This past weekend, I went to Amsterdam to meet up with one of my closest friends who was on vacation from the Israeli Defense Forces. We’d planned the trip months ago, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed a break from Penn, from this election, from America.
As a gay Jewish woman and sexual assault survivor, everything about this election was extremely triggering. My depression got worse, and I’ve spent the majority of this semester crying alone in my room. I know there are people in worse condition – and I can’t even imagine how that feels. This is not the life I want to be living. This is not the America I want to love.
This was my first time in Amsterdam, but already I know it’s my favorite place I’ve ever traveled to. The atmosphere is so beautiful and calming, and the people are so kind. (My friend and I got very lost on the way to the Heineken museum, and an elderly woman noticed our confusion and walked us all the way there. No stranger has ever done something like that for me before.)
And for the entire four days that I was in Amsterdam, I was happy. Truly happy. And I hadn’t felt that way in a long time. I was excited to wake up and spend the entire day exploring the city. I didn’t worry about my responsibilities at Penn, and I managed to put aside the sense of impending doom that’s been looming over the US.
This lasted until, on my last day abroad, I encountered a Trump supporter sitting next to me in a restaurant. She was ranting to her two friends (who very clearly disagreed with her) about politics, and while I try not to eavesdrop, I couldn’t help but listen to what she was saying. At first she talked about how important guns are, and how children should keep guns in their desks at school “just in case.” Somehow I resisted the urge to tell her what an awful idea that was.
But then she switched to the topic of abortion and told her friends that just because a woman has been sexually assaulted, it doesn’t mean she has a right to “kill” the child – she should carry it for 9 months, give birth, and then put it up for adoption if she doesn’t want it. I have never been angrier in my entire life.
I immediately turned to her and told her my story, trying to explain that the severe mental health issues I’ve faced since my assault would have been multiplied by 100 if I’d gotten pregnant and been forced to keep it. If I had wanted an abortion but had not been allowed to get it, society would be punishing me for a crime I did not commit, while my attacker is allowed to live freely in the world and not be impacted in any way.
She kept fighting back, but I didn’t stop trying to reason with her – until I realized that people like this just can’t be reasoned with. There was nothing I could say that would change her mind. I spent the rest of the night crying in my room.
This ignorant woman is a smaller version of America’s president, and I am angry. I am miserable. I am scared. There is no way to know what will happen these next four years, and I don’t want to find out. I want to go back to Amsterdam.