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
Wonderful letter again Cassidy. I remember in my early 20 being in Europe for the first time when Nixon and Watergate and all that was going on and having a similar experience to yours. Embarrassed, Shameful, sick. It is VERY uncomfortable and the weight of it was difficult. We/I may be older but I am not sure about the wiser;-)
But we have a similar reaction, we must do something. Something positive. Obama said, ‘don’t go cynical’ which is my ‘go-to’. So I am trying not to be cynical. I am looking at how I can be positively involved locally first, nationally second and to the world next. I know it feels like a ‘huge’ (boy do I hate that word now) responsibility but the harm Trump can do internationally after Obama has worked so hard to fix what ‘W’ did is the most scary to me. So what we can to do show the world that good people that most of us are is critical. And then I think we need to instill Civics 101 in the schools and for adults too! People have no idea how the government runs. No Fricken clue!
Keep up the good work, keep the faith.
Being an onofficial ambassador for your country while abroad , especially when you are at odds with what is happening at home is a huge weight. I was in Spain in 1985 when Reagan bombers kadafi and uses Spanish airspace to do it . Things were very tense and the Spanish had lots of questions and accusations.
I learned also , when I returned to the US, not to expect immigrants to explain in behalf of their country.
I like your silver lining conclusion .
guess I will take a stab at my feelings re: elections.
There is a part of me that has been surprised at the Trump popularity for over a year now. I remember telling my friend in Sweden that as soon as people started voting in the primaries that he would be gone….how wrong was that? as his popularly grew I to keep asking myself why? and the only conclusion I could come to was that as a country we continue to ignore the poor and under employed people. I certainly saw it while working in Ravenswood. the great need, the poor health care, the lack of resources etc. And since the housing bust and crash of 2008 the unemployed and underemployed have been told to wait and things will get better. Any financial improvement since then has gone to the 1%. Wall street got bailed out, but not those losing their homes and jobs. It was easy to disregard the 99% movement…no one likes protests that tie up traffic and break windows. Easy to ignore Black Lives matter, easy to ignore ghettos…easy to ignore what we can not see.
I don’t think most of the people who began to listen to him are by default anti much except the system that is choking them and preventing their children from going to college, getting decent jobs and making interesting decent lives for themselves. God knows many are ‘deplorables’ byt their own definition…but most are just more concerned about themselves than worried about who is a gay, or who is an immigrant, or who is a woman or who is a Muslim or a Jew or a Black…they were convinced that they didn’t get jobs because of these “others”. And for that Trump is responsible…the bullying, the disrespecting,the debasing….that was him and now, for too many, it has become us. He has given those who want it license to do the same.
We were shocked at his winning because we are not paying attention to the widening gap between the haves and have nots…they are easy to forget for those of us in Silicon Valley who have so much. Our bubble is so well padded.
So what is next? no grin and bare it or moving away for me. I have spent too much of my life doing what little I can for those who have been marginalized for one reason or an other. I will continue to look racism and the other ‘isms in the eye until they blink.. For it I have been called many things and marginalized my self many times. But I don’t know what else to do. I am so sorry that you have to defend us in your new surroundings… I’m not sure what I could or would say. You are so much better at it than I am. I do know that in the end people judge will America by who you are…so be the wonderful, intelligent, caring, person you are ….that is our best advertisement. Keep talking and asking and listening… It is crazy here. Everyone has a different perspective and different reaction. I learn so much everyday if I stick my head out of my shell.
Back to another reality for me tomorrow. I need to pick up Mary Jane’s ashes and death certificates tomorrow and start closing down banks accounts, charge accounts, Social Security: Pensions: Insurance: IRS etc. And get on planning a memorial gathering. I’m exhausted just thinking of dealing with all these agencies…. I need some sunshine in my life… some denial… a dog hunt maybe…