On Tuesday morning, I woke up with a naïve sense of excitement.
I threw on my Hillary Clinton shirt and walked to class, ignoring judgmental stares from Lehigh students and faculty alike.
After all, I’d be the one laughing tomorrow.
My liberal friends, and even some strangers, expressed their approval of the shirt. A few said they wished they had one of their own. I responded, “You can always get a matching one when she’s president.”
While leaving the polling station that afternoon, I saw my friend waiting in line. He expressed his fears about the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency, but I dismissed his concerns as ridiculous and unthinkable.
On my walk home, I paid no attention to the Trump signs that littered yards or decorated windows. When I walked through my front door, I announced to my roommates that I had just helped to elect the first female president of the United States.
Not once in the 2016 election had I prepared myself for the possibility of a Trump presidency. Not many people had. But it’s not necessarily our fault.
Virtually every poll predicted a win for Clinton. Nearly every major newspaper or media outlet considered Trump’s campaign a joke. They never seriously considered an outcome that didn’t include Clinton in the White House. It was simply out of the realm of possibility.
Beyond the failure of media coverage, there was always one thought that lingered in the back of my mind: America couldn’t possibly elect a man who is a fascinating combination of everything our country claims to oppose. He is a racist, misogynist, fear-mongering xenophobe, a pathological liar and a sexual predator. Surely his character isn’t one with which Americans would relate.
I was wrong.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up to the horrifying reality that our country had been set back 50 years in a matter of three hours.
In retrospect, this archaic, hateful way of thinking had been brewing in the U.S. for a long time. It was merely heightened when Trump announced his candidacy.
I chose to ignore it by convincing myself that Trump supporters were few and far between. In the process, I underestimated the power of hate and overestimated the character of the American people.
As a woman, I am terrified of what the future holds. As a straight white woman of comfortable socioeconomic status, my fears pale in comparison to the fears of minorities across the country.
Under a Trump presidency, my reproductive rights might be limited further. Roe v. Wade might be overturned, and Planned Parenthood might be defunded. Those are realities that directly affect the trajectory of my life and attack my identity as a woman.
But there are more identities aside from gender that have been attacked in this election: race, nationality, disability, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status, to name a few.
Possessing one of these identities and defending any of them against attack should not be mutually exclusive. Here are some realities that are not a direct attack on any of my identities but that I nonetheless care about:
- Marriage equality might be reversed.
- Obamacare might be repealed.
- Muslims might be banned from entering the country.
- Immigrants who sought refuge in the U.S. might be deported.
- LGBTQ members and disabled people might live in fear of being mocked by their own president.
You do not have to be a woman to fight for my right to reproductive health care. I do not have to be disabled to feel outraged when Trump mocked a reporter with arthrogryposis last November. We should feel compelled to fight against prejudice and bigotry wherever we see it, regardless of whether we’re the ones in their line of fire.
Over the course of the next four years, it’s possible that prejudice and bigotry may come from our own president. If that’s the case, these upcoming years are going to require courage, compassion and love. When there is so much hatred that exudes from the highest office in the country, all we can do is send unconditional love into the world.
Tuesday night, after Trump was declared the winner, I received a text message from my mom. Her words brought me comfort, and I hope they comfort anyone else grappling with the decision we made on Election Day.
“It’s not the end of the world. It may just feel like it.”
Emily Ward, ’18, is the deputy lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.