The plan was to go out.
Memories of President Obama’s first election were still vivid in my mind and I thought election night 2016 would play out similarly. I imagined myself drinking in celebration with friends and like-minded strangers, cheering for progress and our nation’s first female president.
After I got off work I went over my boyfriend Jon’s house and set up my laptop with a live feed of the results while I prepared dinner. I was optimistic at first. “Most of those are conservative states anyway,” I told myself.
But as the crimson on my map of America spread like blood from a gaping wound, I started to panic. Donald Trump was up by 70 points. Watching battleground states flip from blue to red, I ditched my plan to save the booze for after dinner and poured myself a stiff whiskey drink. At Jon’s insistence I closed my laptop and turned on a sitcom, hoping that laughter might cure my anxiety.
I held out hope as long as I could. “But California!” I kept insisting, counting on my home state to save us all. I checked social media and saw the few Trump supporters on my timeline rejoicing. I pulled up the results and frantically did the math.
“She’s lost,” I told Jon. I recounted. “It’s over.”
We went for a walk outside. He was quiet and thoughtful while I opined the current state of the union and cackled at our collective misfortune.
“Do you know what this means?” I asked manically. I plowed on without waiting for an answer, “This means that this country hates women so much they’d rather elect a man with multiple rape charges, who has spouted bigotry and hate for most of his campaign, than a flawed yet qualified woman. People will say it’s because no one trusted Hillary, but that’s bullshit. When has that ever mattered? When have we ever trusted a politician?”
“Should we still go out?” he asked, his voice heavy with defeat.
“Who cares? What’s left to celebrate?”
Apparently pot was legalized. Good thing because we’re going to need a lot of it to cope with this.
My sleep that night was tormented. I woke up several times before finally giving up around 6am. My head pounded and my stomach lurched as reality (and the worst hangover I’ve ever experienced in my life) settled in. With Jon sleeping soundly beside me, I let quiet tears soak through my pillow.
I wasn’t crying because my party had lost. Truth be told I was a registered Independent until just before the California Primary.
I was crying for my country. I was crying because the facade had finally been ripped away, America’s ugly underbelly left exposed. I was crying because I couldn’t comprehend how a man who had directed verbal abuse at African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, the disabled, and women could claim to represent their interests. I was crying because President Obama, our first African American president, would be forced to hand the highest office in the land over to a man who was endorsed by the KKK.
Rubbing my puffy eyes as I got up for work, I was reminded of the closing stanza in Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.”
I work best under pressure; it’s what makes me such a good procrastinator. As I stepped into the steaming shower, I felt baptized, renewed. It was in that moment I made a commitment to myself: my work doesn’t end here. The time for complacency has passed. I must allow this presidency to serve as my bat signal. Gotham needs me.
In January 2016, I founded Free the Nipple Yoga, a monthly workshop centered around empowering women and challenging archaic censorship laws. Every month our community grows larger, and while I know our liberal California attitudes might not be reflected countrywide, I believe a shift in consciousness is underway. Some might call it a national identity crisis. There are those who see our liberation as a threat to their comfort and security, who quiver at the thought of change. They are the ones who chose division over progress, hate over hope.
What those people don’t know is that I am the great-granddaughter of Inetta Chinn, a woman who housed Civil Rights leaders like Senator John Lewis when their work took them to Jackson, Mississippi; a woman who, in a time and place where lynching was common, dared to fight for voting rights. I have the blood of revolutionaries coursing through my veins and we don’t give up.
More and more I am coming to terms with the fact that I can only control “to the tips of my fingers,” as Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. says. I think the election really drove that point home, and many of us are feeling helpless as a result. I choose to be empowered by that information instead. After all, it only takes one person to change the world.
On Election Night, I had plans to go out. I had planned on celebrating this entire week. My plans have changed. And while I am disappointed I also acknowledge that this is the nature of life. It is unpredictable, full of conflict, and sometimes it seems like the bad guys are winning. This is the part of the story where the superheroes form an alliance and plot to defeat the evil empire.
If it seems like my grieving period has been expedited, it’s because we don’t have time to waste.