Hello wonderful people…
What a week. Besides going on two amazing field trips (one to a recycling facility and another to a kibbutz and Old Jaffa) and writing my midterm papers, much of my time and emotions have been spent focusing on the election and resulting events at home.
Tuesday night I didn’t nod off until well after one in the morning (3 PM California time), fighting a growing knot of anxiety in my stomach. Somewhere deep in my gut I knew there was potential— if not likelihood— that Trump would prevail, proving that half of our country was just as racist, homophobic, sexist and diversity-fearing-hating-shunning as I feared. Still, I set my alarm for five in the morning, confident that somehow, someway (as we all hoped) Clinton would pull through and I would wake up to an overwhelming majority of electoral votes cast in her favor.
I woke up before my alarm even went off. My phone was filled with texts and SnapChats from home, where it was just after six in the evening. The final polls were closing. I checked CNN, NYT, and BBC. Clinton was not trailing yet, but she definitely wasn’t leading. I turned on BBC live— finding some, if any, comfort in the level-headed British voices and commentary. But the results they were projecting didn’t look good. My heart sunk. My gut kicked in. The confidence I had tanked.
I puttered around the dorm for an hour or so before my friends here started to wake up to the early morning alarms they had set. I shut my computer screen for a while and mixed a batch of pancakes— hoping that when I opened it again the news results would be somehow refreshed in my favor.
Friends slowly started to corrugate in my dorm. We skipped Hebrew class and closed ourselves in my room with the pancakes, huddling under my covers, staring at my computer screen, watching mostly in silence as the minutes and hours passed. States were called. Slowly, hope was lost. When it was clear Trump had clenched all the votes needed, the room got even quieter. I left to do the dishes. Mimi curled under the blanket and cried. Alex laid on the floor and stared up at the ceiling. Felice sat on my desk and opened the window for fresh air. Maya stood in the hallway and called her mom. Trump’s acceptance speech played in the background. I felt disgusted.
Wednesday was a long day. As American students abroad, we were put in an awkward position of American ambassadorship. Without asking, I had become a spokesperson for a country and population I didn’t even know if I understood or believed in anymore. This task had an added sense of complexity given we are living in the Middle East— a notorious social and political hot spot. We were expected to not only explain the elections and Trump but also what this meant for the greater Middle Eastern region, to which I responded, “How the f*ck should I know 12 hours after the election?”. And yet, our foreign friends and professors continued with the endless questions: What now? Will he do all he will say he will? What is his VP like? Who voted for him? Why don’t you like him? What will happen with Russia? Will things change in Syria? What will happen to the US relations with Israel? Will he disrupt the little peace that remains in the Middle East? And, finally, what are you, as an American woman, going to do?
I spent Wednesday afternoon and evening— not to mention every spare moment I’ve had since— trying to answer this final question. I’ve been cycling through texting people at home, talking with friends here and sitting alone in contemplation. There is no way to sum up my emotions but to say that I feel an overwhelming sense of concern for all Americans, regardless of who they voted for, and for the Americans who are yet to be born in the country, yet to immigrate to the country, yet to gain citizenship (or not gain citizenship) to the country. I am concerned for an uncertain future— a future that has the potential to look a lot different than what I believe our country should look like and represent.
Still, in all of this, I feel an overwhelming sense of duty and action. I know that panicking, shutting down emotionally and removing myself politically will have tremendous negative consequences on my own life and the lives of those who surround me. As a country, and as “the other 50%”, we cannot afford to act this way. And I truly believe that we won’t. We will get up each morning and be stronger, louder and smarter. We will be more welcoming, more understanding and more inclusive. We will value our citizenship to a country that desperately needs revolutionizing while knowing that our rights and freedoms are no more or less important than the rights and freedoms of someone who gained citizenship just yesterday. And as new voters, my friends and I— if not my entire generation— will begin our adult lives more politically motivated and involved than any other young generation in history. This is the silver lining.
In saying that, I’d like to remind you all (even those who are much older and wiser than I) that one of the most important things in life is learning how to get comfortable with being wildly uncomfortable. So far, this has been the greatest lesson I’ve learned while abroad. It’s taken time and practice, but I’m getting better at it. And whether we like it or not, as Americans, we have to adapt to this mindset. It does not mean that we give up or give in, but rather that we stand up for what we believe in, and who we believe in, even when it is awkward, inconvenient or unpopular. It will take time, effort and repetition. But we will improve. And we can gain inspiration to begin improving by finding faith and hope in the fact that though much of America has lost today, it may win tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.
I love each of you very much.
P.S. I’m throwing a safety pin on my backpack– and you should too… http://www.vox.com/presidential-election/2016/11/10/13586322/trump-brexit-safety-pin