Lessons by Raven
I have learned so tremendously much from this election. During previous attempts to write this piece I struggled to label the phenomena that is occurring and it inevitably led to failure. But now, as I sit here with a pen in my hand weeks after it has passed, I am finally at peace with it’s chosen terminology. It is an election, a political event that seemed to center around everything but politics.
The months leading up to the election day were interesting, some might even say entertaining, but watching the events unfold that night was even more interesting. On that night, I got a crystal-clear view at the entirety of the human spectrum, got glimpses into the lives and opinions of people I’d never even considered. I saw people with joyous content etched into the grins of their usually-stoic faces, eyes gleaming with unkempt excitement and a deep sense of national pride that they had finally elected someone that was going to make America great again. Then I saw others, the silent ones with mouths agape and heads buried into the soft of their hands or into the shoulders of one another. Their eyes brimmed with empty tears and their throats were swollen from the sobs, the screams, the suffocating anger that grew with each sexist, misogynistic, racist comment the president-elect made, an anger that was born in the pits of their stomachs and had now clawed it’s way into their lungs, contaminating every molecule of air they breathed.
I am writing to tell you what I have learned, but in order for you to understand I must first try to show you who I am. I am a writer and a thinker who feels too much and who analyzes too often, who values her freedom and that of those around her. I am black and I am bisexual and I am not religious, and at times I joke that I purposefully un-purposefully place myself in as many marginalized groups as possible. I am alone most of the time but I find a way to fall in love with everyone, with the good side of people, making sure I never get close enough that my candy cane view of them isn’t shattered. I am toxically empathetic, and at times it feels like I’ve amassed so much emotion that it may detonate inside of me, my own personal ticking time bomb that matches eerily with the beat of my heart.
So on the evening of the election I went to sleep with a numb heart and numb mind. Only when I awoke the next morning did I allow myself to feel, to touch upon with light fingers the emotions I had been harboring so deeply. I mourned briefly for my communities and for the communities of others who had lost when Trump won, but pulled myself together for school. To show weakness, in my mind, would be to invite confrontation, and that was the last thing I wanted. All I wished on that morning was to seep in my resentment, in my anger and my disappointment at my fellow Americans. I didn’t want to hear the cons of Hilary or the reason behind voting for the man whom I viewed more as an entertainer than as a leader—I wanted to be left alone.
The next part is difficult to describe, mostly because it was such a simple activity that affected me so profoundly. Outside in the fresh air of early November, on a sunny day with not a cloud in sight, I sat with my Spanish class and I cried. Feelings hit me like a wave crashing violently down on the soft, wet sand, incited solely by the discussion of the election that took place in Spanish. People spoke and voiced their opinions and listened to each other, and under the broad sun with my arms wrapped protectively around my legs I realized something: we are all people, and as much as I wanted to hate the people that let hate win, the people who voted against me and my communities, the people who threw America back 50 years in the name of false change, I could not do it. I could not hate despite my anger, despite my resentment and my sadness, and for the first time in my life my heart broke for the people whose existence had been undermined and for the people whose failure to recognize the humanity in others resulted in the election of the man who does not represent the American people.
In the weeks following the election, my realization, and my subsequent heartbreak, I have learned more about myself and others than in the past year. I have learned that we listen to people and their opinions even if we disagree, because there is a reason people think the way they do and listening is one step closer to understanding. I have learned that I am not alone; there are people who feel the same anger and same sadness, and I have also learned that it is okay not to be okay. I have learned that support is the most important thing to have in times like these, and that surrounding yourself with caring, supportive people will aid in times of isolation. Finally I have learned that I love a lot more people than I hate, and that no matter what happens I can never be stripped of my right to love.
So my advice to you is to stay united. Speak out, protest, have conversations, and educate yourself and others, for what we lack in numbers we make up for in strength. Do not forget that while we may grieve now, we are a history of fighters, and we will fight for justice and equality till the end of our days. But remember what you are fighting for; do not succumb to the hate that we have fought so hard to escape. Do not let loss make you bitter and blind your perception of our chaotic, meager, beautiful existences. Most importantly, never stop loving one another because love is the only force that can conquer hate, and know in your heart that together we will recover.