I was wrong. A lot of us were wrong.
I was convinced that hope and basic human decency would prevail, that the voices of those who have been continuously barred from acceptance in American society would be offered a voice, or at least a nod of solidarity among other Americans that says “we do not support this man who has bombarded you with hateful rhetoric for the past year (and throughout his entire career), and we believe we are stronger together.”
I was wrong. So I began to grieve.
I grieved throughout my sleepless night on East Africa Time watching the results pour in from 3:30am to 11am. I grieved when Trump took the stage. I grieved when he said “This political stuff is tough!” I grieved when Rudy Giuliani compared Trump’s appeal to the people to that of Andrew Jackson, a man who fanned the flames of genocide and still wound up on the $20 bill. I grieved when both Putin and Duterte praised the election results and showed that they were both in his court. I grieved at the terror felt by Muslims feeling that “open season” on Islam in America is about to begin. I grieved at the terror felt by black Americans as they watched that brief glimmer of hope that white America was finally waking up to the fear in which they live on a daily basis suddenly vanish into oblivion, and I grieved at the idea that the fear many white Americans have of becoming the minority merited any collective action at all. And I grieved when it was announced that an outspoken alt-right white nationalist would soon hold one of the most powerful positions in the country as Trump’s Chief Strategist.
I grieved when I realized this is going to keep getting worse before it gets better.
And yes, of course, I was grateful for the immense support and solidarity I felt from my friends from all across the planet (one text message after another reading “I am so, so sorry. I have no words. Are you okay?”). I was grateful upon reflecting that my country has a (mostly) functional democracy, even if not everyone is always happy with the result. I was grateful for the ongoing progress of women in politics in my home state of California, where Nancy Pelosi has previously held the highest government position below President/VP, where Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein were re-elected so many times they arguably normalized women holding congressional seats, and where at least one woman that I voted for – Kamala Harris – just became 1) the newest female California Senator, 2) the first black California Senator, and 3) a potential hopeful for a future presidential run (the new Obama, some say). And I was grateful to watch the outpouring of protesters into streets across America, demonstrating that finally, people are waking up to the fact that this is not a game, this is not a joke, this is reality, and people’s lives, livelihoods and basic human freedoms are at stake. For some, maybe the wake up call was a bit too late.
And yet here we are, one week later. And I’m still grieving.
I’m not marching side by side with my fellow Americans to protest the election, or physically standing in solidarity with Standing Rock. I’m not participating in vigils mourning the devastation that is about to befall up to 11 million undocumented immigrants or any member of any minority group for that matter. Instead, I’m sitting at my desk in Uganda, watching as Americans here quickly return to normal, somehow able to hold their heads up high and move on.
In my mind, the ability to hold my head up high and move on is a privilege not shared by everyone. I’m a white male living across the planet – I’m much more shielded from the brunt of what Trump can accomplish in the next 4 years than many, many Americans and others around the world. But my moral conviction keeps telling me it’s just not time to move on and shake it off yet.
So when does the grieving stop? How does it stop?
I dedicate my professional life to fighting white patriarchy – a global paradigm that Trump proudly embodies. I do this through my work to prevent violence against women in Uganda, recognizing my place as an intersectional oppressor trying to bring change from within, to stay on the right side of history, and to support movements I believe in from behind the scenes rather than hijacking the front line. I know I’m doing my own part to battle the damage being done. And I know that the words I write and the hugs I give are healing for many people, and I have a responsibility to keep sharing my light with the world.
I want these things to help pull me out of this pit of despair that I feel for the future of my country and the world, but they haven’t yet. I took comfort in what President Barack Obama said in yesterday’s press conference: “I was telling my team you’re allowed to mope for week and a half, maybe two weeks if you really need it, but after that, we gotta brush ourselves off and get back to work.” Truth be told, Obama’s words have been my sole source of comfort in this time, and I commend him for continuously demonstrating his character and values through the way he is handling the transition. And I deeply appreciate how angry he must feel right now, and how he is staying strong for the rest of us. He has been a great leader, and has inspired us in our leadership through his integrity, his compassion, and his genuine belief in the good of humankind.
So I’m writing this to honor my commitment to self-care through writing. I am writing to give myself grace, and perhaps even another week to mourn. Then, I promise: I’ll brush it off as best I can and use all this as fuel to the fire that will ultimately burn white patriarchy to the ground. I’m writing this so people don’t get the idea that I’m good at being an optimist. Sometimes I let the darkness consume me, and allow it to run its course.
If you’re still mourning, feel free to reach out. Let’s figure out how to move past this and rebuild, stronger, together.