Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election 2016: What Now?

So. That actually happened.

From the moment I awoke on election day, 2016, I was horrified and fearful of where we would be as a country the following day. I don't have to say it because, I think, a lot of Americans were feeling that way from the start. A lot of people around the world, if we're being honest.

Many scenarios crossed our thoughts during the hours in which polls are open nationwide. It’s a steady flow of anticipation that hops through timezones. We spend time contemplating where we could go from here, no matter the elected. It’s a sad reality that many feel we stand in the face of two evils, a two party system that feels dated or unfair. I think we all knew from the second we had our two party nominations, there would be outrage at either possible outcome. We've all been prepared for this for months.

My mind clouded with a series of heavy thoughts that included, but weren’t limited to, potential repercussions that come hand in hand with the night’s results. In such a tension filled race, there was hell to be paid by night's end.

It seemed disheartening even more so as the early hours progressed: outside, the weather accurately mirrored the general mood with dark clouds and a light shower. This was what my city looked like: gloomy, chilly and outright gray. I felt it right from the start. Election season was nearing its end and somehow, the skies foreshadowed what could very well be in such a short window of time. A weighted image of despair was following us as morning faded. Still, I held firm to hope and reminded myself to keep my head.

Because, at this point, that's all you can do.

Keep your head.

Maybe if we say it enough, we'll manage. 

I remember thinking of my grandmother as I pulled up to my polling location. I couldn't not think of her. Even before pulling up.

How her heart would be beating in a nervous relief as she walked in to vote; dedicating months and weeks and days and hours to the number one objective. To keep Donald Trump from office, to finally witness a woman so close to the biggest job in our nation’s political field. I admit, a lot of her excitement (that could have been) was spreading to me as election season wrapped up. She spent so many years of her life volunteering at events. Nearly every election–little or small–my grandmother was at the front of the line to make a difference and ensure all youths had a shot at possible futures.

My grandmother was open to all political possibilities but she definitely knew the difference between right and wrong. She was born Republican, but spent all her life as a registered Democrat.

Indeed, in a city so heavily entangled in conservative views, painted by religion and Republican representatives, she never–not once–wavered in her belief of a better tomorrow. How things could always be better, how privileged she was in her day-to-day life and how everyone deserved such. In her early years, my dear grandmother spent very little time being a child and took the reins of her family life at a young age. It was in those days she began to shape her beliefs not by what she'd heard but by what she felt: hard research, following her heart and optimistic for a change.

I could hear her faint voice trickling in at the back of my mind, embracing the possible outcome and reminding me not to take a minute of this privilege for granted. The stakes were far too high to do so and odds, they say, aren’t always in our favor. To stick around and fight for what’s right, if not for yourself than for those who can’t. Without taking away their voice. "Remember what's at stake, Jessica," is, perhaps, what she would have said to me had she been alive.

Before I left that morning, my dad stopped me as I drank my morning coffee and I had only just begun to pull myself together. As someone raised in a family of free thought, a secure level of space to blossom into my own way of thinking, I had already known long ago which party had my vote and why it would not be thrown away on third party vote.

(At least not in an election like this one.)

He had cast his ballot before work just a few moments before and proclaimed a very scary, understated, fact: “The polls were empty. I was the only one in line.”
I remember a stir of anxiety at this. For as long as I can recall, my father was often greeted by an hours wait on election day. If this wasn’t a cause for concern, I don’t know what else could be. Although my district is modest when compared to others in my hometown, it’s important to note how startling a fact it is in seeing no one there.

Not. A. Single. Person.

I was quick to jump to one reply: "A lot of people cast their ballots early." I had to believe this was the case--chalk that up with my dad having gone the very first half hour the polls were open, I was almost certain that I'd be greeted to a bigger crowd. My first presidential election, in which I was eligible to vote in, was in 2012, and it was packed. I was positive that my time at the polls would be different.

Wrong. Just around 9AM, I walked into my location to vote and was surprised to find my wait was mediocre, as well. I was naturally shocked. There were only about six people in the room--not including the other seven or so volunteer workers--and have never been in and out as quickly as I was that morning. I asked one of the workers, after voting, if she had any stickers to declare I'd voted, to which she replied with: "No, they didn't send us any. Our district is so small and the projected number of voters reflect this, so they felt we didn't need any."

Ouch! I spent the day filled with anxiety and concern over the turnout. It was only amplified as the day went on: nearly every polling location in my town was just as much of a ghost town as my own. My mother texted me around 3PM, while I was working, to tell me--again--that no one was there when she, too, cast her ballot.

(My mom gave me her sticker, by the way.)  

I can't stress how frustrating that is to hear--to be eligible to vote, only to A.) throw away your vote by third parties/write-in when the stakes were this high or B.) not vote, period.

The news kept pouring in from friends and family and the general concern was over how quiet the state seemed. At this point, I already had a bad feeling over what the results would be. When you live in a state that is predominantly red in the elections--I can't recall it being blue for my entire life except once--it's very easy to feel disappointment in these times; like your voice is unheard over the conservative voices that flocked to Donald Trump due to misguided loyalty to Mike Pence or the general belief that he, a Walking-Talking-Oompa-Loompa with a racist/sexist/homophobic (you know the rest I'd add) streak, could 'make America great again!'

Even before I cast my vote I was resigned to the fact that my state wouldn't be any other colour and that my voice would be muffled out by others. I had a lot of memories resurrect themselves in my mind that afternoon and well into the night. Most specifically, I recalled the first time I heard how, frankly, gross a good deal of people in my city were about--well, Hillary Clinton. That general first dose of reality and that stigma that followed her, even nearly thirteen years ago.

Way, way, way back (we're talking well over a decade ago) in middle school I had a history teacher who was generally a "nice guy" stereotype. If he wasn't the age he was, and married, he'd probably be the type to bitch about the friend zone. You know the type. He was pretty funny (when he wasn't tacky about it) and a decent teacher, with a vocal fear of horses, and he was solidly respectful--until he wasn't. I didn't think much of it at the time--I was at the oldest 13 years old and incredibly privileged--but he was very, very vocal in his beliefs and one of those things was how much he hated Hillary Clinton.

Which was, obviously, an irrational hatred because he never gave a real, solid reason as to why he hated her. I don't expect everyone to like her--she is a flawed individual and very much a political figure that won't be everyone's cup of tea and with good reason--but he hated her, quite frankly, because she was a woman in power. Cringe.

One morning, he sparked a topic of discussion. Women in politics. He wasn't all together rude about it, but his sexism was vivid to an appalling degree. Anyone who has ever taken a history class lead by a white male will know to what degree I am talking about. I don't think I realized it then--how common this view was--but he was horrid in this regard. I don't recall every last bit of the conversation, or debate, but I do see and hear one bit perfectly. A girl towards the back of the classroom, leaning forward in her desk, "One day, we're going to have a woman president."

Her statement was greeted with a heated debate, mostly by the hands of our male classmates. I was much too meek to get involved at this point--I was at the time somewhere between shy and obnoxious. I wasn't yet comfortable with giving myself a voice, let alone one in political topics.

I remember my teacher moved down throughout the aisles between our desks and nodded in agreement. He didn't necessarily praise her for her statement. It was more of a 'yes, I suppose you're right' moments in which a teacher allows you to make your thoughts be heard and acknowledges it without verbally in agreement. A few minutes later, he inserted one sentence into the discussion that made me pause: "I'd like to see that. Unless it's Hillary Clinton--then I hope I'm dead."

There was a murmur of laughter at this point and it struck me as strange even then. I'm sad that this is still a prominent view of her: she is flawed, absolutely, and with power comes corruption, but it saddens me that in a world where she is blatantly more qualified to run our country, she still loses. If she had a worthy opponent--one with real, political experience--I wouldn't be so frustrated to her loss. If she hadn't lost to a racist, sexist, homophobic...

Well, you see my point. It's a sad day to acknowledge this. And it's a sad day to realize what we've lost. It also leads me to state something I've been quite loud about in recent years: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE IS PAINFULLY OUTDATED AND SHOULD BE FIXED. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. By a pretty decent lead, and with votes still being counted. You wonder now why there's so much outrage over the president-elect and his general creepiness? You wonder why people around the world are looking at us and scoffing over this outdated practice?

"In other countries, the popular vote means the winner."

It's baffling. And in a hilarious turn of events, President-Elect (ugh), Donald Trump once famously tweeted (in his sea of disgusting, petulant child-like babbling) this and protesters are using it creatively to their advantage:

For the second time in such a short length of time, last with Gore, we're not getting the president that America really and truly voted for. And it's likely to not change, though I encourage you, if you oppose this, to go out there and protest so your voices are heard. Call up your representatives, sign any and all petitions urging the electoral college to change their vote. Here's one for your convenience.

Listen. I know that this entry was a babbling clusterfuck of nonsense and seriousness but I had to get some stuff off my chest in the meantime and this was the nearest outlet for it. I've probably bounced around in topics and fucked up the formatting in this to the point of incoherency but I couldn't think of any other way to rationalize what we've done as a nation, and because of my desire to expand my blog to more than just my thoughts on literature, it had to happen. If I've somehow offended your view of the election, I'm going to apologize without really apologizing.

I'm entitled to post an entry on my blog. I'm entitled to protest. I'm also entitled to remind you that one of the candidates was backed by the Kl*n and it wasn't mine. It doesn't matter that he didn't seek out their approval, the fact that he hasn't denounced them and the celebrations continue is a problem in and of itself. There's a reason he is being celebrated by racist organizations--and I'm not going to be complicit to a world that will (and believe me, they will) normalize that.

And I'm certainly entitled to decline any comments trying to discuss the matter harshly. Make no mistake: this is not an invitation to debate. I've said my piece and that's all there is to it. If you agree with me, in part, I'm going to say thank you right off the bat. But if you disagree? Just save us all the time and energy and not try and make excuses as to why this happened, why you voted for a racist, why you think that--somehow--doesn't make you racist.

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