EXPeriencing Trump’s America

Note: This overall blog is not intended to be political, but while I have a venue to share my personal thoughts, I’m going to take advantage of it with this post. I welcome civil and respectful discourse below, but trolls will not be tolerated.

On Sunday I drove to Elwood, Indiana, a small town about 40 minutes north of Indianapolis. The downtown is crumbling—empty shells of once-thriving mom-and-pop shops were covered in unlit Christmas lights that will give the town a semblance of life during the upcoming holidays. More houses than not had chipping facades. The busiest places at 2:30 p.m. on a Sunday were the Dairy Queen and Richard’s Restaurant on the east side of town as you drive away at increasingly higher speeds. On my way there and back again, I saw three Trump signs. I saw more churches than I can count. I drove through corn and soybean fields lying fallow for the winter.

This is Trump’s America.

I suppose I was naïve, in my white privileged liberalism, to think that Hilary Clinton could win both the popular vote and the electoral college vote to become the first woman president of the United States. To uphold Barack Obama’s legacy. To beat a misogynistic, racist demagogue with the fire of rural white America behind him.

If you haven’t watched the Dave Chappelle/Chris Rock SNL skit yet, you should. I was one of those white women on election night, clinging to hope, looking for patterns, praying and denying and hiding from the fact that Trump could actually win the presidency.

I went to bed at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8 hoping I’d wake up in the morning to a bright new day with a woman president and knowing that love trumped hate.

How wrong I was.

I woke up at 1:30 a.m. as more and more states bled red. I watched Twitter and CNN alerts as the AP declared Trump the winner. At 3:30 a.m., I began to sob in bed. My sister told me she called the national suicide prevention hotline because she was afraid for herself and her friends and their rights. I cried for her. I cried for myself. I cried for half the country. For every woman, every LGBTQ+ individual, every African American, every Muslim, every immigrant who has been victim—directly or indirectly—to the hateful rhetoric spewed by Donald Trump, his surrogates, and his supporters.

I am so privileged. I am white. I am married to an individual of the same race and opposite sex. I am middle class. I have a college degree. I can go to the movies and expect to see people with my same skin color. I can drive, go to the store, and travel without judgment. I’ve never felt less lucky to be so lucky that I was born the way I am.

But I’m also descendant from Jewish immigrants. I lived without health insurance for much of my childhood. I’ve been directly exposed to others’ substance abuse. I am a woman in Trump’s America.

And I’m afraid.

The number of hate crimes that have arisen in the US since the election are worse than those after 9/11. Muslims are no longer the sole target. It’s anyone who is not a cis white male. And President-Elect Trump has made sure that is true by attacking everyone who is not a cis white male at some point in his campaign. Five days post-election, and he has not denounced a single hate crime. He has denounced protests against him, but not a planned KKK rally in honor of him. He has criticized the NY Times’ reporting, but appointed Breitbart’s executive chairman to be his chief White House strategist (a man who is responsible for a “news” outlet with headlines such as “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy”).

Donald Trump called for unity in his acceptance speech. But his actions before November 8 and every day since have shown nothing but division. Hillary Clinton’s message was “Stronger Together.” As much as Trump wants that from all of America, there will be no way that happens until and unless he is actually a president for all the people of the United States. I have precious little hope that will happen.

If you voted for Trump, I don’t hate you. As someone I respect very much said to me the day after the election, “I remain hopeful by reminding myself no group is one-dimensional, nor are the issues that they prioritize when going to the polls. We shouldn’t make assumptions about their motives. I still believe Americans are largely kind and compassionate.” I want to believe this is true so badly.

But then I read what Kumail Nanjiani wrote on Twitter: “Many ppl are like ‘just cuz I voted for Trump doesn’t mean I’m racist/sexist.’ Ok, but at best, you ignored it, you overlooked it.” I don’t believe most people who voted for Trump voted for him because they hate black people or women or Muslims. I want to believe they care about those individuals as much as anyone who voted for Clinton. But… they ignored “grab ‘em by the pussy.” They ignored the violence against minorities at Trump rallies. They ignored him making fun of disabled individuals.

At worst? They condoned those remarks. They agreed with them. And that scares me more than anything, that there are thousands of people in our country who are racist, sexist, homophobic, and are bolstered by their new president.

I am lucky to be white in Trump’s America. I am not lucky to be a woman. I am lucky to be married to a white man in Trump’s America. I am not lucky to be of Jewish descent. I have so much privilege. So many others do not.

That’s why I am going to try to use my privilege for good in Trump’s America.

I’m wearing a safety pin on my jacket whenever I leave the house. It may seem like a shallow, self-aggrandizing gesture to some. Honestly, I hope the only thing that comes out of me wearing it is that people think I’m some liberal elitist. Because if it’s more than a symbol, it means someone may need my help. Regardless of others’ opinions, the safety pin is my pledge to not be a bystander. It’s to try to be better.

This month, I’m going to make my first monthly recurring donation to Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky—aptly, my regional Planned Parenthood belongs to the two states that reported their electoral college votes for Donald Trump first. I visited Planned Parenthood as a teenager when I didn’t have health insurance and needed birth control. I will never forget their discretion, their lack of judgment, and their help. I am privileged enough to have employer-provided health insurance that not only covers my annual feminine exams, but pays for my birth control, too. So many women aren’t that privileged. More importantly? Planned Parenthood provides so much more than birth control—such as STD testing. Scott County, Indiana is still recovering from an HIV outbreak. Its cause was intravenous drug use and needle sharing. VP-Elect Mike Pence’s budget cuts forced five rural clinics to close. One of those clinics was Planned Parenthood. That Planned Parenthood provided STD testing and could have caught some of those HIV cases. This situation could have been mitigated or avoided altogether. I hope to help ensure it never happens in my state again.

I may be middle class with disposable income, but I’m not that established in my career. I am a Millennial, after all. So while I cannot make monthly substantial donations to all the causes that are important to me, I can give freely of my time. This month, I am going to look for organizations that need volunteers. Ideally LGBTQ+ or ACLU-affiliated organizations. I’ll file paperwork, I’ll tweet, I’ll sweep the floors. I’ll even make phone calls, my least favorite activity in the world, if it means I can help someone live better in Trump’s America.

I’m still afraid of what’s to come in the next four years. There’s too much unknown to be too confident. But I have friends who stand with me. I personally see more love than hate. I know that love is the correct direction of the country. Inclusivity and diversity are the future. Trump’s America may not like it, but that’s the truth. And I will spend every day of the next four years, of the rest of my life, proving that’s true.

Black lives matter. Immigrants get the job done. Who run the world? Girls. We are stronger together.

Additional thoughts, videos, and reading:

There are multiple opinion articles and Twitter threads that talk about how Trump could and did win over half of America to win this race. They do it far more eloquently and/or succinctly with far more truth than I could put into a similar piece. I’ll let you read those opinions for yourself, just know that I agree with them.

Dave Chappelle’s opening SNL monologue was also brilliant and poignant. Worth the 11-minute watch.

I also took great comfort in Seth Godin’s blog post from today, “Empathy Is a Bridge.”

The last Last Week Tonight of the year is definitely worth a watch, particularly when John Oliver shared organizations to donate to. And then giving a giant F U to 2016.

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