I’ve been planning what I would say today for weeks, considering how to describe the joy of electing a woman for president while I am representing my country in the oppressively patriarchal society of Mozambique. I meant to write about the example it sets, here, where much of my work focuses around women’s empowerment. About how proud I was to be an American living in the age when finally, finally, women’s suffrage had reached the heights of power. About how smug I would be sticking it to the patriarchy with a woman elected to lead the free world.
About how, after months of struggling with ennui and apathy, I was finally proud to representing the United States as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Instead, I spent yesterday curled in a fetal position, resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms, feeling physically nauseated and reaching out with only one question: How? I could not go to work, because of my embarrassment to be an American given the actions of my country yesterday.
Yesterday, I tried to articulate the rage, confusion, loathing, and betrayal I feel, lacking the words in English, much less in another tongue. I tried to explain to a few (non-American) friends why this betrayal is such a Big Deal, in a part of the world where rigged elections are not just the norm, but are assumed; how this was not the result of fraud, but entirely legal and within the rules, and all the more sickening for it.
Yesterday, I could do nothing but cry over the dreams and assumptions I have made, now broken, about not just this election cycle, but the American values and system I had trusted. I could only reach out to the good people in my life, forming a network of support and love even as, individually, we were falling apart.
I am afraid, in a way I am privileged to have not experienced before. I am scared for my rights as a woman and as a young person. I am scared for the state of a world in which such an opprobrious person holds a position of such power. I am scared for the safety, livelihoods, and lives of friends and fellow Americans – people of color, of immigrant and Native heritage, those facing challenging socioeconomic situations, those of us in the LGBTQ+ community.
But this is not the end of the world. It will change how people, my generation especially, engages in the political process. Because it has to. If we want change, we must engage.
Today, it is not fear, but fury the fuels me: anger against that which holds a man full of hatred, a spiteful, immature megalomaniac who exemplifies the polar opposite of all that I hold dear, to be representative of America. It is anger and, even more; hope that feeds my desire – nay, need – for change. If I can’t change the election results, I can at least show the people of Mozambique that one hateful individual does not represent my America. The America I know is not a country of hate. We can tell, and better yet, show, that the only way to fight hate is with a yet stronger love, to fight oppression with support and inclusion, to fight division with the strength of our unity.
That is, I’ll go do that as soon as I can articulate myself without crying. Which is to say, not quite yet.
Força — be strong. Estamos juntos.
All my love.