Earlier this semester, I cast my vote for the person I thought was going to be the first female president. A week after that, I went as a “Nasty Woman,” for Halloween. And I jokingly complained in the breakfast line about being upset because I, as an absentee voter, didn’t get one of those endearing “I voted” stickers. It all seems so petty now.
On election night, in my favorite classroom behind the Science Center coffee bar, surrounded by some of my best friends, I watched my world fall apart. It didn’t happen all at once, but each electoral vote picked away at my sense of my future, until it was all I could do to drag myself to bed and hope it was all a dream. I woke up today and it was raining. And I felt like even God knew what He had done.
I have always been a liberal, but above that, I think of myself as a kind and rational person. When my cynical friends disparaged this country, I stood up for it. I was proud of our diversity. I was proud of a constitution that proclaimed all men and women equal. I was proud of the first African-American president and the legalization of gay marriage, but at a more basic level, I was proud that as an eighteen-year-old female, I had a say in who ran my country. So many young women across the world never get that chance.
But this election year, the United States of America gave me nothing to be proud of. I wanted to be angry, I wanted to fight, I wanted to be as strong as the woman for whom I proudly cast my vote, but I couldn’t. I was sad, and discouraged, and empty.
And I know that even these emotions are privileges. It is a privilege to feel as though my family will still be here four years from now, to feel as though my basic citizenship won’t be immediately questioned. It is a privilege to believe my mom will still have her job, if only because as a college professor, she probably won’t be the first one cut. It is a privilege to wake up every morning alongside fellow students who believe I belong at Swarthmore, or in this country, and to not have to consider how the color of my skin may affect this perspective. It is a privilege to be only disheartened, because so many are fearing for their lives.
The week after the election, I walked out of Kohlberg and stood in front of Parrish with over 1,000 of my fellow students in an effort to show our support for undocumented students on this campus, and request that our administration protect these students to the extent that they are capable of. I was proud to chant “El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido,” because I knew what it meant in English, not because I will ever know what it means to the students around me whose sense of safety will be affected by our next president. I listened to my best friend talk about his mother’s immigration to the States at only 12, about her having to learn a new language and master a new school system so that she could eventually work 50 or more hours a week at a desk job, and I wondered how anyone could believe people to be illegal.
I don’t have a plan for the next four years, but I did make it through today. And even though I had to bury everything painful and sad and horrifying as deep inside my soul as it would go just to get out of bed this morning, I have hope that tomorrow will be easier.
I won’t preach optimism at a time like this. I won’t attempt to console with faulty hopes for impeachment, or reassure with the merits of checks-and-balances, or mobilize a revolution of the angry and downtrodden. I am not in a position to tell anyone how to act, or how to feel. The best I can offer is my own gratitude for the woman who will be memorialized in the history of the United States and burned into my own mind for the rest of my life.
Thank you, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for showing me and all young women of America that with a little wit, a lot of heart, and a blatant disregard for the patriarchy, we could do anything. Thank you for being adaptable to the changing face of this country, and for listening to, rather than disregarding the voices of those who not long ago disparaged you in the primaries. Thank you for showing politicians in this country what it means to be civil, respectful, and kind, and thank you for never stooping to the level of the men around you. Thank you for believing that my singular vote in Buncombe County, North Carolina meant as much as anyone else’s, and thank you for giving me something to hope for, something to be proud of. But most of all, thank you for reminding us that regardless of where we came from or which candidate we supported, we should never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.
I promise I won’t.