I don’t know what to tell my daughters because I don’t know what to tell myself.
I sent my daughters to bed before it was over for Hillary Clinton, but they knew she was in trouble as they colored in red state after red state on the electoral college maps I printed for them. One of them burst into tears at bedtime, telling me she had lost her hope. I told her then not to give up, that it was still early, and I believed what I said at least a little bit. I don’t know what to tell them when they wake up to Trump’s America.
The statistics are staggering. The majority of Americans say they don’t believe Trump has the temperament or qualifications for the presidency—but they voted for him anyway. Hispanics, often the target of his threats and wrath, voted for him in larger numbers than they voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. White people, men and women alike, trended for Trump.
I don’t know what to tell my daughters because I don’t know what to tell myself. I’ve always known the world is full of depravity, but I never expected to watch my country vote in a man who was endorsed by the Klu Klux Klan. I am ashamed, I am embarrassed, I am distraught.
I’m not surprised by the existence of racism, sexism, or xenophobia—we’ve never come close to eradicating any of them. But, for much of my life, they’ve been forced underground and at least partially concealed. Trump legitimized bigotry and told America it’s OK to hate, blame, and discriminate. Now I know it was a message the majority of Americans were eager to hear, and that most of the progress we thought we’d made was never made at all.
Throughout this election season, I’ve watched as Hillary was crucified for every mistake or slip of the tongue. Last night, I listened as TV news commentators explained that voters were willing to “overlook” Trump’s campaign missteps in favor of a better financial future. Should I tell my daughters that half our country cares more about money in their pockets than the safety and lives of their friends, family members, and fellow Americans?
I’ve always believed in the good of enough people, but tonight I know I was wrong. There are good people among us, but we are not the majority; we may never be the majority. Progress isn’t a guarantee, and we are only as good as our people. Our people voted for their own self-interests, not the best interests of this country. Trump’s bigotry and narcissism are inescapable, and his victory means ours are, too.
I don’t know where to go from here. Our country’s foundation has turned red, from presidency to Congress to eventual Supreme Court justices, and there will be no balances to check their power. Every gain we’ve fought so hard to win will be lost, and instead of electing our first woman president, we elected a man who has no respect for women. Our crowning achievement has become our crowning failure.
There is no such thing as unity bought with human lives, and history is full of how that story ends. I won’t pretend to myself or my daughters that what happened here wasn’t abominable, and I won’t rally behind a man who will never represent the America I’ve believed we can be. But it breaks my heart to know that America was always just a dream, and it may never be a reality.
I don’t have any pep talks, pat answers, or kumbayas to sing. All I have is a deep, dark pit of fear and betrayal in my gut, and a shame in my country that goes far beyond one man. It was easy to dismiss Trump; it’s impossible to dismiss half this nation. My own father voted for Trump. There is nowhere left untouched by his dank reach, and this is only the beginning.
After 9/11, I spoke out against the attacks against Afghanistan and Iraq. I was called a traitor and told to get out of this country. I was told that real patriots support their government and their soldiers, no matter where they lead us. I knew then that I could never do that. I can only support this country when it acts with righteousness, and tonight I am bracing myself just as I did those days after 9/11 when the skies were still empty.
No one knows exactly what a Trump presidency will look like, but it could be disastrous. It will unravel the fabric of what our country was founded upon, and it will lie and tell us it’s for our own good. As a woman, at least I’m already used to that.
I’m not going to pretend there’s a benevolent universe anymore. I’m certainly not going to put my trust in the goodness of others. But I will push back with both hands against the tide that tells me my interests are the only interests, or that this love song to capitalism is what life’s all about.
I don’t know what to tell my daughters today except that not all just battles are won and not all winners are victors. We will cry together, console each other, and pick ourselves up and keep fighting for what we believe in. Even if we will lose anyway—especially if we will lose anyway.