A year ago, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. I remember that night vividly. I swapped out my celebratory white wine with an ice cube for a self-medicating vodka tonic. I went to bed defeated.
Was I so thoroughly wrong to believe it gets better? History is supposed to bend towards justice, isn’t it? That felt like a law of physics. You jump from the Earth only to be pulled back down. For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. This country, founded by war and built by slaves, is meant to rise from strife and injustice and become a place of equality and fairness.
I thought everything I believed in about the American spirit and human decency was wrong. A self-proclaimed sexual harasser lived in The People’s House. A man with such a fragile ego that a simple correction of his many lies stood an equal chance of starting a Twitter feud or a nuclear war. I was bereft.
It took seeing millions of people march on January 21, 2017, to anchor me again. With fists raised, voices screaming, clever signs, and pink hats, millions of people said, “Not in my country.” It felt like the three million more people who voted for Hillary Clinton descended into our country’s streets. We lost, but we were the moral majority.
I’ll always be who I was on November 8, 2016: an optimist who voted for the first woman to be a major party’s presidential nominee. A believer that America is great because it’s made up of diverse people who all seek the same values and goals — compassion, justice, equality, success. We don’t scapegoat people. We don’t marginalize and stigmatize those who are different. We unite through our shared humanity to make a place anyone and everyone can call home.
Fast forward to November 2017. I wasn’t just anchored anymore. My feet stood on solid ground. Cruel members of Congress failed to take away health care from the poor and the sick more than once. The pillars of democracy seem to be holding. The press, courts, experts, elected officials (some even from the president’s own party) denounce hate, greed, and lies. Virginia elected the first openly transgender woman to their House of Delegates. As if the universe was repairing itself, Danica Roem defeated an incumbent who wrote a transphobic bathroom bill. The Old Dominion soundly rejected a man who echoed Trump’s racist tactics as their governor. All of this unfolding just across a river from Trump’s White House.
The Trump Administration can try to take away my rights and the civil liberties of my family and friends. They may succeed at times. But they’ll never take my optimism or hijack my patriotism. History does bend towards justice. And I’m grabbing a hammer from the fire to make it so. I hope you do too.