Dear America: The 2016 U.S. Election

american-flag-in-booksFor today’s Thinking Thursday, I’m going to talk about an event obviously very important to me: The United States 2016 election. I have decided to write an open letter to basically all Americans as well as our friends of America. I know it’s very long, in fact the longest post I’ve ever written, but please stick with me because I feel that this is crucial to discuss and I spent a painstakingly long time crafting this.

Dear America,

On November 8, 2016, I waited with the rest of America, and indeed, the world, to see what the outcome of our election would be. Many of my peers and my friends were certain that Hillary Clinton would win, but I myself was more unsure. I was filled with anxiety the whole day, and watched with mounting horror as Donald Trump gained more and more votes. I still held out hope, but after Trump won Florida, I began to lose faith. I started to panic. By the end of the night, I was in shock. The whole experience just felt surreal. I watched as my Twitter feed, my text groups, my Twitter chats, and even a dormant Facebook group chat began to explode with mounting horror. In the end, Donald Trump won and I just sat there for a few moments. I sat there wondering, “How could America do this?” I couldn’t even cry. I was just speechless.

I started getting angry, and I just felt like raging at everyone and everything. At the third party voters, at those who didn’t vote, at those who wrote in fake names, and of course at the Trump supporters. I couldn’t decide who I was angrier at. I have some very close friends and even mentors who I knew for sure were pro-Trump, and I couldn’t even think about how I would face them. Along with much of book Twitter and just Twitter in general, I retweeted, angry, terrified, and horror-stricken, tweet after tweet.

As the night wore on and the outcome began to truly sink in, I began to cycle through a variety of thoughts. What else could we have done? There were so many people working tirelessly to promote justice and equality, to promote the candidate they thought would be the best for America at this moment. She may not have been perfect, but she was the best option, and I do believe she could have done some truly wonderful things. I wondered if many people could have changed their minds if we had only talked them and had more conversations. This election was so full of hatred and division, and I wonder where we would be if only people really listened to one another. One of my best friend’s parents voted for Trump on the basis of his economic policies. I understand supporting Republican policies, but were those policies truly compelling enough to vote for someone with no political experience? One of my mentors voted for Trump because she doesn’t think that women should be running the country. I don’t understand this at all, but on top of that, was a female leader so “backward” that you could vote for someone with such hatred in his heart? Next, I pondered how bad Trump would really be for this country. Could he or would he even get anything done? Immediately, I answered my question. For the first time since 1928, Republicans control or will control every branch of the American government. This means that Trump will most likely be able to get what he wants with ease. Side note: 1929 was the start of the Great Depression just putting that out there. Finally, what have we done, America? What have we done? I don’t even know how to answer that question, and quite frankly, I am almost too scared to even try.

Yesterday, and even today, I walked around an extremely shell-shocked school. Yesterday, almost everyone at school was crying and terrified. It broke my heart.  I go to an all-girls school where the majority is rich and white. If we are feeling this way, I can’t imagine what those in less privileged situations are feeling. Is this truly the reality of the America we must now face?

Yesterday, in my ballet class, actually a surprising amount of people were pro-Trump. I didn’t know what to do or say. As I’ve said above, one of my best friends and her family voted for him. I felt very uncomfortable because I love my friend dearly but I didn’t feel like I could talk to her rationally. I just couldn’t understand how people as lovely as her and her family could vote for such a horrible person. I actually felt kind of bad for her because she was crying, saying she felt very attacked. At the same time, I was struggling to reconcile how great of a friend she was with how she could support such a man. It saddens me that I have to question such things because of political beliefs, because of people who are Republican and feel they have no other choice but to vote for Trump. I honestly just felt so confused and drained. In the end, I decided to just not engage in political conversation because I didn’t want to say things that I would later regret. Does this make a coward? Maybe. I honestly don’t know anymore. This is the America we now have. Divided and contentious, even among friends. As I write this, there are millions filling the streets and protesting Trump. I wish I had the courage and time to do that too, but I applaud you to the fullest. However, it shouldn’t have to be this way. I don’t know if protests about presidency have ever happened on such a large scale in recent American history, but the fact that this has to happen is extremely sobering.

The problem with all this hatred is that it didn’t drop from the sky. It has always existed in America, and we pretended that the problem was going away, gone even. While our discrimination certainly wasn’t gone, it was getting better, slowly but surely. With the arrival of Trump, all of the hatred that was simmering beneath the surface seemed to bubble up again and began to balloon. It basically feels like we’re right back to square one. So much of this election was based not merely on Trump himself but on his platforms of fear, hatred, and anger. We need to realize that these problems of hatred were already here, disasters that have already happened, are happening, and will happen. The amount of hatred on display is staggering, and it’s only day 2. I can’t help but wonder if these wounds will ever heal.

I decided not to post this letter until today so that I could make sure that I was thinking rationally. As my history teacher said, “You are allowed to mourn. You are allowed to grieve, and be angry, and be terrified. Those feelings are valid and important. But there will come a time, sooner than you might think, when the mourning period will be over. You must not just sit on the sidelines hopelessly, but fight. Fight for others, and use your privilege to produce change in the world.” I may still be mourning, but I am consciously making a decision to fight even harder today and for the rest of my life. No matter my identity, I will fight. But who exactly am I?

I am not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but I am an ally. I have many friends and even teachers who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and I stand right by their side. I am honestly very scared on their behalf given not just the stance of many Republican government officials but especially Mike Pence, the man who thinks that electrotherapy can “shock gay people into being straight.” This is absolutely sickening, and I just don’t understand how people can think that way. If I’m this scared right now for the LGBTQ+ community, I can’t imagine how terrified members must be feeling. I know it’s inadequate, but I sincerely apologize to LGBTQ+ members for all that you must be going through. As an ally, it is my duty to fight for those who can’t, for those whose voices are being ignored.

I am a practicing Roman Catholic, but I stand with all religions, especially Muslims and Jews in these trying times. As a Christian, I am appalled by what so many do “in the name of Christ.” The hate and bigotry of so many people who use religion as an excuse to commit horrifying deeds is just completely and utterly sad. I want someone to point me to the section of the Bible that condones hatred because I seem to have a different version. As for those who are Muslim or Jewish or anyone condemned by their beliefs, I’m so sorry that you have to live in fear because of what you believe. To Muslims especially, I’m so sorry that you can’t wear your hijab for fear of your life, and I’m so sorry that many automatically assume you are terrorists. I know this can in no way fix the magnitude of the problems you are dealing with, but I tell you this: I support you. I stand with you.

I am a woman. Women make up about half of this planet, and yet we are still not treated equally. There are still many people who think women cannot lead. There are still many people who think women are inferior and not capable of thinking for themselves. There are still many people who think that women should not be paid the same amount as men. The list goes on and on. This is why we need feminism. Feminism is defined as wanting equal rights for men and women. It is not, as many people incorrectly believe, wanting women to replace men or something. No. If you are a feminist, you are for equal rights. Period. So I will say it again with pride: I am a feminist.

I am a person of color (PoC). I am half Chinese and half Filipino. Asians may not be as targeted as Mexicans and African-Americans, and I fully understand that. There will always be someone more oppressed than me. And while I have heard stories of Chinese being called “Chinks,” and to go back home, there are undoubtedly many, many more horror stories about the oppression of other PoC. Everyone’s story of abuse is valid. It’s disgusting that kindergartners are telling their Mexican classmates that they can’t wait until they are deported. It’s disgusting that PoC are being told to sit in the backs of buses. It’s disgusting that PoC are being threatened at even higher rate than normal. So while as PoC, my voice may not be as noticed, I still advocate for all those PoC who are being oppressed.

I am a teenager. As I am 16, I did not get to vote in this election, and I don’t know what’s scarier. Knowing that you couldn’t do anything, that you couldn’t vote, and just had to watch everything unfold out of your control? Or knowing that like parents, you did your piece, you voted, and that still wasn’t enough? I’m not quite sure. However, as a teenager, this means that during some of my most formative years, including my senior year and the majority of my college experience, we will have one of the most inexperienced, hateful, and volatile presidents ever. I almost don’t even want to think about this, but I have to face it. This will be my reality. My job now is to educate both myself and others as much as I can about politics and what is actually happening so that when I vote, I am making a fully informed decision. We teens are the future of America, and we must hold the line. Change starts with us.

I am the daughter of two immigrants. My parents came to this country seventeen years ago from the Philippines. They are some of the hardest workers that I know. They don’t fit a lot of the negative and almost completely incorrect immigrant stereotypes. When they became citizens, it was one of the proudest moments of our lives So many people that I know, so many of my loved ones, are either immigrants or children of immigrants. The American government was built by immigrants. Some of our greatest inventions came from immigrants. Einstein, anyone? Immigrants are the backbone of our nation, and to say that they are unimportant, that they are horrible for the country, just does not compute with me. For what it’s worth, I stand by with some of the most crucial unsung heroes: the immigrants.

I am an American. As President Obama so eloquently stated in his moving speech yesterday, “We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first, we are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country.” On the night of the election, as people began to see that Trump was winning, the Canadian immigration website crashed. The “If Trump wins, I’m moving to ____” joke has been around for about a year now, but the reality is we cannot do this. We have to stay for our country. We have to become even more involved, not check out. Let us do our duty to our country, and help make it a better place, day by day.

It is our duty as bloggers, as Americans (or friends of America), as human beings, to speak out for what is right. We must listen. We must support. We must fight. Even if you can’t go out on the streets and protest, or make donations, just listening is the first step. Just telling people you’re there for them can go a long way. Just supporting marginalized groups and those who work towards peace, who stand up for what is right. Just calling out those who discriminate against others is a big step forward. We can fix this America. We are stronger together, so let us fight the good fight.

Sincerely,

A Concerned American

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