I delayed in blogging about the election last week for a few reasons: First, everyone was doing it and I didn’t want to get lost in the noise. Second, I wasn’t ready.
I might not be ready now, to be honest.
It’s going to take you a while to read this. It took me a while to remember everything I felt over the last 10 days and draw somewhat meaningful conclusions from it. This is a step-by-step account of my personal journey experiencing, processing and eventually accepting that our country’s next president is Donald Trump.
Though whether “accepting” has actually happened, I’m not sure.
Monday, Nov. 7. One day to the election.
When I received my voter’s registration card and saw my early voting facility was the Museum of Broadcast Communications and Radio Hall of Fame, I knew I wanted to vote early just so I could do it in a place dedicated to the greatest political satirists, commentators and reporters who ever lent their voices to the airwaves. I almost threw a middle finger up at the one exception — Rush Limbaugh — as I giddily handed over my registration card. After an hour of waiting in line and alternating between Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” and “History Has Its Eyes on You” from Hamilton, I got up to the booth and voted for a president in-person for the first time.
“I’m not crying. I’ve just got democracy in my eyes,” I texted to a friend as I walked back to the office.
Tuesday, Nov. 8. Election Day.
We were so blind — so blind! — with our own hopeful light that we didn’t see the monsters in the shadows along the rim. After prematurely popping the Prosecco (say that three times fast), a friend and I sat back to watch election returns. By midnight, she had left to go home. I stayed up to see Pennsylvania turn red, at which point I turned out the light and tried to get some sleep. It wasn’t easy knowing the world to which I’d awaken.
Wednesday, Nov. 9. “The day after.”
I wasn’t sure if I was at work or a wake. Between exhaustion from staying up into the wee hours to see the final returns and shock at what those final returns were, very few of us said much — not because we didn’t know what to say, but because there was so much that none of us could articulate it. That’s the thing about working with communicators; we plot our words carefully.
As I stared at Trump grinning and gesticulating on three screens of cable news in our workspace, my mind began the laundry list of definitions based on all he and his followers have articulated.
A human who would scan my legs before scanning my résumé. A human who would assume my mentor, a black woman, lives in the inner cities on food stamps instead of in her suburban house. A human who would easily make fun of my fourth grade best friend’s brother for being disabled. A human who would demand that some of the smartest high school and college students in my graduating classes register as Muslim. A human who believes that saying Hispanic immigrants are rapists is “free speech” but wants to “open up the libel laws” to punish reporters who write about, say, the many women who accuse him of sexual harassment or assault.
Note that I refer to him as a “human,” not a man. I still stand by Maya Angelou’s “I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me,” which stops me from calling him one of the four-letter words that make my tongue itch. But “human” is my limit. Since my beginning, the men in my life — starting with my father and extending to my closest male friends and co-workers — have never behaved or talked the way our President-elect has. Therefore, I refuse to diminish their identities as men by equating them to this, breathe, human.
My nightly walking commute takes me past Trump Tower, and I knew (and hoped) there would be protests. If the Tea Party had been able to tote signs representing Obama as Hitler, the anti-Trump contingent should be able to tote signs declaring “Not My President.” And that’s what they were doing, as told by the police barricades that pushed me off my normal route and around the back of the Langham Hotel, just across the street from Trump’s phallic monument to himself along the Chicago River.
I had two options. I could continue past the gathering protesters and take a different route, or I could go up the steps to see what was happening. This was history, and I was intent on experiencing it. As Mom said later, “Once a reporter…”
But I wanted something else, too. Looking back I realize that I was seeking exactly what Trump gave his supporters: Proof that I had a voice, that my thoughts would be heard and there were other people like me feeling the same way. Trump made rural citizens, blue collar workers and white nationalists (or a combination thereof) feel recognized. When I stepped off the Langham Hotel’s plaza and continued across the river, down Wacker Drive and through the center of Michigan Avenue, shouting “Love trumps hate,” I felt the same way. In this case, we were gay couples holding hands, women donning hijabs, black teenagers blasting Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and average white people able to recognize the privilege our economic and racial status had afforded us — wanting the same for all and intolerant of intolerance.
Unfortunately, my bladder overruled my activism, so I turned off the protest path and toward my apartment and, subsequently, bathroom. I did exactly what many pro-Trump voters had electronically told protesters to do: Stop marching, go home and cry to Mommy.
Over the phone she assured me we would be OK and that our country would get through this — she had lived through the Carter administration, and that wasn’t exactly paradise. I countered with an internal scream that Carter wasn’t an Islamophobic, xenophobic misogynist likely to staff his cabinet and fill the Supreme Court with the same. Externally, I broke down. Not for my sake, but for my sister’s.
Bridget is currently a double major in political science and international relations. In our cocky days of the 2016 election, we joked that her plan to be the first female president was foiled by Clinton’s (and Trump’s) candidacy. But as much as I want to joke that “it’s OK, now Bridget can be the first female president as of the 2032 election,” I fear we’ll have fallen so far behind in the four and, God help me, maybe eight years of his administration that it’ll take us another 50 years for a woman to lead in the Oval Office. But forget about the highest office in the land: What about a state department job at all?
“I’m struggling today because I’ve chosen this field because up until this point, those with good intentions prevail,” she texted me the night after the election. “I don’t want to believe that a woman who has competed her entire life to have a seat at the table is still defeated by a less-qualified man. It’s killing my motivation.”
And Bee’s not some overdramatic college-aged Chicken Little crying “My prospects are falling.” New York Magazine wrote that 45 percent of women say Trump’s election makes them feel significantly worse about their career prospects. A candidate who couldn’t stop talking about how great he’ll be for jobs shouldn’t have that affect on 45 percent of half the workforce.
In fact, a presidential election result shouldn’t have any of these outcomes. Twitter and Facebook existed in 2012 when there wasn’t this kind of reaction, so you can’t blame it on social media alone. The fact is that both sides, regardless of favored candidate, are angry. We’re jacked up on high fructose corn syrup and false news stories, and it’s about to turn ugly because we’ve been practicing beating the pulp out of each other on football fields and our Xboxes.
None of this is normal. None of it should be normal. Especially walking down the center of Michigan Ave. on a Wednesday night.
Thursday, Nov. 10, through Wednesday, Nov. 16.
Emotions continued to run high. Spending Friday night with my parents gave us a chance to dream over whiskey of impeachment while Mom continued to reiterate “We will survive this.” There were moments of incredulous laughter when Trump reportedly didn’t realize he had to hire the whole White House staff and when Obama offered to spend time with him on what I call Remedial Presidential Tutoring. There were also deja vu moments to history classes when they said the chief strategist job went to Steve Bannon, whose editorial approach at Breitbart News seems strikingly familiar to that of Joseph Goebbels.
Most of all, there was a screaming match in my head between “Give him a chance” and “Would you give a genitals-grabbing David Duke a chance? No, I didn’t think so.” Any hint of giving Trump a chance faded with the Bannon announcement and several other speculated cabinet moves clearly created by Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels, such as Sarah Palin for Secretary of the Interior.
Comedians have declared we elected an “internet troll,” but we did more than that — we elected the internet itself. As I wrote in my March post demanding the respect of the people who want my vote (including Clinton, for what it’s worth):
Just as social media is void of respect, so is Trump — in fact, he is social media incarnate. His Twitter feed is an endless source of blood pressure-raising entertainment. His rhetoric is as pithy as a Buzzfeed post (I’m sure both parties would take offense to that simile). He’s as shallow as a Facebook post and a thousand times as vain as a selfie. While [others] have used social media to connect, Trump has taken it one step further to become social media — bullying comments, orange Instagram filter and all.
So what’s the healthiest way to approach the social media swamp? Keep it from controlling you, but do more than delete your account. Use your WiFi connection to share important ideas with those who are reading, not waiting for their turn to type. Connect it to causes, groups and movements that matter and make change offline.
Here are just a few things I’ve pledged to do:
- Continue blogging on Quills and Typewriters about the importance of identifying and protecting quality journalism, as well as commend things that promote diversity, inclusion and social equality.
- Be an active Advocacy Council member of Women Employed, an organization that pushes for equal pay and access to education for women in low-income positions.
- Subscribed to the Atlantic and (soon) the New York Times to support strong reporting and thought-provoking commentary.
- Volunteered my talents to two women launching supportive sites that remind people that speaking up through art and activism is crucial for social justice.
As for accepting the election? Almost 1,900 words later, and I’m still not there. I know I have to accept it because I cannot single-handedly change it (thanks, Serenity Prayer), but I can do my part to stand for the things threatened by the situation. Maybe that’s the silver lining in all of this: Maybe we’ll get more people productively acting on the social issues that matter the most to them.
And maybe hindsight, which is always 20/20, will be fresh in our minds come 2020.