I wish I could say I woke up and realized that this was all a nightmare. Like many of you, I didn’t get much sleep Tuesday night. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the TV screen. I watched in disbelief as state after state turned red. As the hours passed, my inbox flooded with messages of shock and sadness from my friends and family. We all believed history would be made on Tuesday night. But this is not the history we expected. Yesterday, Americans did make history, by electing the least qualified and most divisive president.
As the results came in, the same questions kept going round in my head: how did this happen? Who were all these people that voted for him? Why did they vote for him? I couldn’t understand. Frankly, I still don’t. When I say I don’t understand, I don’t mean that I am not aware of the blatant racism, sexism and discrimination in America today. I am. If anything, this election has only made all of that even more apparent. I say I don’t understand because my heart breaks and my mind falters to comprehend a world that is so divisive and full of hatred.
As a British citizen who had been extremely grief-stricken after the Brexit vote, the feeling was all too familiar. The realization that the unimaginable had become the possible. That the impossible had become the reality. That hate and terror had won once again. The reality that, yet again, a campaign founded on hatred and division had triumphed. This feeling was all too relatable and haunting. I felt devastated once again. But this isn’t about me.
I’m not American and I do not live in the United States. Donald Trump is not my president, and he never will be. You may wonder then, why I care so much. I care because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (MLK) I care because those I love most have been deeply affected. I care because people are hurting. Because the result of this election presents a threat to people’s lives and livelihoods. I care because today, like myself and many others, the nation woke up broken and shattered. And no matter how you voted on Tuesday, you should care too. People are not upset about this result because their candidate lost. People are upset because they feel this result puts their lives at risk.
What’s even more disheartening is that as the final votes were counted, it became apparent that the people had elected Hillary Clinton, but the system elected Donald Trump. As a result of this election, I am sure that the electoral college will be discussed at length. People will argue about why it is beneficial or why it is detrimental. But too frequently in today’s world we talk of change, but then there is never any action to follow. We need change. But more importantly, we need action.
Like many of you, I expected to wake up yesterday and write about the first woman president of the United States. I expected to write and read about glass ceilings being shattered, and of being “stronger together.” I expected to see unity. But the scene the world woke up to was much different from the one I envisioned. It was at 7:30 GMT when Donald Trump was declared president-elect of the United States. It was after 18 months of campaigning, 12 months of constant political talk and 36 hours of no sleep that it dawned on me that this nightmare was our reality.
No, a Clinton presidency wouldn’t have been perfect. She has flaws. She has made mistakes. She is a politician in every definition of the word. This election was not an easy one, and the choice between the two candidates was nearly impossible for some. A lot of people went into the vote on Tuesday voting for “the least of the worst,” which made Clinton an obvious choice as she was more qualified for the position and hadn’t spent her entire campaign insulting nearly every group of people. Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States. Or so we thought.
Instead, we woke up to Facebook statuses shared by friends about their brokenness and their sadness. We woke up to fear. We woke up to the unexpected. We woke up to the unimaginable.
Donald Trump’s bid for presidency began as a joke. He proved himself time and time again to be a misogynistic and racist leader. The possibility of a Trump presidency did not seem real. And yet, on January 20th, 2017, the world will watch as this man, whose campaign was founded in forces of xenophobia and white supremacy, is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
On Wednesday, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, survivors of sexual violence, Muslims, Latinos/as, Blacks, and other non-white, non-privileged minorities woke up to the frightening reality that their country does not care about them. It is scary. It is painful. It is complex. And it is not something that can be unpacked overnight.
One of my friends said to me today, “I feel like I don’t know much, but I know this hurts.” It does hurt. And as Hillary Clinton said, it will hurt for a while. The ramifications and consequences of this election and this decision are still unknown to us. We have much healing to do, as individuals, as a nation, and as a global community. Today, I am heart broken. Today, I feel helpless. Today, I sit in silence as I pray for a better world.
But tomorrow, we must all wake up ready to fight. Tomorrow, we must rise. There is still much work to be done. During her concession speech, Clinton said, “please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” Don’t stop fighting. Do not let this election set you back. If anything, please let the result of this election push you to fight harder. Yes, Donald Trump was elected as president. Yes, this is shocking and startling. The question now is – what are you going to do about it?