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.