I keep on wanting to cry. I keep on almost crying and I don’t know for who or for what precisely, but I always stop just short for some reason.
When the race was called I sat in silence with four other people; myself (a gay man), two powerful Muslim women, an unapologetically black man, and a brilliant South Asian woman sat in silence, it was real now. We had been waiting in what felt like a bunker in Hamco for seven hours as the results rolled in painfully slowly, every “Key Race Alert” filled us with anxiety while simultaneously just making us laugh at their uselessness.
At the end of those seven hours, being with those people in that room, seeing any hope for the first female president of the United States dashed, made the inevitable consequences of this election all the more real. Not a single person in that room would be championed by Trump. Maybe that means it was an echo chamber of liberalism—it probably does—but it also means that my fear bounced around the room. “What is going to happen to my community?” turned into “Are my friends going to be able to walk home safely tonight?” or “Are my friends going to be slurred at in the streets, am I?” And before you say I was overreacting, remember that there were swastikas painted on buildings in South Philly yesterday morning and that the histories of oppression people fear we will explicitly revert to are not too far off in history, besides the fact that they probably never went away in the first place. Before you say I was overreacting, let me explain how I, personally, already self-police, without this alt-right disease ravaging our nation. I’ve considered whether or not I should take pink sticky notes on the bus to visit my boyfriend because, well, my pants are already pretty tight and I don’t want anyone being able to figure me out; maybe they can hear it in my voice, too, it’s unclear. There was that guy two weeks ago that came up and pinched my jeans and laughed, so maybe I shouldn’t even wear that pair on the bus, even though I go on so many runs so that I like how I look in them. Better not take any chances; I’ll just bring green even though the pink ones were the closest on the desk. Once I actually get off the bus, I better be careful holding my boyfriend’s hand in public, because Uncle Bill used to get gay-bashed in the 70s, and we all know that still happens, right? So is stunting my relationship worth my physical safety? That’s just some of it, and I’m white, let’s just be honest about it all.
While we were waiting for the results, one of my friends half-jokingly asked, “Do you think America is cursed because we took it from other people?” I think she’s on to something. Not cursed, maybe, but poisoned. Poisoned by the idea that America looks like something specific that includes some and not others and by the structural reality that America has been forcibly created, and not always in the noblest of ways; anyone from a marginalized community can probably tell you how they’ve never seen themselves in that picture of America, but decidedly outside of it, and how the formation of American society has often, if not always, kept them out of it. When you can’t see yourself as completely and totally a part of your own nation, and at least half of the the political system tells you that too, there’s reason to be afraid. When you already watch your back and now your President can’t, won’t, you have reason to be afraid. When others can control your bodies, your rights, and, largely, how other people perceive your status as a threat or not, or as worthy or not, YOU GET TO BE AFRAID.
I keep on almost crying, and I wish I would just cry. I think it’s because I don’t know where to start first, whose fear do I cry for first?