I am sitting in a beautiful garden, on a wooden bench that smells faintly of wood that’s been outside for years. There are large slabs of granite at my feet. In a nearby tree, a bird sings and jumps among the sun-lit, bright green leaves. That bird doesn’t know about the presidential election results. He or she has no idea what just went down in the country it’s in, and I envy him or her for that.
I am trying to embody the lightheartedness of that bird, but it isn’t working yet. So far, I feel varying degrees of shock, outrage, despair, nausea (physically—a manifestation of my inner turmoil), and numbness. I’ve seen this before—in George W. Bush’s elections, but this feels far worse. A bigoted, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic perpetrator has been elected by the American people to hold the highest office in the land.
My girlfriend and I are seriously discussing moving moving away for the time that he’s in office. I am trying to decide which country that has legalized gay marriage I would most like to move to, knowing that just as some of my ancestors did, I may never move back once I gain citizenship and build my life elsewhere. This prospect has brought up in me a wave of grief—stronger than expected, but this is all unexpected right now. I am grieving the future that I am saying goodbye to by leaving the US—one in which I live only hours from most of my family members. I am grieving because as crazy as this land is, it has been my home since birth. I know the trails of Yosemite and the still waters of Lake Tahoe, and the gorgeous ocean coastline of California because I was born and raised here. There is so much I am giving up by leaving, and yet, how much of what I love will be destroyed during the Trump presidency with a Republican House and Senate?
I grieve, too, that I have been an apathetic citizen—not an empowered activist. I did nothing to stop George W. Bush being elected in 2004, when I was already an adult and could have made an impact. I see so much of the same reactions on Facebook today as I heard then—California should split off and be its own country, and that we must rise up and create change now to change the 2018 and 2020 elections. How much of this is just talk, intended to lead to action but when the current charged emotions settle, so too will the efforts towards action, and folks will go back to their lives and put up with whatever chaos is unleashed by a Trump presidency?
I did nothing to change the outcome of this election. My hope was dashed when the DNC and the rules supporting their control of the nomination of a Democratic candidate took away my Presidential candidate, the first candidate in my lifetime that I saw had a track record of decency and integrity. And with Bernie Sanders no longer holding the torch for the future, I signed onto the HRC bandwagon, but begrudgingly.
I never really thought Trump had a chance—I didn’t think I needed to do anything. I walked right past one of Hillary’s campaign headquarters, weeks before the election, and laughed at the “Nasty Woman” signs that her campaign had created. I didn’t go in—I didn’t volunteer a minute of my time, because I didn’t see a need. But now, contemplating the future of the country where nearly everyone I know and love lives, I wish I could at least stomach this reality a little easier with the knowledge that I had tried to stop it. I wonder how many people feel as I do today, determined not to live in an America run by Donald Trump, wishing this could have been prevented, and knowing that leaving means losing as well as gaining.
I pray that changes happens in the US—perhaps this election is what was needed for people to wake up to the injustices and illness inborn in our culture and find a way to root them out–but did it really have to come to this? Ideologies and hatred is coming to the surface now, and change needs to happen in order to find a way to make the US a hospitable home for so many different people who are currently feeling scared and vulnerable.
I will live in a country that supports people of color, women, LGBT people, poor people, veterans, mentally and physically handicapped people, survivors of sexual violence, and the environment. I will build a life in a place where I can wake up proud to be a citizen. I will find this place and nurture a newly sprouting seed in my soul—activism—in a space where my voice and my needs and my rights will be valued.