I don’t want to face this blank page.
I don’t want to think about how my shoulder has been wet for the last week, wet with tears from women with the strength and resilience of steel. I don’t want to think about what unspeakable, unparalleled devastation could have shattered their exterior, a feat I presumed impossible.
It has been a week since the election and an astounding number of people are in pain.
Across the country, reports of hate crimes, vandalism and assault – both physical and verbal – have poured into local police departments. Many of these crimes implicate president-elect Donald Trump, signaling that we have taken our first step into the rabbit hole – toward a new nation. Trump’s America.
Muslim and black communities have been disproportionately subject to attack, with several reports of women in hijab facing verbal attack and the n-word chalked over sidewalks. But sexual assault victims as well as LGBTQ+, disabled, undocumented, Hispanic and female Americans all bear the insurmountable weight of this decision. For marginalized communities, the future appears more uncertain than ever before, and everything they thought they knew about this country, about their neighbors, has suddenly and urgently come into question.
Yet one surprising demographic has been particularly outspoken about the negative implications that Trump’s victory has had on them. This demographic is Republicans.
From the looks of their highly emotional Facebook statuses, it appears that Trump voters have been experiencing quite a bit of turmoil in the wake of their own decision.
As many conservatives, especially those on college campuses, are learning, while casting a vote in favor of dismantling political correctness, conservative fiscal policies and immigration reform, they accidentally signed up to vote for fear, hate and intolerance in the footnotes.
Desperate to explain they are not the racist, sexist xenophobes their ballot may suggest, articles titled, “An Open Letter to Democrats, from a Millennial Republican” and “I am not a bad person just because I voted for Trump” have surfaced, arguing that their vote for Trump stemmed not from a place of racism, but as a rallying cry against Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, or because they don’t believe in Obamacare, or because of their fierce loyalty to the 2nd Amendment.
I believe you.
But you don’t get to escape this.
You don’t get to escape that you were passionate enough about abortion – in the pursuit to save lives, ironically – to put black and brown bodies on the line. After reading about the hate that has plagued this country since last Tuesday – swastikas garnishing New York walls, water fountains labelled “colored” and “white” in elementary schools – you certainly don’t get to pretend you didn’t play a part in this. And you sure as hell don’t get to pretend you didn’t see this coming.
I will trust that your intent was not vile. I will even trust that these incidents are causing you the appropriate amount of pain they should cause any American, and go as far as to assume you feel just as crippled, hopeless and disgusted as I do that we have regressed to such a dismal degree, despite so many Americans risking and sacrificing their lives to ensure we never returned to such dreadfully dark days.
I hope you do.
But intent pales in comparison to impact. Even if an action is born from the purest of intentions, by no means is it disqualified for criticism when it’s consequences are colossal. Or fatal.
This was never an election about politics, and if that’s just now occurring to you, spend a night in having that long, tough conversation with your privilege you’ve been avoiding for so long. Your vote was either in favor of an America that built walls, or not – either in favor of going to war with a major world religion, mocking disability, ignoring the cries of sexual assault victims pointing at a presidential candidate as an abuser, or not. Whether you like it, or not.
So it’s all fine and good if your intention was to vote on policy, but recognize your impact will be on bodies.
It might be literally – electing Trump to the highest office of the United States validates, in a powerful way, the racism that left a homeless Latino man bleeding on the streets almost a year ago, and the assault of a Muslim woman found bruised in a parking lot last week.
It might be figuratively – a serious threat to Planned Parenthood is likely to strip millions of low-income Americans the opportunity to seek affordable information on reproductive health, birth control, STD treatment and cancer screenings.
Either way, it will not be temporary, nor will it be gentle.
Being a misogynistic bigot is, unfortunately, only slightly worse than deciding a misogynistic bigot deserved to lead our nation. Maybe you never said anything about grabbing a woman. Maybe you never used your arms to mock a disabled person. Maybe you never echoed the unspeakable words that rolled off the tongue of your old, racist grandfather.
But your vote was your voice, and you used that voice to paint the halls of the White House with a pungent, hateful rhetoric. Perhaps your pen seemed flimsy and light within the four walls of your voting booth, but the slightest tap of that pen was more than enough to spill a thick, murky pool of intolerance onto our streets.
I know you didn’t mean to. I know it hurts your feelings that no one seems understands that.
But this isn’t about you.
Get to your local protest. Look at the words on the signs raised so boldly around you. They are not protesting Republican policy. They are words of pain. They are not words of hurt feelings. They are words of people fighting for their lives.
Intention matters to you. Impact matters to all of us.
The impact of your vote has caused pain. The impact of your next move is up to you.
Yusra Murad ([email protected]) is a junior studying psychology, business and global health.