My assumption, as was that of most forms of media and analysis, was that Hillary Rodham Clinton would be elected president of the United States of America, becoming the first woman to achieve this honor. But that did not happen. Instead, Donald Trump, perhaps the greatest presidential underdog ever, won the presidency.
     I started following the coverage from the glow of my smartphone, stealing looks at breaks during rehearsal in Astoria. I didn't think Donald Trump's early lead meant much, as those were states that tend to lean red regardless. Undoubtedly Hillary Clinton would catch up later in the night. But the night continued, and she didn't.
     I left rehearsal and headed to Brooklyn for what was supposed to be an election night party. We had hoped to celebrate the election of our first female president. CNN was running on two screens, and I was still on my phone checking Senate and House races. Long before the presidential election was called, I knew it was over. I didn't want to believe it, but I knew it. The math wasn't there. Eventually, our party had turned more into a somber lamentation of the state of our unperfect union, and in the dark hours of the early morning as we dispersed devoid of joy, I headed home.
     I climbed the stairs to my apartment and looked at my phone only to see that, in the time it took for me to travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan, Donald Trump had won 276 electoral votes. Though I had already realized this would be the outcome, the reality still hit me like a truck. I opened the door, walked through the kitchen, the office, and the living room to get into the bedroom, and I hugged my girlfriend without words.
     And then I wept.
     I wept because this was not what was supposed to happen. I wept because I was filled with fear beyond my ken. I simply could not understand. I muttered those words over and over again. It had never left my mind that Donald Trump could pull off an upset and win the election in a nail-biter race, but I never thought he would take the lead from the start and run away with it. I never thought that so much of the country had decided that the content of a person's character could probably be judged by the darkness of their skin. Or that women meant so little to us as a nation.
     There is a moment when innocence can die. It is a moment when all feels lost, and there's nothing but questions. It is the moment when you ask "Now what?" and you are met with silence. Cold, unadulterated silence. Sitting in a dark room at 2:45 in the morning, holding onto my girlfriend, sobbing into my hand was that moment for me.
     While so many of us celebrate, so many of us cry out "Now what?" The man we've elected has built his campaign on isolationism, xenophobia, racism, and sexism. His campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," jumps right to the heart of those ideas, and very intentionally harkens back to an era that never truly existed but was dominated by white males. And by electing Donald Trump we have stated that we are somehow okay with the creation or perpetuation of a white race utopia as opposed to the melting pot we have always been.
     So now what? Do we sit here and hope it goes away? Do we protest? Do create new parties with new platforms? I don't know. What I do know is that we just had an election that actively told us that Arab-American lives don't matter, that Latino lives don't matter, that Asian lives don't matter, that Amerindian lives don't matter, that Black lives don't matter, that LGBT lives don't matter, and that, almost above all else, female lives do not matter. Because there is no world, no just world, where an accomplished public servant who is intelligent, prepared, has thirty years of experience, twelve of which were related to the White House and the presidency not to mention her eight years in the senate, loses to a man who has pending trials for rape and fraud, gleefully and openly rates women on their attractiveness, uses dogwhistle politics to condemn Muslims and Latinos, promotes a paternalistic view of African Americans, and has failed businesses galore and no actual political experience besides a failed run for president without telling me that female lives don't matter. Hillary Clinton didn't lose because of emails, she didn't lose because of the deplorable things her husband has done, she didn't lose because of her own moral failings, she lost because she has baggage, but not the political baggage of dozens of campaigns against her, but 69 years of baggage called two X chromosomes. And that was her great sin.

     Before I said I didn't know what to do, but really there's only one thing can do right now. We can, and we must, feel our sadness. We must feel our fear. Our terror. Our rage. Our disappointment. Our pain. We must feel it all, and realize that this is real. This is the rebirth of America, and we must learn to navigate through it. We may have been told that our lives don't matter, but let us never forget our lives do, and that just as we feel terror and sadness, so did those who said we don't matter and that's how we'll start to heal.