Over the past two years I’ve gotten into hiking, backcountry exploration, and mountaineering. What I felt in the early hours of today was a familiar one – a false summit after a long hike to the top. You decide to go, you work hard; one foot in front of the next. Adrenaline builds as you predict that success is a short meterage away. But as you round the corner, step out on the plateau, you look left – and up – and realize you’re not actually at the top.
The best part about this analogy – about feeling this before – is that, if you keep going, you’ll reach the top.
I’ve always tried not to get too involved in US Presidential Campaigns. I read portions of what my friends and network post and always ensure to engage on a level that will allow me to stand on two feet if I was ever asked “Why this person?” or “Why not that person?”
This election was different for me: I’ve spent the better part of the last 4 years with a partner who has American citizenship and their family whose vast, determined, and successful history is widely American, not to mention the American colleagues and friends I have gathered in my lifetime. With an open mind I enjoy listening and learning about their familial, political, and social perspectives. After all, I felt like I came from an entirely different place in life. I used to kept the US at arm’s length. I never really needed to pay too close attention. But now the US affects me very deeply and I am listening with as much intention and openness as I can muster.
Last month I happened to be around a TV broadcasting the debate. I listened. I heard questions being asked and answers coming in two very different forms: deflection and distraction vs acknowledgement and response. The emotions that arose in me watching this debate were baffling: how truly appreciative and in awe I was for Clinton’s accountability and her strong sense of presence and veracity; how truly mystified I was at Trump’s continual disparagement for Clinton, and his inability to answer a question directly.
What I learned in watching this debate is that viewers, in essence, hear Clinton taking accountability for her mistakes, apologizing for them, and delivering her campaign goals. They hear Trump who, never once admits to doing anything wrong, never apologizes, and interrupts repeatedly in order to deliver his campaign goals.
Now: if a country of disenfranchised and distracted listeners watched this with even half the intimacy I did, they heard “Sorrys” from Clinton and ideas on combating radical Islamic terrorism from Trump. Negatives in the form of apologies from Clinton, positives in the form of plans from Trump. Because Trump refused to be accountable, distracted listeners never hear him admit he did anything wrong. So he hasn’t. Right?
On this idea alone, it saddens me to understand (a small part of) why Trump has won presidency. If a large part of the US population is feeling distracted and disenfranchised and is fuelled by nostalgia for a past that no longer exists by “making American great again,” it suggests there are large parts of our present that the US is rejecting (the US as in white, middle-class rural voters who helped Trump win electoral votes).
So what is it that we’ve been talking about lately? We’ve been talking about race, immigration, consent, LGTBQ+ rights, womyn’s rights…
Making America great again alludes that there’s a large number of people in the US who feel displaced; that there was a time when the collective ‘we’ felt empowered and that there is a need to get back to that better time. Van Jones says it in the video below: displacing one group to appeal more deeply to another is not the way to run a country and it needs to be talked about. Race is important because it’s being displaced. We are not better than the person beside us. It is not right to push out one group to empower another. We all exist. Moving forward, we must remember this.
WE EXIST. WE EXIST. WE EXIST. WE EXIST. WE EXIST.
— Rowan Blanchard (@rowblanchard) November 9, 2016
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 9, 2016
The President of the United States has been on trial for raping a child. He has openly degraded our (womyn’s) bodies. He’s dictated how we should use our bodies, and the rights he believes he has to them. And he’s never apologized for saying these deplorable, misogynist things. The President is meaant to be a leader for an entire nation; an example.
This is not a good example to set for others.
Treating people this way is not okay.
Tell me again how rape and sexual assault accusations will ruin a man’s career
— Paxmee (@Paxmee) November 9, 2016
As difficult as this is to swallow, if we can look at one positive that’s emerged from this election: we might be living in a time where consent has never been so openly and widely discussed until now. That is a good thing.
The support, the honesty, the strength, and the bravery I have seen from womyn I hold dear to my heart – near and far – has been overwhelmingly beautiful. The discussions of consensual sex, safe sex, stories from survivors of sexual assault and/or harassment… the voice we have given and the strength we have gathered in coming together to support our right to our bodies… It’s unprecedented.
“To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful & deserving of every chance & opportunity in the world.”
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 9, 2016
We cannot stop this support – this strength we have built – this wave – and we can’t quiet our voices. We must keep going.
We cannot forget to mention that womyn did make history this election: Tammy Duckworth, Ilhan Omar, Catherine Cortez Masto, Kamala Harris, womyn representing minorities who are now in congress. We have made progress. We have sparked change. We have seen that we can work to achieve our wildest dreams and if we reach a false summit, we must continue on doing the good that we harbour in our hearts.
To all womyn, all nasty womyn: you can do this.
Scripture tells us: Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. pic.twitter.com/snXfdLgZq8
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 9, 2016
So what do we do now?
This morning I woke up feeling defeated. I texted my mom and her response was, “But what can you do?” I thought about it for over an hour as thoughts funnelled through my mind, texts came in from friends feeling powerless, scared, and I decided I would continue to be a voice. To support. To listen. To love.
And if you can’t decide what to do just yet, focus on #1 in the list of possibilities below:
- Practice self-care. Take a deep breath in, then out. Repeat.
- Support survivors of sexual assault and violence. Remind them that they’re not alone.
- Volunteer in your community; be a beacon of positive change.
- Instead of “Us vs Them” try “none of us is as smart as all of us” (Blanchard) or “it takes two flints to make a fire” (Alcott) or “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” (Keller).
- Stand up for multiculturalism, our LGTBQ+ communities, people with disabilities, the womyn in your life, and inclusiveness in general.
- Take what you read in the mass media with a grain of salt.
- Do it with love.
- Don’t give up.
“Let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we hold dear.” – Hillary Clinton
Everything is going to be okay.