Last night I stayed awake to chat to my friends across the pond and watch the first female be elected president of the United States, or so I thought. To say it didn’t quite go to plan would be an understatement, and I don’t think I am alone in feeling lost, sad, shocked and angry today.
I don’t live in the US, I am British, but the politics of our nations are so interlinked and the power wielded by American Presidents so mighty that their choices affect us all. I feel like I’ve entered slightly different world today, one that looks almost the same but feels dark and cold. It could be the impending Lancashire winter and the fact that I haven’t slept, but something tells me it’s far bigger than that.
There’s so much I could say about the double standards Hillary Clinton faced throughout this campaign and throughout her entire career. There is a bigger conversation to be had about why we would rather listen to a KKK-endorsed reality TV star peddle empty promises than trust an experienced woman who has dedicated her life to public service. I have so much to say, and I will, but that is another conversation for another day.
My Twitter feed is awash with people panicking, myself included. I’m worried about so much, about equality, women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, minorities and their safety, their happiness. It’s truly terrifying to see racism, xenophobia, bigotry and misogyny legitimised, sad to imagine how quickly and swiftly the hard-earned rights of so many could be dismantled and worrying to consider the lengthy effects of a bad supreme court pick.
There is a very real wave of far right sentiment making it’s way across Europe and now the US, it is impossible to ignore and truly scary for anyone who values equality and human rights. It’s so easy to get caught in a wave of panic or to feel totally disillusioned by everything but I’m trying to remind myself of a few things…
This is a dark time and your fear is legitimate.
Watching people get worked up and upset seems to be something of a spectator sport for a few people on social media. They roll their eyes, laugh and mock people for caring. Screw those people. Life is about to get quite difficult for many people as they potentially grapple with acceptance, tolerance, access to healthcare and their individual rights. That isn’t something to laugh at, and it isn’t something to brush aside as you mutter under your breath that it doesn’t matter who wins anyway. It matters to them, it should matter to all of us. There is nothing shameful, dramatic or weak about caring for your fellow humans.
Self care is important.
“Don’t worry so much” “We can’t let this get us down” “Look on the bright side” – I’ve seen this said so much today and whilst it’s all good advice, sometimes it’s also important to allow yourself the luxury to just feel. If you need to cry, cry, if you feel sad let it out, be kind to yourself and practice a little self care. Sitting around talking to your friends about how sad you are isn’t going to do much in the long term but in the short term sometimes connecting with like-minded people is just what you need.
I couldn’t bring myself to watch Trump’s acceptance speech, I doubt I will ever watch it as long as I live, so I turned off the coverage. I am not going to learn anything from watching it and I know it’s not good for my mental health, so I opted out. I closed the computer, took a long walk, got some fresh air, cuddled my dog, drank tea and listened to the Hamilton soundtrack which is pretty much the only thing getting me through today.
Don’t become disillusioned.
It is incredibly important not to let upset turn to apathy. I felt crushed this morning, especially as a woman. It’s exhausting to care so much and feel like there are so many who are willing to trade away the rights of others. What’s the point right? It feels like one step forward and two steps back, it’s draining and will drive you insane if you think about it too long. Don’t let it.
Watching Hillary Clinton’s speech this afternoon reminded me what drive, determination and perseverance can do. 100 years ago women could not vote in the UK, they could not be elected into parliament and 60 years ago America was still segregated. This week the first female nominee for the President of the USA won the popular vote and the world has just seen the first black President. When Hillary talked about setbacks and overcoming crushing disappointment I was blown away by her poise and grace, when Obama spoke with dignity about the man who questioned his citizenship I was humbled. I was reminded how far humanity has come and I was inspired. None of us can afford to drop the ball.
We are sad, we are scared and we are angry, but people have died to allow us to vote and we owe it to them to keep going. If people made it through suffrage and the civil rights movement, if they risked their lives to make change, we can get through this. Once the dust has settled and we have all processed this, we can’t sit back. We all have to do something, whether it’s just keeping up to date on political decisions, getting involved at the local level, volunteering for important causes, reading more, talking to our children about equality, joining protests, or being an ally for the marginalised – a friend to those who have more to lose than ourselves. Whatever you do, do something.
I know this little internet circle of mine is made up of a wonderfully diverse group of people, many of whom are probably reeling and feeling scared. My door is open, I’ve got your back and I will lend an ear if you need a chat.
“Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” – Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, November 9th 2016.