On the morning of November 9th, I woke up with feeling that something wasn’t right. I hadn’t stayed up to watch the election results, but I knew before even opening my laptop that it was over, that he had won. I didn’t know what to feel, I don’t think I really felt anything. I laid there in bed and caught up on YouTube videos, the results of the election not fully sinking in yet. By noon I went on Facebook, and that is when I realized I had woken up to Trump’s America. The examples of hate crimes and bigotry were everywhere, as well as the fear each and every one of my friends shared. My stomach turned, I cried, knowing his victory was inspiring those previously silent to come out of the woodwork and spread their hate.
Eventually, I went to our student-run coffee shop and a friend made me a chai latte complete with words of concern and love. We sat together for awhile, talking about the election, our feelings, our lives at present, while leaving long gaps of silent filled with our pain and fear. Everyone in the coffee shop looked like they had just come back from battle, bruised and abused from watching Trump’s electoral votes accumulating during the night. I hadn’t eaten all day, my anxiety had me so nauseous I couldn’t think of food. Eventually we drifted up to the diversity center, and there we laid on bean bag chairs like soldiers nursing their battle wounds. It did feel like the end of a war -- or the beginning of one -- but one that we hadn’t really fought. Sure we had voted for candidates other than Trump, maybe we wore election garb, phone-banked, wrote articles voicing our concerns about the election and our pride for our candidate, but all of that was in optimism, it was all happy work that never left us scarred. Everyone in the room felt like they were at fault, somehow. Maybe if we had just done more, this wouldn’t have happened.
Later that evening, I finally ate dinner. The college president was, surprisingly, still on campus, walking from table to table asking how each of us were, and inviting us to his office should we need to talk. His words of kindness and concern were like that of a parent, despite the fact that he knows few of us by name. His gesture nearly made me cry there, knowing that someone rather distant from the individual student was genuinely worried about each and every one of us.
I went to a dialogue to discuss the current political climate after dinner. This dialogue was announced before the election; I expected to be talking about the bright future we had, how I hoped my candidate would keep her promises, how proud I was to be a part of such a historic election, but this is not what we discussed. Instead, we talked about our fears. The fear of being a Latina woman, the fear of getting no support from parents, the fear of leaving one conservative neighborhood only to go home to another, the fear that we as Americans failed each other. These discussions were not strictly filled with Democrats: Republicans who voted for Trump also participated in discussions, and showed true shock and surprise for the seemingly dramatic reactions from the majority of people on campus. The discussions were heavy, trying to explain why we might be in danger to people who feel nothing but safe in Trump’s America, but they were open dialogues where people from opposing sides were able to listen to each other and try to understand.
These talks were filled with tears, hugs from friends, words of support from strangers, and promises to take action from professors. Not all of us were agreed on beliefs, nor on how to take the election’s results, but we were united then. Through our grief we tried to understand each other. On our small liberal arts college campus, you see the same faces every day. You probably end up meeting just about everyone at some point. This dialogue reaffirmed our sense of community, our sense of family. That’s what family does, we promise to support each other even if we disagree with each other, and that’s what happened that night. We promised to try to understand, and be mindful of the pain all of us were in.
November 9th, 2016 is a date I will never forget for two reasons. First, because it is the first day in my life that I have been afraid for myself because I am a woman, because I am disabled, and because I am bisexual. I know millions of people around the world have lived in fear their entire lives because of the minorities they are in, but this is the first time in my life that I’ve experienced such fear. I am both frightened by what is to come and humbled by the fact that I’ve lived for twenty years before feeling something like this. Secondly, I will remember this day because of the way it brought people together. It’s one of those “restoring my faith in humanity” moments. When people you don’t even know can cry with you and offer comfort to you, that’s when a small community becomes even stronger.In the days that followed, we wore safety pins, we continued the conversation, we marched in a protest, and we stood by each other. I don’t know what will happen over the next four years, but there is one thing I know for certain: if we stay together, we will survive this. Somehow. Someway.