I come from a county in rural Pennsylvania that turned red last night––not the red of someone blushing, as though it was rightfully embarrassed of who it was voting for, and whose lives it might ruin by doing so. No. Early on election night, my county turned a blistering, incontrovertible red––the red of a rage that, like its voters, was blind to reason. On top of this, I was raised Catholic. I attended Catholic school from my first day of Pre-K to the day I graduated high school. That’s where I met the people I would consider my two best friends on this planet. I am certain that both of them voted for Trump. Both are bracingly intelligent young women who had the misfortune of being raised by a religion that shamed them into becoming single-issue voters, for whom abortion is a mortal sin whose abolishment is of utmost importance. (One has also said to my face that she did not believe that a woman could - not should, but could - be president.) Were it not for Trump’s (nominal) Pro-Life stance, I assure you, the faith in which I was raised would not have endorsed him.
So tonight, I am ashamed. I am ashamed at the place I called my home for 17 fragile years, and of the faith that taught me to love my neighbor as myself while openly endorsing a would-be demagogue. More importantly, though, I am ashamed at myself, for not kicking and screaming at my blind friends and family, and risking the possible severance of some of my strongest ties in this world, in order to have some shot at changing their minds in favor of Clinton. I’m ashamed that I did not have the courage to tell the people I grew up with, as well as some of the people who raised me, that they were, in this case, dead wrong. For not attempting to change as many hearts and minds as I could about this election - all for fear of my own ostracization from the community that raised me. Because the ostracization that has already occurred with the results of the election - of the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, Muslims, women, the differently abled, etc. - is deep and profound and much more important than my own individual ostracization from my birthplace.
To my fellow students who fall into any of these categories and are feel unsafe as a result of these election: I am so sorry that I’ve failed you. Democracy only works when we are all invested––when we all exert maximum effort and investment in the system. I realize now that as an educated voter from a swing state––many of the inhabitants of which have not had my distinct privilege of a higher education that has exposed me to true diversity, in all its enriching beauty––I failed you in not doing everything I could to persuade other Pennsylvania voters that a vote for Trump was not an symbolic finger to the system, evasion of a “corrupt,” “establishment” Democrat, crapshoot for economic progress, or ironic protest vote. It was a vote that could make the reality of people unlike themselves - unsupported by a small enclave of privileged, largely white, like-minded individuals - a living hell, riddled with the fear of the unknown for the future of a country of which, from today forward, we will struggle to proud.