That’s way too weak of a word.
I woke up at 3 AM yesterday because my room was so hot or maybe just because I was anxious. I checked the progress of the election and at the time, Trump was leading, but hadn’t won any of the “battleground” states yet. His road to victory was still looking unlikely, but possible. As you can imagine, I had no luck trying to fall back asleep, and instead watched as the remainder of the election unfolded. I shed some tears as it seemed that Hillary was slipping further and further behind, and I left for work at 7:45, knowing that a Clinton victory was near impossible, in a state of confusion and shock.
I arrived at my school in Meylan and walked up to my colleagues huddled together. While I worried that they might be judgmental or angry, that was not at all the case. They looked at me with long faces and said “C’est vraiment incroyable.” They asked me what I thought, how I was feeling, how my family was feeling, and they offered their condolences as if I had lost a loved one…”Bon courage!” they said, “We are with you.” They expressed their fear that the French would follow suit and elect the extreme right, nationalist candidate, Marine Le Pen, in their elections next Spring…something that seemed unthinkable. Until today. They were just as confused, shocked and hurt as I was.
In class, I was asked to discuss the election with the 8 and 9 year old students. Some of them already knew the result from the morning, and some found out when I told them, but they all had the same questions. “Who did you vote for? Isn’t Donald Trump racist? Isn’t he really mean to women? Is he really going to build a wall?” they asked. How could I possibly explain to these kids that yes, we had actually just elected this racist, misogynistic man to be the president of the United States? I felt so embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with a people who was capable of that. For those kids it’s so simple…why would anyone vote for that mean guy? For us, apparently it’s not. Some of them told me how badly they wanted “la dame” to win. And all I could say was “Me too, I am so sad that she didn’t win.” If only everyone in the U.S. could have stepped back and seen from the outsider’s perspective how simple it should have been, Trump wouldn’t have stood a chance.
Later in the afternoon, I met up with some fellow American assistants to commiserate and vent. A German assistant told us he thought that this was what needed to happen in order for the U.S. to expose it’s deep-seeded issues and truly progress. I’m not sure that’s true, but maybe he’s right. Another woman from the U.K. who we met at a coffee shop told us that on one hand, she was feeling rather depressed, but on the other hand, she was feeling assertive. “F*** patriarchy! I’m done with this. I’m ready to go out and make some s*** happen,” she said. Again, I like to think we could have progressed without electing Trump, but maybe this is the spark we need to really get going.
I am still in disbelief at what our country has just done. I am sorry to all of the people who are now in fear of their very basic human rights and livelihoods. I am saddened by all of the ignorance and hatred that still exists when it seems like we’ve come so far.
Throughout the last couple days I have repeatedly been thinking about the speech congressman John Lewis gave to my graduating class. He said two things that really resonated with me: “Find a way to get in the way” and “Make good trouble”
I’m feeling now like there will be no better time or opportunity to do those things than right now and over the next 4 years because we simply cannot regress. Let’s do this.