I’m writing this post at 7:30 in the morning Ireland time. I’m writing this post after already being up since 5:30, unable to fall back to sleep. I’m writing this post as I’ve wiped the tears from my eyes (as I will undoubtedly be trying to do all day). I’m writing this post as I try to not be sick (which has nothing to do with the fact I just recovered from stomach flu- this is sickening in a whole different sense). I’m writing this post because I’m heart broken. Because I’m appalled. Because I’m terrified. And apparently I can only deal with a crisis by writing about it.
So here I am at 7:30AM, sleep deprived, with my mug of green tea, nutella toast, and crusty tears.
I’m writing this post because I had a totally different one planned. I fell asleep last night planning out a wonderful, delightful article. I wanted to talk about Hilary Clinton’s presidency was going to change things for women. I was going to write about how young girls were finally going to see themselves as president. How what women can do is only limited by imagination, and how a new generation of girls will be able to imagine themselves as president. Not in “someday, maybe” kind of way, but "right in front of our eyes" way. After years of looking at that list of presidents on the wall of the classroom, we were finally, finally going to see a woman on it. I was going to write about how I dreamt that Clinton would be followed by women presidents who were black, Hispanic, Arab, and of other backgrounds, so that girls of all kinds might see themselves in a national leader. I was so ready to live in a world that believed that if a woman worked hard, if she fought for the things she believed, if there were no ceilings- then sky was the limit.
So when I awoke at 5:30am to see the world I dreamt of didn’t exist, I was wretched.
I did a lot of thinking in the two hours I flopped around in my bed, pretending that if I didn’t get out of it, none of this would be real.
I thought about during Bush’s presidency when middle-school-hippie-me went to peace protests against the Iraq War. When I wrote letters to the president about the need for greater protection of the environment. When I felt so fitfully angry with my country, disappointed with my leader. I yearned to live in a country that lived up the patriotic songs we sang in school. I thought about when Obama was elected my freshman year of high school and for the first time, I felt proud to be an American. I saw a leader that cared about the vulnerable, the poor, and the oppressed. I started to see that “liberty and justice for all” weren’t just a token phrase, but a heartfelt motto we truly lived by. I had hoped that Clinton would continue this same sense of opportunity in our country. With her collaborative spirit and unique empathy for women, children, minorities, and the poor, I truly believed that I would continue to be proud of America.
The truth is, it’s a very privileged thing for me to say that. It's privilege that lets me bemoan what this means for our country, for women, rather than blatantly worry about what it means for my safety. I’ve watched my newsfeed fill with stories of people worried that family members who might be deported. I saw LGBT friends worry that they may never get the chance to marry now. I watched friends worriy if they will be able to afford treatment for their chronic illness without the health care they received through the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood. I watched my tumblr feed fill with suicide hotline numbers, reaching out those who felt like in this “new” America, they were no longer wanted. Here I am, a white woman, tucked away in another country, knowing that if I choose, I’ll be able to return to America and not see my life change that much. I know that not all Americans will be as lucky, as privileged as I.
Which makes me berate myself- Is there anything more I could have done? I could have written a blog post, or several, advocating as to why Hilary would have been an amazing president. I could have reached out to my friends who were undecided and helped walk them through the issues. I could have helped my friends who didn’t know how to register or order absentee ballots find a pathway to voting. I could have donated to the Clinton campaign, volunteered to canvas, bought a t-shirt, or a bumper sticker, or something, or anything. Would have anything been enough?
So what can I do now? I ask myself, as I watch the dawn light peak through my windows, my cup of green tea nearly empty now. What next? What now?
“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make those dreams into reality.” – Jonas Salk
Even though it feels like our country has failed us, even as we pray for the safety of those who are more vulnerable than us, even as we get angry (and we should be angry), we can’t let our dreams die. That’s cheesy and corny, but it’s true. We only live in worlds that we imagine. We can’t stop imagining a world where a woman who works hard, advocates for others, and dreams big can be anything she wants. We can’t stop imagining a world where everyone, of any background, truly feels welcome in America. We can’t stop imagining world where “love is love is love is love.” The moment we stop imagining these things is the moment they are no longer a reality.
We have to keep living out what it means to strong women leaders because if we stop now, if we give up, we’ll never win. We have to keep fighting to show that love is more powerful than racism, bigotry, and fear mongering. We have to keep fighting for communities that celebrate our differences rather than banish them. We have to keep fighting, keep loving, keep caring- today, tomorrow, and always. So that one day, our daughters will look at that damn president chart in the classroom and finally see that can be anything they want to be.