What Have We Done?

I slept poorly the night of the election.  Things did not look reassuring when I went to bed, and I found myself waking in anxious fits every couple hours until the morning.  Every time I woke up, I thought about reaching for my phone to see what the results had been, but I had to weigh that against the need to get more sleep.  Whatever the outcome, I needed to go to work the next day, and a potentially miserable day didn’t need to be compounded with lack of sleep.

I woke up with my alarm, and Rachael immediately showed me the headlines on her phone.

He won.

I’ve gone through a variety of reactions as I’ve been processing the news.  I imagine I’ll be processing it for a long while.

The analytical side of me wants to know how the polls were so off.  All the data pointed towards a likely win for Clinton, and the data was catastrophically off.  I’ve been saying for months that he couldn’t win because his electoral strategy involved only appealing to one subset of the whole population.  The numbers didn’t add up.  It did not math.

The violent side of me rages, even if only internally.  We elected a monster.  We knew he was a monster.  Not one day since the beginning of his campaign has he hidden who he is, and we picked him.  I want to scream constantly; I want to curse in the faces of people I know voted for him, want to tear things down, want to lash out so badly.  It feels like it would be easy to exchange hurt for hurt.  I’d just have to let go, indulge those base desires.  It would be cathartic; there’s that tiny, electric thrill that comes from just thinking of doing it.  How much more intense would the relief be with the actual act?

The self-loathing side of me has trouble looking in a mirror.  I look like the people who elected him.  It echoes in my head, “You are the problem,” and I can only muster a whispered response, “I’m not like that; I voted for her; I spent months pointing out everything wrong with him; I did everything I thought I could do.”  It’s small comfort in the face of the reality that to people who will be most hurt by the next four years, I look like the enemy.  It hurts immensely to realize I’ve come to thinking about enemies in my own country.

The afraid side of me rises in terror in between breaths.  We elected a man so intemperate, so unstable, that I worry about the safety of the world.  I wish I were being hyperbolic, but I’m just not.  He’s going to have access to nuclear weapons.  He’s going to command the strongest military in the world.  He throws temper tantrums when people point out things he’s said and done on the record.  I am afraid.  I don’t know when I’m going to stop.

The sad side of me is the strongest.  Every thought it punctuated with grief.  Every moment I’m alone threatens to resolve in tears.  People will die because of this man.  My friends who are female, Black, Muslim, Latinx, and LGBTQ are going to suffer more because of what we’ve done.  Children will grow up in a country where they will see that we indulge our worst impulses on a national stage, and they will learn that is what it is to be a citizen in America.  I’ll have to watch that play out daily at work, and my admonitions to be better to one another will fall on deaf ears.

What comfort is there in this new world in which we find ourselves?  Where do we turn when our neighbors have betrayed us and themselves?  How do we go on into the future?


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