One writer’s journey through election-induced emotions
The night of the election, I sat in the Terrace 11 dorm lounge in a room mostly of strangers and two friends. There was an eerie closeness in the room as we sat around eating Domino’s vegetable pizza; even though we were filled with anxiety, we had to eat. At 11:30, it seemed like we all clenched our fists as someone had reminded us that this is when we knew Barack Obama was the next president. In that moment I was transported to my bunk bed, age 10, and being woken up by the screams of joy of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I remember the next day feeling like it was such a good day to wake up in America.
But in the T11 lounge, I wasn’t cheering anymore. Every time a state went blue, it felt like we had all taken a collective sigh of relief — like hope and humanity had been restored (melodramatic, I know.) At 1 a.m. people started to leave; the silent period had begun and for some, the process of mourning the America we thought we knew had, too.
At 1:30, I had to leave the dorm. I walked through campus and I ran into people on my way down from Terraces. We hugged and said that we loved each other. I didn’t know then that an international chant at protests would be “Love Trumps Hate,” and how important and necessary actions like this would be moving forward. I arrived back to my room unlike I had after any awful exam or terrible night out to a laptop with the words “Trump Wins. Clinton Concedes Election.” I went to bed with tears in my eyes thinking about that phone call. That night I laid in fetal position and felt lucky that I was able to sleep, knowing that so many other people, maybe even my classmates may not have been able to.
That morning, everything felt still. It felt like I was waking up in some sort of dream. I cringed when everyone kept saying the rain was the metaphor for the universe crying. I was surprised when people asked me how I was and I was genuine. I ranted when I saw my friends, and we hugged. I lied on the floor in acting class and we focused on our breathing. Only no one could really focus on their breathing over the sounds of a broken classroom made up of mainly women. I got angry when people in my politics class told me to “give Trump a chance,” and I was disappointed to the point of tears when I heard people joking in a class that I had respected about moving to Canada, not realizing the immense amount of privilege they had to be able to even have that possibility — but also not recognizing the importance of fighting for your rights, or your loved one’s rights, people’s rights. I began to analyze and organize and I read, and being the millennial I am: I shamelessly posted. I sometimes posted meaningful content, and I sometimes posted clickbait articles. I attended a protest and chanted the words “Climate Change is not a Hoax” and “Love Trumps Hate” along with “Fuck Donald Trump.”
And then over Thanksgiving break, I went to Trump Tower. Not long ago I had walked past it and entered it as a shortcut to hide away from the hub of people on 5th Avenue in New York City. Of course, what I saw recently was a completely different 5th Avenue, and an entirely different Trump Tower. The streets were blockaded with silver metal bars that seemed never ending and policemen with machine guns. I was shaken up by the change of in my city as I realized we would probably never be able to walk right past Trump Tower again.
The most overpowering emotion throughout this entire process has been confusion. How did this happen? How am I here, standing outside of the President-elect’s penthouse? As I walked down the block I saw a woman protesting with the sign “I’m afraid” and two young boys with posters reading, “The adults let us down.” While those posters made me feel emotional, they also related to me and made me feel proud. But when I turned around I saw a man across the street with a sign reading, “Get over it.” It was in that moment that I became angry, as I stared at a white man holding up a poster to tell this beautiful group of protestors to get over it.
I don’t hate people that voted for Donald Trump, but I do have a difficulty empathizing and understanding the people like this man, who tell people how to feel. While I may not cry every day, while I may not be as a emotional as I was the night that Trump was elected, I can recognize that there are people who still cry every day. I will not critique them for not “getting over it,” because everyone heals differently, and processes differently- and frankly, certain people have more to be upset about and more to fear than others. A young mother might be more angry than I am because she might feel we let her daughter down; a black, Muslim or LGBTQ person might fear for their life. There are people who will continue to feel emotionally paralyzed for the next four years, and that is valid. Everyone is allowed to react in the way they need — and although I realize this may sound hypocritical, that is exactly what this man was doing across the street. I just don’t agree with the protestor telling people to stop caring.
And while I found myself preaching to the choir (or politics class) about how I didn’t think people had the right to tell people how to respond to the election, I also found myself agreeing with the people on my Facebook newsfeed who were telling Trump supporters to stop sharing their posts about a more prosperous America. I felt like a hypocrite — but this was another thing I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand because I thought about every bad thing Trump had said over his campaign trail, regardless of whether or not he now chooses to run the other way from his statements. (And don’t get me wrong; I will not question Trump for deciding to change his mind or be more respectful, or appoint a head to the EPA that knows what climate change is, an attorney general that isn’t racist… The list goes on.) But he still made racist, sexist and xenophobic comments. He made comments that criticized more marginalized groups than I can list. This isn’t what a great, or prosperous America looks like to me. My anger rumbled in my stomach when I saw a pro-Trump Facebook post because I thought about Trump’s comments. My stomach turned when I heard about people laughing about Trump’s comments, not recognizing that their ability to laugh at comments that threaten someone else’s livelihood is because of their privilege. It’s easy to laugh about a man threatening to grab a woman by the pussy when you are a white male. It’s easy to find humor in Trump’s comments that all Mexicans are criminals and he is going to build a wall if you aren’t affected by those comments. And even if Trump chooses to flip-flop on his comments, he still made those statements and ran on a hateful platform, and millions of people voted for him, and he was elected into the most prestigious office our country has. So when I saw people discussing how Trump was going to make america great again, even though I wanted to lead by example and let people have their opinions, how could I when they became in direct conflict with my and so many others’ human rights? How could I when doing so would validate Trump’s comments further than the election had for millions of Americans? And there I was, confused again with how to move forward. With how to understand and empathize.
But why was I confused? Because I didn’t see the people who were voting for Trump. I didn’t understand why someone might vote for him so I never expected this to be my reality. I didn’t see the people that lived in rural areas who planned to vote for Trump because Trump had promised them employment. What I saw were polls showing Secretary of State Clinton in the lead by no less than 30 percent. I watched my bubble become more and more confident of Hillary Clinton as they watched Trump’s outlandish statements. I blame the media for not showing me Trump’s supporters, for not giving me the chance to see outside my bubble. I also blame the media for not taking Trump seriously, for giving him too much air time for the sake of their ratings and profit, and I blame certain media outlets for criticizing Clinton’s likability while they praised Trump for “saying what he felt.”
This election has created extreme household divides for many people I know. This Thanksgiving I felt lucky to be able to eat with people that shared my beliefs. But I also felt fearful. Listening to my parents and friend’s parents say this was such a scary time and that the word was really a mess frightened me. These were the people who had always told me everything was going to be okay but now they looked at me saying that I would have to change the world I was about to enter my adult life in. This memory is and will be ingrained in my mind hopefully for forever. People continue to say that Trump is “more liberal than we thought” or he doesn’t “actually believe” the irrational comments he made, but I think about the people that Donald Trump is appointing, and the people who are already on his team. I think about the KKK celebrating Trump’s presidency, and I think about a Republican majority and I realize that my parents are right: this is going to be four years of fighting for our rights. Of using our passions and crafts to respond to the hate, of four years of constantly reminding ourselves that love will always trump hate. Please remember that while things may have calmed down for you since Election Day, they haven’t for so many people. Please remember that Donald Trump isn’t President yet, and it is then that the fight for our rights will become all the more important and frightening; it is then that the momentum and outrage so many shared the day after the election will be important every day in order to drive change.
Tatiana Jorio is a second-year film, photography & visual art major who can no longer eat Domino’s vegetable pizza. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.