As the results of the election grew more and more apparent on Tuesday night, I — like so many others — became devastated. And as the inevitable shell-shock turned to horror, then grief, then shame, then grief again, I was at a loss. I was not merely speechless, but also thoughtless and completely without guidance. I didn’t know how to cope, or even how to begin to parse out how all of this could have happened. I felt infantilized, completely unable to understand the world around me. I wanted answers. I wanted reason — but, most of all — I wanted to call my mom. I wanted to sob and have someone tell me it was going to be okay, that everything would be alright and here was why. But I couldn’t do that.
My mother is a Trump supporter in Florida, and she’s not alone. My father, my sister, our closest family friends and almost everyone from my hometown agrees with my mom. They have championed his candidacy almost since the day he announced. Who am I supposed to turn to in times like this, when the people who have always comforted me — the ones who kissed my boo-boos when I was little and guided me through every heartbreak and disappointment I’ve have ever had — are the very same people who have brought this trauma upon our nation?
It seemed like my short life’s biggest irony, that I couldn’t pick up the phone and call my mother — the woman who used to say, “You can do anything and be anything you set your mind to,” before tucking me into bed every night — and tell her how terrified I was. A man who openly objectifies and demeans women would soon be our president. Not only was I deserted by the support system I had grown up with, but it was this very system that had thrown me into despair. I had always thought of my parents as my role models. They are both wickedly smart, funny and insightful; they have always had the wisest advice. They had always championed equality for me, and were always outraged whenever any of my LGTBQ friends faced discrimination — a surprisingly bold stance for them to take in my immensely conservative, Christian and homogeneous hometown. Yet, now, I don’t know what to feel.
How am I supposed to conjoin my pleasant childhood relationships with the seemingly alien people I know now? The people who shrugged off their candidate’s acts of sexual assault, xenophobia, misogyny and hatred-fueled fear-mongering — labeling them as “unimportant in the grand scheme of things,” or “just someone telling it like it is.” How am I supposed to speak to them, trust them or confide in them ever again? How am I supposed to ever definitively know whether the person calling me to chat is my father, the man who once told me to quite literally and figuratively “kick [the] ass” of any guy who thought he had a right to my body, or just another man who rationalizes “locker room talk” when it’s not happening to his daughter? The same sort of questions can be asked of nearly every family member and hometown friend I have, and it is ripping me apart.
I don’t know how to come back from this and, in that, I feel like I’m not alone. This is an intra-personal crisis that our whole country is experiencing. While the 53 percent of us who did not vote for Trump are all still deep in mourning, we will eventually have to reach out to that other 47 percent. We’re going to have to try and mend these abysmally deep wounds within our country before the next election rolls around, yet the inevitability of this fact doesn’t make it seem any less impossible. Right now, the fact that 59 million people voted for a man who has explicitly demeaned minorities, women and countless others — and that those 59 million are all real genuine people, each with their own families, friends, values, dreams and love of country — is still too inconceivable. Yet, somehow, we have to find a way to prepare ourselves to take this very first step. If we ever want march on in the wake of all that has transpired, it is unavoidable. I have no answer for how this can or ever will be done, but I can say that for the sake of my sanity and my family, I’m searching.
A version of this article appeared online here as part of the Washington Square News Opinion section.