Life Thoughts

A 22-year-old & The US Election

I’m speechless and I’m in mourning. Last night, this morning, all day, my heart broke for the America I thought we were and the America we are becoming. My heart hurts because half the population (including some of my own family members) wanted change and thought the only way to get it was by electing a man who demeans women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants. And I hurt because I think maybe I didn’t do enough.

How did we get here? Where do we go? How do we move on? I don’t have these answers, but I do know that this great nation made a decision and it is one I will accept peacefully because that is the beauty of America and our elections. We had a choice. We made it. Violence and protests are not the answer. Listening and working together across party lines is. We are divided and that’s not a good place to be. Where we are now is on all of us.

I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like all the progress we made is about to be reversed. I feel scared, and I feel a little more alone and a little less loved. And I’m lucky — I’m a white woman who grew up in a nice, middle-class suburb (well, several) and has a college degree. I’m privileged and I know that. But that doesn’t mean our President-elect’s statements do not affect me. That doesn’t mean I’m not scared. Words hurt y’all.

I wanted Hillary Clinton because I’m a liberal. Because I agree with the majority of her stances on issues. Because I believe in a woman’s right to choose. Because I’m a feminist. Because I believe in an inclusive society that supports one another. Because I believe we are STRONGER TOGETHER.

I grew up a liberal Catholic in Texas. In case you missed it that’s a red state and a conservative religion. I’ve struggled marrying my faith and my beliefs, especially during this election cycle. I kept my mouth shut because of my fear of being attacked even among my friends and family. I got tired of feeling like I was judged for my positions, but I also was upset that was the case. Even now, I’m afraid to share this post across my friend group because I don’t want to argue and I don’t want to be attacked. I want to listen and be listened to.

When I was in high school, I had a cousin tell me not to speak my beliefs outside the state of Texas, so I kept my mouth shut. Even though most of my beliefs aren’t super popular there. I always thought that even though I wasn’t represented in my state, I would be represented in my nation. So I kept my mouth shut rather than engaging on Facebook, sharing another side of the argument. I joined a secret group of Hillary supporters because I needed a change in my news feed, and I needed to feel like I wasn’t alone. I stayed silent thinking my vote would be enough. And maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe I should have spoken up. That’s on me.

I kept quiet because that’s what I’ve been trained to do. Stay quiet. Stay hidden. Accept the outcome. And the bad will go away. But you know what? No more.

When I was 19 at a frat party, I was dancing with a guy who thought it was okay to kiss me without my permission. Yes, I felt violated. And I never went to another frat party again. I was told I shouldn’t have been dancing with him the way I was. I didn’t even want to be dancing with him to begin with.

A couple months after that, I was driving from Houston to Lubbock on my way back to school and I stopped at a rest stop. I was by myself and needed to go to the bathroom. I had stopped at this rest stop hundreds of times since I was a kid. It was always safe. But little did I know, a man would follow me out to my car and try to climb in it. I was lucky. Lucky that I had instincts that told me not to open the window to see what he wanted. Lucky that my parents always taught me to lock my doors the moment I got in, just in case someone tries to climb in with me. Lucky that my mother drilled all sorts of “what if” scenarios into my head so I was prepared when something like this happened. But I still stayed silent. And I didn’t tell my parents because I thought that meant they wouldn’t let me drive by myself anymore, and I didn’t want them to worry. (Sorry this is how you are finding out, y’all.) I was afraid to lose my freedom. And I’m afraid these experiences will continue to be discounted.

I’m ever vigilant everywhere I go. I don’t make eye contact with men on the street because I’m afraid they’ll take that as their cue to say and do whatever they want, and I’m afraid they’ll follow me. I don’t know what’s harmless and what’s not. How I react is so ingrained in me it’s almost subconscious. I don’t go to bars, and when I do I don’t drink so it’s easier to avoid the drunkards who think these acts are okay. Those actions are not okay. But right now, half my nation elected someone who thinks it’s perfectly cool to think that way and do those things. America, we elected someone who thinks that it’s perfectly okay to grab a woman without her consent. (It’s not.) And it’s because of those thoughts and Trump’s statements that I’m disappointed, lonely and scared.

But maybe, America, I should be thanking you. Because I don’t want to be silent anymore. I’m over it, and I have important things to say. Love is love. And it is the most extraordinary thing.

Thank you, for showing the world that sexism is real. You elected a man with no political experience or understanding of the system over a woman who was probably the most qualified candidate in the history of America. You called attention to something that happens to women in the workplace every day. I get it, you want change; you think the system failed you. You want to be heard just like I do. So, now that you’ve been heard, will you listen?

Thank you, America, because when the video of Trump’s comments describing sexual assault was released, mainstream media created a discussion around the issue. We talked about it with our fathers, brothers, boyfriends, husbands. But what are we going to do now?

Thank you, America. You exposed the world to what women and minorities face every day, and maybe this is the wake-up call we needed.

Thank you, America, because you reminded me of what I’m fighting for. What my mother, grandmother and ancestors fought for: inclusivity, freedom, compassion, shattered glass ceilings.

Today I am mourning. Tomorrow, I’m standing up to fight.

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