Opinion: Trying to Process the Trump Victory
Melissa Kelley | 11/11/16 3:51pm
| Updated 11/11/16 4:01pm
Anna Moneymaker / American Word Magazine
Watching the elections on Tuesday night and watching Trump slowly creep towards a victory was terrifying. I had gone into the elections, like many others, feeling completely confident that Clinton would win. When Trump claimed Florida and Ohio, I started to realize that a Trump presidency could become a reality. I was texting my parents throughout the night and to my dismay, every question or comment I made about Trump wasn’t rebuked with the usual, “Don’t worry about it” or “He has no chance.” Their response was simply, “God help us all.” I felt lost emotionally—what was I supposed to do when the people who I had looked to for support, guidance, and protection my entire life were equally as terrified and confused as I was?
This morning was the confirmation. This is our reality. Trump is our reality. Bits of last night seeped into my memory, the shots of people crying on tv and the shaking of my roommate as she cried next to me. I sat up, ate a bowl of cheerios, and called my dad.
We spent half an hour trying to conceptualize our new reality. Did he win in response to Obama’s presidency? Was this white backlash and was this backlash inevitable? Nevermind Clinton, but could anyone defeat Trump with this nationalistic wave sweeping the country? Or, did Clinton not win because she was a woman? As we talked, no attempt we made to explain what was happening could calm our nerves or our fears.
This seems far fetched, but we wondered if American democracy and its institutions would survive a Trump presidency. If Trump said that he might not accept the election results if Clinton won, what makes us think that he’ll respect other checks and balances in our government? A peaceful transition of power is a trademark of American democracy and if Trump was already threatening not to respect that institution, we wondered if he would accept other signifiers of our democracy.
My dad and I ended our phone call with the sentiment of realizing we didn’t understand America right now. We felt disillusioned. We couldn’t believe how far off we had been to understanding how a majority of Americans truly felt. The large amount of people who are, consciously or unconsciously, backing Trump’s racist, xenophobic, sexist ragings is disorienting. I wonder if in 2008 people felt the way we feel now? I imagine a group of people sitting around a family room not understanding their country or how people could ever vote a black man to power.
Looking on social media left me with mixed emotions. I felt comforted by others who felt the same sadness as me, and I felt a slight relief knowing that my seemingly hyperbolic emotions were valid. However, I saw posts about peacefully accepting Trump, and people telling those concerned to ‘calm down’ because everything will be fine. There were a few Facebook posts telling people to not judge Trump supporters because it would only ‘divide us more’ and that we need to unite. I understand the sentiment of staying united as a country, however, I find it very hard to reach out to those who voted for a man who I feel is actively working against parts of my identity and the identities of many people I hold dear.
To those who told me that everything will be fine, I am skeptical. Even under the Obama administration certain people didn’t have access to civil rights. I wanted to send them the vast articles about the unarmed citizens killed by police, the women who have lost access to abortion clinics, and the articles on the myriad of other injustices that happen in this country daily. These injustices happen under a fair and just president, what will happen to the marginalized under a president that openly toutes racism and misogyny?
As the day wore on, I started thinking about other ramifications of Trump’s presidency. This reaches past the next four years. He will be picking the Supreme Court justices that decide our country’s most important issues. He has influence on which countries we ally with, if we go to war, and who we bomb. He, the person who tweeted that Global Warming was constructed by the Chinese, will have influence over our environmental policy. Economists are already warning of a global recession following his victory. The rise of Trump has already increased racial tensions and overt racism. When looking at all the facets of Trump’s presidency, the future being apocalyptic feels like an understatement.
I feel conflicted. Part of me wants to be happy and doesn’t want to be defeated by his victory. As a woman of color, Donald Trump is against everything that I am, against my entire identity. Happiness feels like a rebellion. Trump has won the election and he may control my future. His policies may control my body, my work environment, and the safety of my family. Happiness feels like the only thing that I can control, and it is something that I don’t want to give up to him just yet.
The other part of me is taking this as I would take the death of a friend. I’m in mourning. I’m in mourning for my friends and family and strangers who rightly feel inextricably lost and terrified. There’s no one correct way to feel, and there’s no one correct way to process what is happening. I’m realizing it’s okay that I can’t concentrate on what I’m doing, and that I feel at a major loss. I’m also realizing that it’s okay to take some time to try and reduce the overwhelming anxiety that Trump’s victory brings. The one positive out of all of this is feeling a much deeper connection with those around me who feel similarly about Trump’s presidency. There is so much comradery and people who are rallying and supporting each other. No matter what happens in the next four years, I know that love and passion still exists—at least somewhere in America.