I’ll start with some personal facts. My mom is a registered Republican (“formerly Anna! I have changed it” I can hear her yell) and my father is a registered Democrat. The political tension has been bubbling since before my conception.
In school, I handled politics like I did everything. I sided with the parent I loved most at the moment. My mom handled our school drop-offs, so she got more air time with my sister and me.
My first memory of our political landscape was the Gore V Bush campaign. My second-grade class had a mock election, which I embarrassingly took charge of. I was a Bush groupie with zero grasps on his policies. I just loved his Texas charm. Charm alone works when you’re uneducated. When asked by a teacher who my favorite president was, I quickly glanced up at the wrap around lamination of past presidents in the room. “Richard Nixon!” She cackled, obviously embarrassed for me.
In 2012 when it came time to actually vote for the first time, I did my research. I sat down to think about what I wanted from a candidate. I had been drawn to President Obama since his inauguration in 2009. He was graceful, kind, inspiring, and hopeful. When it came time to cast my vote, I was running around saying “I’m socially liberal, but fiscally conservative”- a Libertarian. AKA a political oxymoron, according to our two-party system. Obama, however, was my ride-or-die. (Still is. Heart eyes forever)
In 2016, I was fully reformed. Funny how being a freshly graduated 22-year-old woman and taking a $35K a year entry-level role will switch that right up. I took some time after college to au-pair in Ireland. I know, I know- the privilege and disdain for growing up were real. While the Irish news coverage isn’t a 24-hour cycle like in the states, I did hear whispers of Donald Trump gaining support with the Republican party I had since fully removed myself from. In December 2016, my host family and I went out to celebrate my last night in the country. The news coverage was particularly orange that night. His face was everywhere- even in a country 4,000+ miles away. My host parents Niamh and John asked, “do you think he’ll win?” My answer was a laugh cough, “um no.” They seemed relieved but concerned. I followed with “If he wins, I’ll come right back.” The eldest child, Ella chimed in. “If he wins, will you stay with us???” Without thought, I claimed that I “absolutely” would.
In May 2016, Donald Trump shocked us all and received the Republican party nominee. It was a joke that had gone too far, but a shoo-in for Hillary. On Election Day, I woke up feeling overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn’t stop crying. Today was the day our country would make history: our first woman president. The year of post-undergraduate gender inequality was about to be immediately rectified. I realized my privilege at that moment. As a 23-year-old, I was going to see the glass ceiling shattered. I was getting a “skip the line” pass for gender inequality, unequal treatment, and feeling less than because of the sex organs I was born with.
I drove to work, tears streaming down my face- being caught in the traps of my ear to ear open-mouthed grin. I floated at work. I was glowing. I was proud. I was envisioning the dream that I vehemently believed would come true within hours. The results started trickling in throughout the afternoon. An early lead by the racist candidate- totally fine. Didn’t expect the South to choose better. I drove home hopeful and poured myself a victory glass of wine. The slow roll of my cheap $5 Chardonnay turned into a variation of gulps and chugs. If I get a little (a lot) drunk, it will subdue these results, right? There’s still hope?
Rihanna was right. You can find love in a hopeless place. However, you cannot find hope in a loveless place. America was a loveless place on that Tuesday evening in November 2016. Drunk off flat wine, I opened my email. It was Ella. “Anna! Trump has won!! Are you coming back to Ireland now?” I laughed. Then I cried until I had nothing left in me.
The energy of that night has seeped into every single day of the last 4 years. How can a president with so much hate in his heart, a lack of belief in science, and an obsession with tearing down President Obama’s legacy unite a single American citizen? In the face of a global pandemic, we have an orange man denouncing public health and safety experts- jokingly telling his constituents to kill the virus with bleach, to wear a mask if they want (but he won’t be wearing one), and to override what advice doctors are giving to the American people. He has politicized science. The lives of 228,000+ Americans have been taken as of October 2020. Those are just the lives we’ve lost. The ones that will never get a chance to be hopeful, to be a part of our recovery, to see a brighter future. Millions of Americans are without full-time jobs- finding that companies do not want to hire amidst the political turmoil and are unsure of their financial future on this brink of a recession. The majority of Americans are working from home, finding the struggle of working, homeschooling their children, grappling with the constant cohabitation with roommates and family, and partners they once just saw for MAYBE 8 hours a day, and emotionally surviving this quarantine to be rightfully burdensome.
Our silenced black brothers and sisters finally get a platform to speak of their injustices and enact change. They are marching through the streets, holding sit-in protests, and encouraging people of all skin colors to educate themselves, to read, and to speak up about injustices around them. If it were not for our global pandemic, would this movement have gained as much success in June? A lot to ponder, but let’s do it as we continue to support human rights and equality. Our President, fueled by Fox News propaganda, reports out of only the violence. He refers to protests as looting, only bothering to understand one side of the story. Coincidentally, the side that encourages the shrinking Republican party’s narrative of maintaining white superiority in America. He refused to denounce white supremacy at the first presidential debate, and instead told the neo-Nazi group, The Proud Boys, to “stand down and stand by.”
At this point in time, life is bleak. I’m afraid. I’m afraid that we’ll never get out of this pandemic. I’m afraid that we’ll continue to solely blame the Covid-19 spikes on weather patterns instead of human patterns. I’m afraid that we’ll continue to refuse masks and laugh at “Karen’s” instead of correcting them (NOT CANCEL. Can’t fuel the false conservative narrative of “cancel culture” which is actually just “accountability culture”). I’m afraid people will be unable to find jobs and support their families for a long time. I’m afraid more people will die. I’m afraid more people will not only be stereotyped but will continue to be killed based on the biological pigmentation of their skin. I’m afraid I’ll start talking to the younger generation and have to answer questions on why hate is prevalent in this country. I’m afraid it will continue to be mentally easier to block and cut off our former friends, instead of having heart-to-heart conversations with them. I’m afraid of this continuous pause. This continuous cycle. Or as CNN’s Jake Tapper called the presidential debate, “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.” 2020, but really this president’s term, has checked all of those boxes.
High-minded terminology aside- how do we handle the remaining week of this political shitshow? Stacey Abrams encapsulates my thoughts to a tee by saying, “I am not optimistic or pessimistic. I am determined.” Determination will get us through. Action and activism will get us through. Educating ourselves and others will get us through. Refusing to fall into the tactics of “the other side” will get us through. Remembering that Republicans gain political momentum via fear, while Democrats gain it via hope- will get us through.
Think back to 2016. Some of us were too young to vote. Some of us were in the trenches with Hillary. Some of us didn’t vote (this is not okay). Some of us were pissed that Bernie wasn’t the party’s pick and switched sides (double not okay). I’d argue that the majority of us just thought it would all work out. I sure did. I look back at my lack of activism-at my steadfast optimism, coupled with zero action. Turns out it was a recipe for a racist, xenophobic baffoon to enter the highest office.
Keep posting facts. Keep talking. Keep reading. Keep educating. Keep building momentum. Vote like your life depends on it. Talk to family members who have questionable beliefs. Ask them to put themselves in the shoes of a black person, an unemployed person, a person suffering from debilitating mental illness because of the lack of progress in our country. Challenge them to care about human rights. Don’t give up. Don’t raise your voice or leave the room. Don’t pull any Trump tactics with them. You know your case. You know the case for this country. Draw upon your inner strength, for you (& likely they too) have seen horrific things this year. You have seen countless black men and women lose their lives. You have seen fundamental rights being stripped away from the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. You have seen pro-life propaganda pop up again- causing women to panic over if they will indeed continue to have rights over their own bodies.
I want to believe that Trump supporters are just so self-interested and confused about where they ACTUALLY stand on an economic spectrum. I want to believe they turn a blind eye to his ways because continuing to be a Republican, the dying breed in America, is easier than taking action. My fear, which I know is a reality, is that there is hate so deeply woven into the fabrics of America. Hate that is fueled by race, by money, by power, by privilege. Education is the great equalizer. Unfortunately, the Republican party targets uneducated white people. People with power, due to their natural-born skin color. How can we fight for education and the betterment of society, when one party demands the suppression of it? An answer: propelling the education of our party. Facts will always trump fiction. Pun intended.