Friday, November 11, 2016

The Weight Or Not My President

I could feel the weight of what was happening a hundred feet from the door of the Powerhouse, a sort of instinctual dread. The air was thick, he was winning, and his lead was growing. What many thought would never happening was happening: Donald Trump was becoming our next president.
            I initially started the night off at a local pub, my head on a swivel as I turned from my phone to the TV; trying to make sense of what was happening. There were four split screens with different channels, and each had a separate count for the electoral vote. I was with my friend Jennaye, she’s my go-to when I need a drink and a smile; my BFPF (best female platonic friend). But this would not be a night with very many smiles.

            The tension was already building around that table of friends and new friends I just met, and we decided we needed to go be with the Democrats as they gathered in the Powerhouse Science Center. I’ve never really considered myself a Democrat, more of an Independent, but I was rooting for Hilary Clinton to win. The state of our nation depended on it, I thought.

            The night started with pleasantries and beers, but quickly I became anxious and fixated on the results. Nothing was making sense, I knew Hilary needed a certain amount of electoral votes, but I didn’t understand exactly what states she needed to win. I knew my roommate and friend Micha would know, and she was at the Powerhouse.

            Cutting through the air of anxiety and despair I found her—we might lose—was the jist of it. My heart sank. Was America really about to elect an openly racist, misogynistic, liar to the presidency? 

            The night carried on. I was too nervous to even drink another beer. I knew it wouldn’t help. I already had a splitting headache because I’d been in the desert for several days before, and didn’t drink enough water during the day for proper recovery.

            The vibes in the air got worse, and I went into writer mode. I knew this was going to be a moment in history I’d remember for as long as I live and I wanted to crystalize it in my brain. I studied the expressions on people’s faces. Some cried, others were transfixed on their phones following other races in the Senate and House. My phone died. I don’t know what use I really had for my phone at that point anyways.

            I wasn’t the first to leave, and I wasn’t the last. By the time I left though I was no longer surrounded by friends. Everyone seemed to need to grieve on their own.

            I slumped out of there, and rode my bike slower than ever before as I contemplated what had happened. I felt sadness, but for what? For whom?

            If I am being truly honest, and as a journalist and poet at heart that is my job, I was sad for myself. For the last eight years I’ve felt as though Barack Obama truly represented my interests and values. I was proud to have a black president who was full of integrity. I thought America was headed in the right direction of everyone finally having a voice. I feel like Hilary represented many of my values as well. Sure, I wasn’t as excited about her as Obama, but I knew she would be a continuation of his vision. So, I was sad because who I wanted to win did not win.

            There’s a deeper sinking feeling past that, and that hit home as I sat in front of the computer screen and constantly refreshed the New York Times website. The financial market was already crashing. I understood that the anxiety of women, people of color, Muslims, recent immigrants and hopeful immigrants, were feeling, but I did not feel it myself as much as they are. I realized I am the privileged, educated, Middle Class white man.

            I feel asleep with my computer still on in my bed and then was wide-awake at five in the morning. Normally a good sleeper, I knew I couldn’t go back to bed because I was again ridden with anxiety. I wondered if I would get out of bed all day. I checked all the news sites. I cried a little.

            I avoided checking Facebook, I knew there would be anger from my friends, and voicing anger on Facebook is kinda like shouting at the wind. I had my own anger—mostly for the white populous that voted for Trump and their ignorant ways. I felt pure hatred for a minute. Instead of sending away all our immigrants and Muslims why don’t we just send the miseducated angry white people away? I hear Mars is looking for residents.

            Eventually after hours of depressing news stories, I found my way to Facebook. Of course there were some angry posts. A lot of them.

            Through the anger and the hate there were some voices of love and truth. Many people expressed their desire to leave the country, but then realized how much America needs people who want to accept everyone and love everyone regardless of their skin color, religion, or sexual orientation.
            One voice, one voice rang out over all. It was from Andrea Stanley, a Native American woman, whose perspective I have appreciated since meeting her this past summer. The post read, “Good Morning! It's a good day to be Indigenous! Remember, this is nothing new when we think of what our ancestors endured for us to exist today. This country is founded on stolen land, genocide, colonization, and slavery. I appreciate honesty in any form and now it's proven to y'all who didn't already believe that we live in a white supremacist country. We will continue to fight for mother earth and the sacred.”

            More and more, I am reminded of the privilege that being white and male means in America. It looks like for the next four years those of us who appreciate and honor diversity will be on the defense in the political arena. No matter how much I fight though I will still be white and male—the ideal skin color and gender for the world Trump hopes to create.

            I finally found the courage to get out of bed. I had to write, I had to. It’s what I was born to do. Then, I heard crying outside of my bedroom. It was Micha. I figured I’d just let her have a cry, get it out of her system. But she just kept weeping. So, I went out and talked to her. She was crying for all the energy she put into the election that now seemed like a waste. (Just yesterday after knocking on doors all day, she practically collapsed next to her bed saying, “why won’t people just vote?”) She cried for women, and what a misogynistic leader like Trump means to all women. She was exhausted and frustrated. I just listened, and realized I was not as sad as her, or many people, because his presidency will not affect me as it does other people.

            Like many, I have thoughts of leaving. I have friends in Mexico and Canada. I’m still contemplating it, but again, it is a privilege to be able to consider it. And again, I’m going to leave you with words from someone else, from Durango writer Page Buono, and her post this morning, “For hours now, roughly twelve of them, I've been plagued by the intense desire to leave, to find some other place to call a home, because certainly in the wake of last night's results, this does not feel like my home. Where else can I land? A deep forest, a lonely canyon, another county? But I realize that the desire and genuine opportunity to leave is a product of my privilege. For so many, there is no other country, no other home. This is it. Our task now is to carve out our place in it and hold firm to the welcoming spaces we craft. There is nowhere else to go. We have to turn toward each other and keep fighting to make this a space we are proud to call our own.”

This piece was originally published in this week's Durango Telegraph. 

My memoir American Climber is now available in e-book format and print.

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