This election cycle has been very eye-opening for me in terms of where I grew up, the disparaging beliefs that my family members and I hold, and ultimately, the ignorance that plagues this country and the rhetoric surrounding the election. In the twenty-four hours since Donald Trump won the 2016 election, I have been struggling with processing what his presidency could mean for this nation, and furthermore, struggling with how I move forward knowing that so many of my conservative friends and family members voted for him in this election.
I am fully aware that this is a two-way street. These same family members are probably angry that I voted for Hillary and her platform. They probably cannot understand how I voted for her. I understand that. I accept that. But it still doesn't make it easy. Knowing that this holiday season, I will have to bite my tongue when politics will eventually make its way to the dinner table scares me. I know I will probably be enraged by certain beliefs that will be expressed. I know that I may have to excuse myself at some point for the sake of my own mental and emotional well-being. And I know that if the results of the election had been flipped, my family who proudly voted Republican would have felt the same way about me and who I chose to support this year. And that is an unfortunate byproduct of the rampant hatred and bipartisanship that controls our country right now.
I grew up in a town where Christian super-churches occupy every corner. I dedicated the majority of my childhood to blindly following organized religion because I felt obligated to, not because I necessarily believed in everything the churches preached. I lived in an area where diversity wasn't the norm. I grew up in a bubble, and when I came to college, that bubble shattered.
I started challenging myself to explore the diversity on my campus and listen to other people's stories. I attended a retreat on social justice that made me feel insanely guilty for how closed-minded and bigoted my views were when I was younger, but ultimately shaped my social views. I spent four months outside of the country during my semester abroad and walked on sidewalks with Syrian refugees, witnessed the deepest, darkest poverty in Brazil, saw intense racism and crisis, and listened to people in every single one of the fourteen countries I had the immense privilege of visiting tell me how much they longed for the freedom of the United States of America.
Every time I visit my hometown, I struggle immensely with the fact that my views have changed and that those views are not necessarily supported by the people that I have grown up with. I struggle when I see my aunts and uncles and cousins posting things on Facebook that may inadvertently silence other voices. I struggle with "Make America Great Again" because I don't think America was ever a bad place to be. I struggle whenever someone says that all Liberals are Communists or Socialists or are destroying this country because we are "too sensitive." It hurts me when people tell me not to make things "feminist issues."
Today, I've been processing a lot and trying to figure out how to move forward knowing that my beliefs are so vastly different than most of the people that I love and care about. I'm angry that a man who normalized racism, sexual assault, sexism, Islamophobia, and so many other forms of injustice through his campaign choices will now sit in the Oval Office.
I understand that most of my family that voted for him probably did not think of this election in a social context. I understand that for them, this election was about being a part of the forgotten middle class. This election was about voting for someone whose economic policies were more in line with their own. I understand that and I recognize that and can even relate because I am a taxpayer who isn't completely satisfied with the way my money gets used in this country. It doesn't make it easier that with that comes a candidate whose platform was endorsed by Russia and the KKK and was founded on stripping rights from people different than him.
For me, this election was about humanity. I do care about the economy, I do care about how our country moves forward with its immigration issues, but for me, this election, was about protecting myself, protecting minorities, and protecting the basic human rights and dignities that should come with being an American citizen.
I know that for the next four years, I will struggle every day to make sense of how we got here. I know that I will continue to grapple with internal conflict every time I see a MAGA hat. I know that I will probably annoy or offend people in my close friends and family with the activism that I pledge to undertake to protect the voiceless. But I am tired. I am tired of hiding my beliefs. I am tired of being nervous to post something. I am tired of trying to defend myself on behalf of an entire ideology because people hold such strong anti-Liberal stereotypes. And I know that my Republican friends are tired of defending themselves from the same harmful stereotypes that have formed around them.
But I refuse to play into this hateful dichotomy that is tearing our country limb from limb. I will continue to try and educate and I will continue to try and understand those who believe differently than I do. I won't stop facilitating healthy dialogue and I won't close my ears or my mind. I refuse to believe that my friends and family fall into the horrific stereotypes I've seen about their party and I would only hope that they show me the same decency.
To the family and friends who are reading this right now, I love you and that won't ever change. I hope that we can move forward and facilitate healthy dialogue that won't alienate or attack either one of us. I hope that we can seek education and understanding and be advocates for change together. I hope that you are with me.