I am not American.
I kept repeating that to myself, wondering why I was so frustrated and heartbroken over the results of the U.S. elections. It should not affect me so profoundly. That Donald Trump combined with a Republican congress and a conservative Supreme Court justice will likely result in the reduction of regulations on climate, businesses and Wall Street; the reduction of the role of the federal government in policy areas like education; sharp tax cuts for businesses and the wealthiest Americans; the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; the potential deportation of millions of undocumented migrants—these things do not affect me directly, so why do I care so much?
So, in my head, I went through a checklist of very logical reasons of why I’m upset personally. First and foremost, the very real and lasting damages that can be enacted on climate change agendas if Donald Trump, who has called climate change a Chinese hoax, pulls the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement and scraps all the major regulations President Obama painstakingly put in place to reduce U.S. carbon emissions as Trump has promised to do, and which will shape all of our lives in the future. Secondly, the forewarnings of a global recession—the Australian dollar has already fallen, just as it did after Brexit, like what the actual fuck. Yes, yes, Trump will likely not fulfil many of his promises as he flipflops like an acrobat between them and things will calm down, but for now, the future still looks bleak from where I’m standing.
But I know that’s not why I felt so sad down deep into my bones. Those were just justifications to be voiced to friends and acquaintances so that I sound reasonable and not melodramatic and not just another woman feeling hysterically and reacting emotionally. The truth is, an immediate and wholly intangible consequence of his win was that it inspired very real feelings of rejection and unwelcomeness among nonwhites, women, LGBTQIA and disabled people–myself included. This was not just about Democrats vs. Republicans. I know this, because I did not, and many did not, feel like this when their party lost in other elections.
As always with these things, I feel like I have to put up a disclaimer: I don’t believe that Donald Trump truly believed in half the things he said, he said them for attention and for ratings and for votes, but he said them, and people obviously listened. And I do not at all believe that the hundreds of millions of Americans that voted for him were racist, misogynistic, hateful people, some maybe, but definitely the minority (there’s a great article here about how his hateful rhetoric resonated with people through villanising the Other so that the vulnerable white working class did not have to feel like they themselves failed. Update: on the other hand, from the sudden influx of media outpourings in attempting to understand the poor white middle class, this). I have always believed in the good in people, and I still do.
But it still hurts. As a woman. As a nonwhite.
It hurts of course, to know that some people voted because of the awful things Trump spouted about minorities and women. That’s a given. But it still hurts that more people voted in spite of those things. That your dignity as a human being was an inconvenience to be carelessly tossed aside on the way to the polls, something to be overlooked, in the pursuance of change, regardless of the nature of that change.
I know its not like Trump can repeal civil rights or the suffragettes movement (although with his stance on immigration and pro-life and how today alone there has been a rush of women scrambling to get IUDs, there are going to be tangible differences in ways of life for minorities and women in America), but the gesture of his winning on such a hateful rhetoric, however symbolic and it’s just words, only reinforces and legitimises the feelings of nonwhites and women as second class citizens. Of unwantedness, of unworthiness. It validated those little voices that sometimes and unexpectedly crawls out of the deepest, darkest recessions of your mind. The people that dismiss or patronise these feelings of disappointment and grief over these elections need to check their own privilege.
I didn’t even know how much it had meant to me to have a woman become President until it didn’t happen. As overused and heavy handed as this analogy is, it doesn’t lessen its sting nonetheless, that the smartest, most overqualified, hard working woman still lost the job to a dumb man with no experience and no appeared desire to learn or better himself, who, as an extra slap in the face, has been accused of multiple accounts of sexual assault, including one on a thirteen year old girl. What a humiliating defeat to such an undignified and unworthy opponent. Hillary, and all the women with her, stood under a literal glass ceiling at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, waiting, hoping, expecting to shatter it, only to realise it was reinforced with steel.
I don’t want to claim that I have had a disadvantaged life in any way. I know that I am extremely privileged, and if there was ever proof that a nonwhite woman could be afforded endless opportunities, I’m it. I know that this is not the case for most people, and so many have it worse off than me. This is not meant to be a woe is me piece. However, I wish I could put into words, the everyday, little, idiosyncrasies of being a nonwhite woman that affects who I am and how I conduct myself today, but I really can’t. I tried today, and I can’t. You’ll just have to take me at my word, because I have lived it, that it does matter.
And I can sympathise that people, many liberals and democrats included, were angry and suspicious of Hillary for mishandling classified information and stealing the nomination from the people’s choice (and my personal choice) Bernie Sanders in the rigged primaries. Maybe she should have never gotten the nomination in the first place, but she did. And people can be and should be angry and upset by how that came about and waxing poetry about what could’ve been, but they should have also realised that the presidency and their term is bigger than just the one appointed individual– it’s about their policies on climate, on health and education, on immigration, on families and taxes; it’s about their team and who they surround themselves with and who they appoint; and it’s about the principles of which they stood for and the people they vowed to fight for. And so, to those liberals and democrats who exercised their freedom to vote for third parties who they knew had no chance of winning, or not at all, out of protest, to make a statement, you absolutely had that right, but know that you wasted your vote and now you, along with millions of people, even unseen people like myself, have to live with those consequences.
And please don’t tell me that I’m preaching to the choir, or shouting into an echo-chamber, I know that okay. It’s just how I feel.