Like so many others, I woke up several days after the election hoping I was still only trapped in a horrible nightmare. I was scared to walk outside — not only because of the tangible fear of living in this country with Donald Trump as president, but because doing so felt like I was starting to accept that this is my country, regardless of how foreign it feels. I cried just twice before noon — an improvement from the days before — and went to class for the first time in a week. The gravity of what will come of our next presidential administration is still unknown, but as I continue to talk to people around me, I hear more and more of us saying we are ready to fight.
Last night, I stood in a room with more than 100 people from just Washtenaw County, all of us having volunteered our time to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. On my left was a middle-aged, gay, white man, and on my right was an elderly Black woman. When one of the organizers, a young Muslim man, got up to speak, he said what I was thinking: Our volunteers look like America. The thing about elections is that they’re all about numbers, and the numbers say nothing about our intensity, our love and our fervor.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, which means that more people in this country voted for the most qualified presidential candidate this country has ever seen over someone who only had to tap into hatred that has existed for centuries. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, which means that more people in this country are ready to fight than to hate. Many higher-educated and higher-income people voted for Clinton, which means that our fight will have more funding, more strategy and more experience. There are too many people of color, women, queer folks and people with hearts who will not give up over the next four years, just as Clinton hasn’t given up for the past 30. The numbers don’t show that our team is stacked.
If you voted for Donald Trump or Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or wrote in Bernie Sanders, I challenge you to think about how the people of color, LGBTQ folks, undocumented people, people with disabilities, woman-identifying people or any other marginalized person you have ever met will be affected by a Trump presidency. And then I challenge you to think about how you will be affected by a Trump presidency. If that disparity makes you sad, angry or uncomfortable, then I want you on our team, because this dangerous embarrassment is your America now, too.
Our presidential election has made me fear for my safety and the safety of those around me. But if we are going to wake up every morning terrified, then those of us who are ready to fight must force ourselves to understand why fear won this election. Whether it was the fear of a challenge to whiteness or the fear of losing more jobs, the sentiments that captivated so many people in this country are valid. Rather than radicalizing people who were motivated by that fear, we should work to address it alongside the fear that systemically marginalized people have felt throughout this country’s history.
Donald Trump is our president, and this is our country, and denial is only the first stage of grief. But if we want change, we can never tolerate the final stage as acceptance. This cannot be like another mass shooting or episode of police violence, during which the pain wanes over time. Perhaps we let go of that pain because our society is quick to absolve a usually white shooter of blame, and to accept police violence against Blacks as nothing extraordinary or needing special attention. This pain is not new to marginalized communities, and we should look to them as examples and leaders in this fight.
As time goes on, may we never settle into this — may we always be uncomfortable with the hatred and resentment that people in this country have accepted as normal or even desirable. We will learn new coping mechanisms and agents of change as time goes on, but we must never forget how we felt on Nov. 9. That pain will stay with us every day, and we will counter it with the knowledge that change only happens when we show up more than once every four years on Election Day.
On Feb. 1, 2016, I stood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and watched the first woman in history win a presidential caucus. That was one of many cracks in a glass ceiling thicker than we thought it was. I have no doubt that we will throw everything we have until it shatters all over anyone who doubts the resilience of our communities. As a woman, as a queer person, as a Jew, I will continue to wake up terrified. But as someone who has worked relentlessly on Clinton’s campaign for the past 15 months, I will believe in the passions of people who will never quit working to keep the dream of progress, safety and humanity alive.
Molly Aronson is a public policy junior.