By: Megan Graves, columnist
This is not the article I wanted to write for you. These are not the thoughts I wanted to process, and these are not the words I wanted to say.
I wanted to tell you that after decades of fighting, America had just elected a woman to be our president. I wanted to critique her privilege but remind us all that it’s a start. I wanted to tell you that we had made progress.
I never thought he would win.
I feared it, but I was always able to push that into the back of my mind. I’d tell myself that as a whole we weren’t quite that bad, and I guess that was my own privilege showing.
In my world, my bubble, I saw that groups were being marginalized, threatened and oppressed, but I’ve always been surrounded by people who wanted to change that. People who know that racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia and any display of hate are not only wrong but need to be dismantled and removed from our system entirely.
Our country saw the change and progress we have been working so hard for and, in attempt to shut it down, elected a violently racist, destructively classist, intolerant man who thinks sexual violence is not only okay but something he is entitled to perpetuate.
This is a backlash and, let me tell you, it will not shut anything down. It will not stop change and progress. Right now we are in shock. We are hurt and ashamed, and many of us are downright afraid. We now live in an environment where women, POC, the LGBTQ+ community, Muslims and any previously oppressed groups genuinely do not feel safe.
We cannot stand for this. “The land of the free” isn’t conditional. It doesn’t just pertain to cis-gendered, straight, white, Christian men.
Being any of those things should not make a person feel safer, but we have to acknowledge that it does. That way we can start to understand how dangerous and discouraging it feels to be deemed “other” in our current society.
This is a time where we need to understand each other more than ever. If we have never been afraid to just be ourselves, then we need to understand what that’s like and gain some perspective.
This is a time for debates and education. If someone is wrong, don’t just shut them out. Explain to them why they should see things differently and give them the resources to grow, if it is possible. This will not always be possible. Try anyway.
We need empathy. We need strength. We need perseverance and, most of all, we need love.
Take all of the negativity that you’re feeling, all of the sadness, anger and fear, and let it fuel the fire for change. We can’t just sit around and wish things were different. We have to make them different.
Start going to protests. Monitor your friends’ rhetoric and debate them if they say something hateful. Educate them. Start speaking up. Start writing and keep reading. Keep an eye on your community and help those who need it. Love harder than you ever have before. I promise to do the same.
This is not the column that I wanted to write for you, but this is where we are. America has never been great for everybody, or even for most. It has always functioned on the backs of the oppressed. A great America is one where we all feel safe to express who we are, where educated debates can take place without violence and everyone has a voice.
America is not great, and Donald Trump cannot make it great. That change is up to us, and it’s going to be a long road. Let the journey begin.