Not Ready To Make Nice

I read a couple of beautiful posts from a couple of wonderful and wise, straight, white, male friends. The posts both advised to bridge gaps, to talk to Trump supporters, and understand why they voted the way they did, that most Trump supporters are not racist or sexist. But here’s the thing – the package that they signed up for, racism and misogyny come with it. As Hasan Mihnaj said, it’s part of the deal . You may not personally be a racist/sexist, but with your vote, you’ve basically said “I don’t hate you, I just don’t care about you”. Which I guess I can have a little understanding for simply because a lot of the people who voted that way are from rural areas, and have maybe never met a Muslim or an immigrant or anyone from the LBGTQ community. Lack of exposure directly correlates to lack of empathy .

But those beautiful, diplomatic posts don’t address the issue that I am struggling with the most – that, not strangers who have never encountered these different people, but my immediate family and at least one close friend, have chosen to vote this way. And I know their reasons. Some are hoping for a change in their economic status. Some are hoping for a supreme court that will overturn marriage equality and Roe vs. Wade (which in and of itself is beyond problematic for me, but not unexpected, and that’s a post for another day). It’s that these issues, to them, outweigh my own safety. That a slight decline in their healthcare premium is somehow more important than my autonomy over my own body. That a court decision that has been in place since the 70s is creating such a desperate situation, that the safety of my husband is expendable. That the need to ensure gay people have no illusion of equality with good, God-fearing Christians, the future of my brown, Muslim children can be uncertain.

That’s the package deal they have signed up for. They are effectively saying to me “Of course we don’t hate you and your family, but we don’t care enough about you. These other things are more important than your well-being”. And that is what they are saying. In fact, about a month before the election, while (very) briefly discussing who I was not voting for, given the fact that I am a woman and I am married to a Muslim man and I have friends and family who are not yet entirely legal, a family member, who I love very dearly said “You’ll probably be okay”. Probably? And that’s enough? That the probable safety of their daughter/granddaughter/niece/cousin and her husband and kids is not only sufficient, but worth the risk.

And that is where my struggle comes in. I am devastated that such a huge portion of the country has chosen to pursue their own interests at all costs. But I am gutted that my own family has done it. And so what do I do now? How do I walk in to Thanksgiving with a smile on my face and love in my heart, when all I am capable of feeling at the moment is angry and betrayed? How do I build this bridge that my wonderful friends posted about and forgive my family? Especially when I know that they are not sorry, that most of them would probably not change their vote, even if they could.

And you know what? I kind of don’t even want to forgive and move on yet. I kind of want to stay angry and hurt. I want to embrace this feeling and poke at the anger and make it angrier. I want them to understand how I feel but I don’t want to sit down and have a nice rational, compassionate conversation. I want to sneer at them and spit out all of the times I have been sexually assaulted. I want to shout out them that I fear every time my husband leaves the house that he’s going to be attacked because he is brown and Muslim and that their selfishness and willing ignorance and misguided morality has painted a target on our backs. And I want this anger to spur me into action. I want to hold this anger close to me for the rest of my life and always use it to do something helpful. And now, instead of saying “Oh good, I’m glad someone is doing something”, I hope this anger makes me say “Fuck yeah. I’m in.” I want my family to see my anger and my actions, and I hope they eventually understand. But first, I hope that they get angry too.

November 9th, 2016

Yesterday morning, I woke up with excitement and confidence. I drove to my local polling place listening to Beyonce’s Run The World (Girls). I strolled into the ballot booth with a big smile on my face and pushed the button for Hillary Clinton with so much exuberance I’m surprised that I didn’t break the machine. Then, before I moved down my ballot, I just sat back and looked at my historic vote for a couple of seconds, savored it. This is why I didn’t vote early. I wanted to experience election day, I wanted to breathe the air and share the excitement with others voting for America’s first female president. When I got to my office, I signed on to Facebook and “liked” every single post about voting, about history being made, and about Hillary.  I even posted a .gif of Beyonce and a girl squad strutting purposely with the caption “Walking into the polling place like…” And that’s how I felt. Like me and my country-wide girl squad, and my LGBTQ squad, and all the minority squads, we had this. We walked in and voted, to move forward, not backward, to be included, to be respected, to be equal.

And then election night happened. I was nervous, but still confident. My husband and I sat on our couch in silence, except for the occasional “Oh shit, she lost Florida… Ohmigod North Carolina too?… Hold out for Nevada, there’s still Nevada”. But it turns out Nevada wasn’t enough. All our squads weren’t enough. We watched as, state by state, almost the entire map of the United States of America turned red. Finally, about midnight central time, I couldn’t take it anymore. I stood up, looked at my wonderful, kind, and generous Muslim American husband, announced I was going to bed, and burst into tears and my kind, generous, Muslim husband comforted me. We went to bed, held on tight to each other, and I fell asleep. He did not.

I woke up this morning with tears in my eyes. Half of the country has spoken. They don’t want to move forward. They miss where we used to be.

Half of the country includes my family. I’m from rural Louisiana. My family is part of that working-class, Christian right who doesn’t have more than a high school education and have never moved out of our hometown. I knew without them telling me who they weren’t voting for. But I held out hope that since the Republican candidate was so (for lack of a better word) deplorable, since they adore their Muslim son-in-law and his family, since they raised strong, independent, successful women, that they would refrain from the presidential vote, or cast their vote for a 3rd party candidate. But they didn’t. They voted. And throughout this week they told me and my sisters who they were voting for and why. Told us he was the only real choice. My aunt even sent us an hour long YouTube video of a sermon where the Republican candidate was called “flawed” and “rough around the edges” but really the best and only choice if one wanted to repeal Marriage Equality and not live under “enforced sodomy”, whatever the fuck that means. My sister and I griped about it, marveled that they have ignored the fact that we don’t share the same values as them, but ultimately, we blew them off. They, we thought, are on the wrong side of history. They, we thought, are in the minority.

And then last night happened. And it is gut-wrenching. We are afraid. We are discouraged. My country, my family, voted that they don’t want anymore Muslims in this country – despite the fact that the little brown baby boy I’m carrying will be Muslim. My country and my family voted that, if something goes wrong in the months that I’m carrying this child, I should not have the right to make the decision on how to proceed, that I should have one option – to carry to term no matter what the consequences. My family, who has raised all daughters for the last two generations, has voted for women to have little autonomy over our own bodies. They voted and the man who now holds the highest office in the land has unequivocally stated “Grab her, kiss her, say what you want about her, do what you want to her. Nothing will happen to you”.

And I feel afraid. And I feel gutted. And I feel betrayed. And today, I weep. I mourn. I rage.

But tomorrow… Tomorrow…

“Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come… and more work to do” Thank you, Hillary. You are right. After all, tomorrow is another day. And we have to to keep working, to keep fighting. It has never been easy, and it might get harder. But we won’t go back. Back to the darkness, back to the kitchens, back to the metal hangers and the silence. We will put in the work – with our time and our wallets and our voices. We won’t stop fighting for what is right. And we are not alone. That was apparent when I walked into my doctor’s office this morning and women were asking other women “Are you okay?” and most of us answered honestly, with tears in our eyes “No. We are not okay”. Half of the country has voted to tell us to go back where we came from – to our home countries, or to our kitchens, back where they think we all belong. But that was only half. The other half were with Her. The other half were with us, are with us. And today that half turned inward, to embrace and comfort and console.

But tomorrow… Tomorrow is another day. And we will not go back.