I don’t even know what to say.
Tuesday morning I was hopeful. Excited. At six a.m., the line already snaked around the block at my local YMCA. People were annoyed at the small room and Rube Goldberg-like process (stand in this line, now that line, now this line), but still hopeful. Still excited.
That night I went to bed early. Exhausted from a cold and my brother’s wonderful wedding in Las Vegas, I turned off the light at eight o’clock. I thought about staying up to watch the election results, but decided it would be too nerve-racking. Besides, I was fairly sure it would be Hillary, although it would be close, because that man absolutely, positively could not become president.
At 4:30 the next morning, I found out I was wrong.
In the primaries I voted for Bernie. I wanted the more progressive candidate, the one without the sketchy backroom dealings. But Hillary would do. Girls and women could look up to her. They could believe that with hard work and perseverance, they could be president one day too.
Then, as Trump revealed layer after rotten layer of horribleness, like a bruised apple you discover is actually decayed to the core, she would more than do. She’d have to do.
Because just when I thought he couldn’t get any worse he did.
Build a wall? Can’t get worse.
Ban Muslims? Can’t get worse.
Make fun of disabled people? Can’t get worse.
Disparage a fallen veteran and his parents? Can’t get worse.
Brag about assaulting women? Can’t get worse.
Actually assault women? Can’t get worse.
It got worse. And it’s going to get worse.
One of my favorite podcasters, Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant, posted a thoughtful and moving message. Like him, I hope the Donald’s insane propositions will never come to light. I hope the woman on my bus is right that repealing Obamacare will be extremely difficult since the House needs the supermajority, which they don’t have.
Like Chuck, I’m financially stable. I have a good job. I have health insurance. So I’ll probably be okay.
But it’s not me I’m worried about.
I’m worried about the kids of color being blocked from their lockers in Michigan.
I’m worried about the NYU Muslim students targeted with hostile graffiti.
I’m worried about the students called racial slurs “because Trump is president now.”
I’m worried about the black students at the University of Pennsylvania who received messages with “racial slurs and images of lynchings.”
I’m worried about every single person of color.
I’m worried about every single Muslim.
I’m worried about those brave enough to continue wear their hijabs.
I’m worried that gays will lose the right to marry.
I’m worried that Planned Parenthood will be defunded.
I’m worried about any woman or girl unlucky enough to run across someone like this piece of garbage of a man.
Because now with Trump in the White House, it’s okay to be a horrible human being.
It’s okay to grab a woman by any body part without her permission.
It’s okay to call women pigs, slobs, and dogs.
It’s okay to ban people from a country based on their race or religion.
It’s okay to make fun of the disabled.
It’s okay to not pay your taxes.
It’s okay to have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.
It’s okay to do all those things. In fact it’s more than okay.
Do all those things, and you could be president one day.
“Daddy’s over it now.”
My conservative Chinese immigrant parents hate Trump. They think he’s ridiculous and indecent. Not a good representative for the rest of the world. They don’t like Hillary either, but at least she seems like a president. Taiwan has a woman president. Why not America?
Even under Trump, they’ll be okay. They have savings, a house, health insurance (at least for now). Then I reminded my mother of everything Trump has done, how now people will think it’s okay to do those things too.
“Ohhh,” my mother said, realization hitting her. “Ohhh.”
Perhaps she was remembering the bullies in our neighborhood, the ones who called my brother and me “chink” and “ching chong” every day. Who made us afraid, who made us cry. Perhaps she was realizing a bully like that is now our president.
Congratulations, America, you’ve elected the class bully.
You remember the class bully, don’t you? Red-faced, angry, disruptive. Picking fights for no reason. Picking on the most vulnerable.
This is the man who’s leading the country. This is the man who’s supposed to lead and protect.
The closest feeling I had to Tuesday was on 9/11. Of course that Tuesday was infinitely worse, but the feeling at least was in the same family. Shock, sadness, hopelessness. Helplessness. The feeling of watching disaster fall like a giant wave over the country and knowing there’s nothing you can do.
First we had 9/11, someone tweeted, and now we have 11/9.
But with all of that, there was something else. Love.
As I gazed on the tired faces of my fellow commuters. As I spoke with my friends and coworkers. As my “I Voted” sticker flew out of my wallet, and the lunchroom cashier caught it.
“My sticker,” I said.
She bowed her head.
The same I felt that terrible day when the normally stoic security guard called me “Honey.” When everyone outside New York called, saying, “I love you.”
I was worried then too. About our own safety but also about the Muslim family who owned the convenience store down the block. The teenage boy, normally surly, who literally draped himself in an American flag, telling people who came in to yell at him, “I’m American! I’m American!”
Are you okay? I asked him and his father. Are you all okay?
Will we be okay?
Of course the only thing to do about is bullies is to stand up to them. Even if it’s little things, like when my mother stared daggers out the window at the racist kids at our bus stop, when she went up to one one day, grabbed him by the arm, and said, “You leave my kids alone!” Like when brother said, “Fuck you” in school to our worst bully as he passed her in the hallway. Out of her element and without her cronies, she looked afraid, he said.
So now I say fuck you.
Fuck you bullies.
Fuck you racists.
Fuck you anti-Semites.
Fuck you misogynists.
Fuck you homophobes.
Fuck you xenophobes.
Fuck you people in my parents’ town with your pro-Trump and “Hillary for Prison” yard signs. (For real, do you have it so bad? With your big house and manicured lawn, living in an expensive, mostly white New Jersey town? Do you honestly want it to be better for you?)
Fuck you for taking away hope. Fuck you for setting us back. Fuck you for voting on hate.
Like that other Tuesday, I’m filled with sadness but again, also love. Love for my friends and family. Love for my fellow New Yorkers. I look on every face I pass and think, I love you. The Latino father speaking Spanish to his two kids. The older Latino couple watching, fascinated, as the half-Asian young man ties up his hair in an elaborate man bun. The young woman in the head scarf working the counter at Le Pain Quotidian. The trio of young white men on the corner, trying to figure out what to do with their Friday night, until one of them says, “Let’s go to Chinatown!”
I can’t leave this place.
I can’t live anywhere else.
This is my America.
Like Leslie Knope, I refuse to accept this. He is not my president. This is not my government.
But I’ll carry on. I’ll go to work and pay my bills (and pay my taxes, unlike some people). I’ll look after my parents and reach out to my friends. I’ll run and hike and walk 10 miles on a beautiful fall day in the city. I’ll watch movies and too much TV. I’ll travel.
But I’ll also say something when I see something. I won’t stand by silent. I won’t do nothing. I might learn to punch and kick again since, apparently, as a woman of color living in these here United States, I might need it.
I’ll keep punching and kicking. I’ll keep writing.
I’ll keep having my say.