In the wake of an election driven by fear, America is divided. Not only is she divided along party lines, but also by race, age, class, religion and identity. Who are we as a nation? This question was just as present in the debates as any other, more concrete, issue facing our country. We have elected a president who gained his support by attacking anyone who falls outside of straight, white, conservative America. What does this say about us? This project is an exercise in empathy. What we lose in a culture driven by soundbytes and 140-character limits can be gained by simply listening to one another. During the weeks following the election, I interviewed volunteers whose communities or identities had been targeted by President Trump. The following is an edited collection of those interviews. I have opted to keep all participants anonymous, not for their protection, but to discourage any prejudice from taking away from what they have to say. In the spirit of democracy, let us all take a break from the us vs. them mentality and focus on the individual voices that make up our nation.
artist and editor
OCIAL media had a huge effect on this election. Huge. We have a president elect who likes to tweet things all the time, attack people all the time, reverse things, say he didn’t say things he said, all the time– and there was no accounting for that. I fear that we’re on our way to making Idiocracy, the movie, a reality. People have this very shallow understanding of what’s going on and they do not bother to critically think or dive deeper into what was posted on social media beyond finding a meme that agreed with what they thought. That’s one of my pet peeves about social media: the spread of misinformation. When you’re confronted with facts, regardless of how you feel, you need to take those facts into consideration. You can’t always let your bias lead you away and I feel like that’s what’s been happening. People have told me that somehow marriage equality is settled law– which is a little over a year old– but that Roe v. Wade is not, and that I don’t need to worry because he said it is settled law. I’m confused. What part of what he said am I supposed to believe? Because he said a number of things, but I was told, “No, that’s not what he means. This is what he means.” So, what does he mean? He changes his mind when it’s convenient.
Another fear is that he will be impeached and we’ll be left with Pence, who’s almost scarier because he knows how to play the game. He is vehemently anti-gay, anti-woman and anti-any religion that is not Christianity. I am not pleased that Trump is in. I fear his poor understanding of how government works, what that means for global relations, what that means for freedom of the press. There are too many things that it’s hard sometimes to articulate what that fear is because there are so many permutations of what things could look like. What the hope is, is that he is so ineffective that whatever damage he does is limited and can be undone at least legislatively after he’s gone. Unfortunately, you can’t so quickly erase this resurgence in xenophobia and racism. I mean, come on, guys. If Hilary Clinton had been a man would we have even had most of these conversations or talking points? No! No. No. No. To say otherwise is bullshit. If she had come onto the podium with her five children from three different baby-daddies, she wouldn’t have even made it that far. Come on! If Obama had done that, can you imagine? Not that it matters if you’ve been divorced or had multiple children from different things, but the fact is it was used against her that she stayed with her husband. I’m sorry, evangelical Christians. I thought that’s what you wanted. You wanted a woman to stand by her man and work through any adultery. That’s another thing I still can’t grasp. Why did the evangelical Christians vote for him? If you are truly Christian, then why? It blows my mind sometimes that people can’t see past their self-interests to see what’s in the best interest of everyone. I’m not saying that voting for Hilary Clinton wasn’t in my self-interest. It was. But I feel like it was in everybody’s interest. I’m sorry, coal miners. Coal jobs aren’t coming back. We need to retrain. America’s not going to be the way it was before and I don’t think it should be. It keeps changing. If I keep hearing “Make America Great Again,” it makes me want to throw up. You’re saying, first of all, that it’s not great now. And when you talk about when it was great,
people seem to reference World War II– like the 1940’s and 50’s. Do you even understand what you’re saying right now? Do you know what that means for a large percentage of the population? It’s not great for everybody then.
“What the hope is, is that he is so ineffective that whatever damage he does is limited and can be undone at least legislatively after he’s gone. Unfortunately, you can’t so quickly erase this resurgence in xenophobia and racism.” My grandma, who’s 86 almost 87, she has a man-friend, Bud, who served in WWII. Very conservative, super nice guy, very conservative though– but even he couldn’t vote for Trump. I don’t think he was prepared to vote for a woman. It wouldn’t matter who the woman was, which I understand. You’re 80-plus-years-old. Things were the same way for a very long time. Things have been changing. It’s hard to evolve. But even he refused to vote for Trump because he didn’t think it was a vote for America to go in the right direction. And I think that’s saying something when you have 80-plus-year-olds that are normally voting Republican and have seen a fair bit of the world and experienced a fair bit of history, at least modern history, that are “no”. That’s what’s scary too. That people who voted for Trump, most of them, I don’t have the demographics, were like 40-65. That’s scary. Did you vote for him because you don’t really realize how good you have it and so you think that it was better before when it wasn’t? And if you ask people who lived during that time, they’ll tell you that it wasn’t.
If you want to be the president for all Americans, you need to be sure that you include all Americans. It’s acceptable to possibly have a Muslim registry? Do we not see echoes of history here, folks? I think what makes me saddest is that I severely overestimated the intelligence of my fellow human beings. I hope that people choose to educate themselves more and not share misinformation. I hope that people choose not to quietly ignore things when they see them and should speak up. Maybe we needed this wound to be reopened so that it could heal correctly this time instead of festering. I hope that is allowed to happen. I hope marriage equality stays in place because I’d like to get married, not to a chick. I’d like to get married to a dude. I have a lot of hopes. I hope that this is just a really unfortunate blip in everyone’s life, but I think it’s going to be more than a blip and I think there are going to be repercussions for years and years and years, if not legislatively, then just in the psyche in the American people about what’s acceptable and what’s ok. It’s not just about the fact that I’m gay. I can pass; I’m a white dude. There are still a number of things that I advantageously receive based on that, whereas other friends of mine don’t have that ability. My friend is a bi-racial lesbian. She’s not going to pass as a white girl. What about my Muslim friends that wear the hijab? Are they not supposed to wear their hijab? No! I don’t get this attitude of discounting everything that he said because I honestly don’t think people want to believe it, or they don’t want to believe it enough that it would change their viewpoint. Because when it comes down to it, they’re not ultimately going to be affected by it on a personal level, except probably economically.
’ll be really upfront; I’m a skeptic and a cynic as far as the executive branch is concerned. Keep in mind the historical perspective. The founder, or the first president, of the Democratic Party was Andrew Jackson. And Andrew Jackson was responsible for the Trail of Tears and the Indian Removal Act. Secondly, I look to the history of the Republican Party and their first president was Abraham Lincoln. And even though in America we esteem him for preserving the Union, what many don’t learn in their history class is that he is actually responsible for the largest mass-execution under the executive pen that ever happened. There were 38 Dakota men who were hanged simultaneously in Minnesota as a result of the Dakota wars. I think, for me, I’m uncomfortable no matter who the president is because they do not renege on any of the progress or powers that get imparted by their predecessors. So you notice that for all the rhetoric that Barack Obama gave about the Patriot Act and all these other things, not one single one of them was repealed or removed. And instead it becomes a cumulative power. So I do think there are elements of fascism that are evolving in our democracy. Some people think it’s a young democracy, but actually we’re right at the limit of the length of any democratic republic that every existed. The Athenian Republic lived the longest and we’re right at that timeframe. I look to history to tell me that part of this is going to go hopefully well as long as our system of government works properly. If it’s about the executive power and continuing it in a war-powers configuration, I think we’re at serious, serious risk for our own rights within the country. It’s uncomfortable because it speaks to giving in to an urge to control– not just within the country, but also outside the country. I honestly think that the phrasing of “let’s make America great again” for a lot of people in the main stream is actually a coded description of “let’s make it ok to be violent and take over and control other things.”
If he appoints people who are going to deregulate completely our environmental protections, we put at risk plant life, human life and animal life. Some of those stop-gaps that were placed– I’m uncomfortable with the idea that they don’t look back to the previous wisdom of why they were put in place. I feel like a lot of the places of authority are no longer viewed as a service but rather as raw power and control over others. I would hope that we get back to a place of mutual respect, no matter how different we are, as uncomfortable as that is. We still have to have rhetoric and we still have to have a courteous discourse and civility. And I think that in some ways we’ve regressed as far as that is concerned. We are bullies. It’s a culture of violence. It’s been a colonial country. It became very evident in 2008 when the United Nations’ Declaration on Indigenous Peoples was ratified across the world, with the exception of four countries, and the United States was one of them. We’re a radically violent country and have imposed a lot of our will. I think until social media came along– until mass communication came along like cellphones– there wasn’t an awareness and I think we carried out a lot of very shady things historically that didn’t come to light. Now, the blowback comes so much sooner. I work in healthcare and there’s a lot of automation and tools that have bells and whistles that tell you when something’s wrong. But a lot of times, when you go and answer an alarm, you find out that it’s not as terrible or there’s nothing critical, so you get this alarm fatigue. I think that people got fatigued with the social media. It removes proper human communication in the capacity that body language used to be 70 percent and dominant of what was actually being conveyed. The spoken word and intonations, I think social media has an absence of those things and therefore
ends up falling short. It makes us all a little more bratty and punchy and discourteous, and so people were very polarized and extreme. On one hand, people look for awareness, but on the other hand it has dehumanized us to a certain degree.
“I feel like a lot of the places of authority are no longer viewed as a service but rather as raw power and control over others. I would hope that we get back to a place of mutual respect, no matter how different we are, as uncomfortable as that is.” I think that a lot of the ideas about social equality and social justice on both sides have become so polarized that there’s not a sense of unity or belonging that either party brought forward. I think the extremism that was there in a lot of the presentation of Trump, for me, brought home some unfortunate memories of childhood in North Dakota where racism was very prevalent. And some of those things brought forward a lot of things that people keep hidden that are no longer hidden. If we really do value groups, individuals, both, I think that we end up with a need for respect of religious freedom. I come from a culture where our ceremonies and traditions were not allowed to be practiced until 1978, so a lot of the ideals of freedom of religion, I think those need to continue to be valued and I think part of that really does lend to the respect for where those people come from and what they’re about. I’m an Indian. I am 1% of this country and the difficulty for me is that some people seem surprised. In the history books and in the classrooms,
most people are taught the stereotypes that we’re either the drunken Indian or the noble savage, and we’re actually not seen as a peer with a culture and a profession and with a modernity. We’re relegated to a historical nonexistence. That may sound a little dramatic, but I don’t think it’s far off. If you value the land, if you value the creation and the creatures, if you look for the sacred, I think the Indians have something that’s missing from Western civilization in particular. This country was settled by people who were escaping religious persecution because they were non-conformists, but they almost became what they were running from. I think it’s important that America looks at the indigenous people and says that, “We understand that they had an authority over themselves. We understand that they were in a symbiotic relationship with their environment.” And more importantly, that you question the history books and you question the real truth in the matter. I think that people in 21st century have to question whether Manifest Destiny was really what it was about. Could you really have bought the Louisiana Purchase from France when you didn’t even know who the inhabitants were? I think some of the validity or what’s constructed us may help us preserve this country as a longer democratic republic if we really respect each other. My hopes would be that there’s a new historical record and that we look back painstakingly at the flipside of the coin that’s not just told to you about the greatness and accomplishments of America– that we look at all the painful wounds and warts to know that we’re capable of change and being better as human beings. Because right now, I think that we’re so interested in monetary gain that it’s taken away a lot of our human capacity for compassion to one another. We’ve become very cutthroat.
THINK my initial shock was, “I cannot believe this buffoon is in office.” He has all this money and zero class. And then I thought, “Ok, this is not going anywhere. What am I going to do?” I don’t care what anyone says, he is our president. So the only thing that I can do is pray. I believe that everything happens as it’s supposed to happen. So he was supposed to be president for whatever reason. Everything is going as it should. That’s our president. We have to pray that he does right by everybody. Let’s be clear: I didn’t really care for either one of those candidates, and in the beginning, when Trump started, I actually liked him. In the beginning, until you started really seeing his character. Very arrogant. I think over-the-top arrogant. His misogyny, the way he talks about women– he always has something to say with a sexual overtone about women. The things he says... Then I started thinking, “This man is crazy. He is mentally unstable. He’s really going to be running the country with the codes and everything.” I’m scared. I’m just in awe. In the beginning, I thought, “This dude is a joke. He’ll never get in.” I thought it was funny because I’m a jokester, but he’s so disrespectful– so disrespectful towards women. I cannot stand it when these women commentators take up for that mess. You can call it “locker room talk” all you want to, but that’s just derogatory. You can really say that? You can go up to some woman and grab her by the pussy and that’s ok? I don’t think so. That’s not even the only thing. How are you going to say that if your daughter wasn’t your daughter, you’d probably date her? What is that? He gives me the creeps. I wouldn’t want my child working for that man. Period. I don’t care how much he was paying.
If you’ve ever heard people talking about race wars before, I fear that’s what is getting ready to happen. And I think that he’s not coming out and speaking on it. Even at his rallies, you’ve never seen him say, “Stop. Don’t.” He egged everybody on. I have a problem with that. This country is already known for its racial inequalities and tensions, and this is really sparking. That’s my fear: racial issues.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason and it goes how it should go. So don’t be fearful, just pray. Just pray for him that he will do the right thing.” One thing I cannot stand is this “Make America Great Again” because what that means to me is “Make America White Again.” I think America is great already. We have issues, but I think we are a great country. I don’t believe that everybody that voted for Trump is a racist. But I believe if you voted for him, racism, as for Caucasian people, is not something that’s going to affect you, so it doesn’t matter to you. It’s not something that matters to you. I know there is a percentage of black people that voted [for Trump]. I don’t know what their reasoning was. I think a lot of people are just fed up with how things have been going and want a change, just something different. Donald Trump is totally different.
I’m concerned for everybody. I just don’t know where this is going to go.
I want the crime to stop. Where’s everybody getting all these guns from? I do think we need gun control. Police violence: something needs to happen with that. I think that they have too much control. If you shoot somebody unarmed, you should be tried for murder. Hands down. Don’t tell me if you get punched in the face you can shoot somebody dead. I don’t think anybody should be murdered like that. I just want the economy to be better so people can have jobs and take care of their families without the help of government. If people have good jobs, they are able to do that. I don’t make good money. I do ok, but I struggle all the time. I can’t even begin to do what I want to do because I’m so busy just trying to not drown. What I wish for us is that the economy could get better and that we’ll have jobs here. I’m tired of buying stuff that’s from China. Everything is outsourced now to China, Vietnam, Korea. If we could get jobs where we get stuff made here, local jobs, and jobs that people can really survive on, that’s what I hope for. That’s a good picture. Trump is not the leader of us. There is a higher God. He is in control of everything. Trump can’t do anything or get anything unless he has permission. Like I said, I believe that everything happens for a reason and it goes how it should go. So don’t be fearful, just pray. Just pray for him that he will do the right thing. We just have to wait and see how these four years go. This is not the first time that somebody has been in office that has turned a few heads. We just have to hope for the best. And hopefully, and I say, this man might do some things that turn out like “wow”. I can only pray that that happens. All I can say is good luck for us.
T WAS just really surreal when Trump actually won it. I was with some people at a bar and I started crying about it. It was a very emotional time for everybody. It was the strangest experience crying not because your candidate lost, but crying because this candidate won. It’s tough. There are a lot of things that are not going to get done. There’s a lot of progress that is yet to be done, that at least I hope for, but now “full stop” basically. I don’t think that any Republican candidate has brought up transgender issues in a positive way. It’s still legal to exclude transgender individuals from housing. There’s no law that says you can’t do that. And that’s a big deal, obviously. I don’t want to be evicted just because of what I’ve got going on. Everyone I know is scared. Everyone’s trying to protest. Everyone’s trying to say “not my president” but what the fuck is that going to do? I feel like a lot of what our culture has been working towards– the acceptance of different identities and races– has gotten better in recent years. I guess it was inevitable to experience some sort of backlash, but I feel like with a completely Republican government right now that backlash is going to be much worse than just people writing mean comments and saying, “Everything’s too PC.” I feel like this is encouraging it to turn
towards violence, both verbal and– sadly in some cases– physical. That’s already started to happen. I think it says we’re scared. I think everyone is looking to point the finger somewhere. I think a lot of Americans feel that their way of life is threatened. A lot of more conservative Americans– a lot of more middleclass, working-class– feel that their way of life is threatened and they’re scared and they don’t quite know how to react. Maybe that’s ignorance on my part. Maybe they fully know what they’re doing. But it definitely seems to me that this was completely out of desperation what happened. And it’s not going to be good for them. I don’t think it’s going to be good for the country.
“It was the strangest experience crying not because your candidate lost, but crying because this candidate won.” I’m still trying to figure out what I can do. Trying to help my friends out especially. His policies aside, what has happened in this country culturally is most frightening. His supporters have gained an affirmation in their beliefs that maybe Trump hasn’t vocally supported always, but hearing about the violence that has already happened in this country, I fear a lot for the Islamic community and the Latino community, as well. In my mind, since those were two of his biggest platforms, America just said, “Yeah, this is good. This racism is good. We should definitely keep doing this.” But I just want to do whatever I can to make sure that the cultural
impact isn’t as big and isn’t as extreme as it feels like it’s going to be with Trump as the president. Letting my head go to Trump getting elected was bad enough, but a person who actively supports conversion therapy, that’s a guy who doesn’t want me alive. And that’s going to be our president if Trump gets impeached. That’s horrifying. Mainly for marginalized communities. Even under Obama we were still marginalized, but there was at least some hope that our voices would be heard. But with those two, they’re not going to be heard. I am scared about the Supreme Court thing. That’ll be dumb, whatever it is. “Family values supreme court justice.” Can’t wait. A lot of the policies on their LGBT platform were to “make sure to protect children first,” and that means “keep trans-people out of bathrooms” and “let’s not encourage kids to be trans when they’re young because that will put them in danger” or “that will put the other kids in danger.” Which is totally opposite of what I’ve been working towards, which is be visible so kids can look at me and be like, “Oh yeah, cool, I can do that.” I know I could have used that when I was a kid. I am hopeful for my generation to push for things and I think actually a presidency like this might kick a lot of people into action who might not have been active otherwise. I think we all took it for granted that Hilary was going to win. I was a huge Bernie supporter. One message of hope is that as much as there was Trump sensationalism, there was Bernie sensationalism, and that culture’s still here. Those people are still here. I think that will only grow with new generations coming in and becoming more politically active and interested in standing up for those who are going to be affected the most by this shift.
HAD early voted, but my kids went that day and it was my daughter’s first time voting and it was really sad to me because I know that him winning is really going to take the trajectory of my kids’ life in a different direction. Not that he has all power and all control, but I feel like things will probably start to be harder than they were before. I didn’t feel like it will affect my life per se, but I was sad about it for the future. To me, this is almost like a reality show to him. But this is millions of peoples’ lives. It’s not a show. It’s not a joke. I get madder the more I hear about things at this point because he clearly has no clue. I was mad about his people that he’s appointing into positions as his council. Bannon and these other extremists– as they call themselves “alt-right”– they’re just racists flat out. I’m not happy with anything that’s happening at this point. I’m more mad than anything. Now, for my kids I’m more fearful. After it happened, I’d read articles about people being attacked at gas stations. It made me tell my daughter, “Don’t go get gas by yourself,” even though it wasn’t here. Just the fact that she’s a 20-year-old black girl. I don’t want her out pumping gas by herself. I’ve always told my kids, “If you encounter the police: yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am. That type of thing. I just want you to get home alive.” Which, being that they are black kids, I can’t say that that will happen. I try to warn them to be ready for anything. If you think the cops are doing something they shouldn’t, you get home and tell me. I’ll take care of it when you get home. The immigration thing was not a big deal to me per se. What the big deal for me is, is the whole idea of “we want to group people together” or “we want to send them back to here.” As far as I’m concerned, everybody pretty much, unless you’re a Native American, is an immigrant. Whoever came over here first, they’re immigrants too. Your ancestors weren’t born in America. You’re not Native American, you’re an immigrant too. Just the
audacity of “we need to get these people out” or “we’re building a wall.” Ok, then send your wife back because she’s an immigrant. If we’re just going to nit-pick and break stuff down, then that turns into taking a whole lot of stuff and breaking a whole lot of stuff down. I think this election doesn’t say much different from what America’s always been in my mind. Racism is still alive and well. Always has been. I don’t feel like it was always frowned upon to be that outright racist, but I feel like people tried to hide it and conceal it. If that’s who they were, they weren’t as open or bold about it. Now there’s this bold ugliness in your face. I feel like America didn’t have that. It had to be there because it wouldn’t have come out if it wasn’t there. It had to be there, but I feel like he made it to where it was really acceptable and came to the forefront. A really ugly place. It’s embarrassing. America’s supposed to be such a great place. I bet other countries are now looking like, “Huh, really? Look at y’all over there being stupid. Look at you.” You know how we barge into other countries? Someone needs to barge in here and police us at this point. So who’s coming over here to take over, cause it needs to happen. I don’t prefer you to be a hidden racist, though. If that’s who you are, be that. That way I know that’s not somebody I want to deal with. I find it harder to deal with somebody that you think is not and then later find out they are. All of it is just stupid. But I would prefer you be loud and proud in your racism if that’s who you are. And I feel like this election pushed people to be loud and proud in their ignorance. I feel like we’re definitely going to war. I feel like we’re on the brink of what would be a civil war here. I remember hearing as a kid about a race war. I feel like you could be really close to something like that here inside of America. As far as abroad, he’s such an idiot. I just feel like we will definitely be at war. If it turns into a world war, possibly. Whether it’s here in America or abroad, it’s on the way.
My dream would be for everyone to have a fair chance and a fair shake. Everybody would be judged on who they are as a person. We wouldn’t have all these prejudgments and these stereotypes that we think people are. But a lot of that’s taught and until people quit teaching it, it’s not going to be that way, and that’s from every side– black people against Whites, black people against Mexicans, white people against Blacks. That’s a thing from all races. I would like for everybody to truly be given a fair shot and have a chance to reach their greatest potential, whatever that is in this country. I don’t foresee that happening in my lifetime, probably not even in my kids’ lifetime. I think it makes it worse when you have kids– especially if you have black kids.
“I feel like America was built on the divide. And when your foundation is the divide between people, there’s no fix for that.” I don’t want them to be afraid. I don’t want them to be scared. I want them to fight against whatever it is that seems to be coming to take them off whatever path they are on. I don’t feel like they should lie down and die. I feel like they should stand up and fight. If you don’t agree with something: march, protest, protest with your dollars. If you hit them in the pocket where it hurts, that has a lot of effect on Washington because there’s a whole lot of big business in Washington. I would tell them definitely not to be afraid and to make sure to fight. Don’t lay down and die. This generation can change a whole lot. They can change a whole lot as far as ideals, the way people talk, the way people think. They really can affect change if they don’t lie down and give up. “This is the way it is.” It
doesn’t have to be. The future is in their hands. They need to decide what to do. I wish a lot of these old-hat people would just die off. And maybe some of their ideals and thoughts would die off with them. This whole country could become a better place. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Be an ally to each other. If you see something wrong going on, you say something. If you can get in and diffuse a situation, that’s what you do. You don’t stand by and let people do whatever. I have a friend. She’s always saying, “I don’t know what I can do, I don’t know what I can do.” She’s a middle-aged white lady. And when this stuff stated going on with the police with all these killings of black men, she said she saw a black kid get pulled over by police and she pulled over and she stopped, too. So the cop was like, “What are you doing?” And she said, “I’m just observing.” And she stood and she observed the whole interaction to make sure that this kid got to leave alive as anybody else would. Things like that people don’t think of. But, that’s being an ally. He’s probably less likely to shoot if you’re standing there and your white eyes are watching. America’s not together. It wasn’t ever before and it never will be. It wasn’t in my ancestors’ time. It wasn’t in my mother’s time. It’s not in my time. It’s not in my children’s time. It won’t ever be. I feel like America was built on the divide. And when your foundation is the divide between people, there’s no fix for that. You would literally need to wipe everybody out and start from scratch. So no, I don’t think there is a fix. I don’t think there’s going to be a coming together. People who get it, get it. Those that love and just genuinely love, you have lots of those people and that’s who they’re going to be. But you have those who just want to hate for the simple fact of hate. You’re just always going to have those people, too. I think that those who love could outshine those who hate if they so choose. But I feel like a lot of people who are love and love everybody are very silent people, which isn’t proactive and it’s really not helping anything. It seems like it’s more divided now since he has won, but I feel like it was just as divided before.
T WAS a nerve-racking day and the rest of the week I was filled with a lot of anxiety because I didn’t know how other people were going to be responding to me or how I was supposed to act towards other people in general. Not so much because of Donald Trump himself and him winning and being our future president, but because of what he ran on and his rhetoric and his ideals and values, the hate speech that he inspired and the whole platform of running on fear and ignorance and how that translates into people’s ideals. I was worried about that and the kinds of people I would have to encounter and run into. I think in general I was just more shocked than scared about how the transition would take place overall. I’m listening to what other people are saying and what’s going on around me with my friends and my community and trying to pay attention to where I am, and what’s going on at work and school. I’m trying to get a sense of where everybody stands so that I can know where I stand with others. I guess within myself, I’m trying to prepare myself for the best-case scenario and worst-case scenario. I’m at home, I’m going to fight whatever racism or xenophobia or bigotry that I face from other people, but at the same time, live life normally everyday. Yes, the election did happen and the results were not favorable necessarily towards me and the things that I value and find important, but at the same time, life is still moving on. I still have a lot of things I’m looking forward to. I still enjoy my life. I still love the city that I live in and I still love my community. So I guess I’m trying to find the right balance between dealing with the transition that’s going to happen with the country overall, as well as remembering that life is still going on.
I’m taking this opportunity and looking for where I want my place as a citizen to be, what I want my goals to be and how I want to contribute. I do feel very fortunate to be an American. I think being American is amazing and it’s great and I’ve learned so much. I realize that I have so many privileges just from being here and I want to take those and make the world a better place. I hope that we move towards transitioning into a country that can really teach and pull forward other nations to grow, instead of being so selfish and about how being a world super power is all about who has the greatest military control. I think this election definitely says that Americans in general are ready for a change; whether that’s a change that I reject or support is irrelevant. But I definitely think that in general, we are transitioning into a time of great change where we are fed up with the normal political system that we’ve been integrated into for a while. It’s really hard to trust what he says because he goes back and forth on his opinions a lot, so when he does say, “I’m going to do this,” and then changes his mind and then says, “Well this is important,” I think he is in the process of learning that he cannot just say anything he wants to say, and that he has to go back and defend or try and ease people’s minds because he realizes being the president elect is all different. He can try to say what he wants to say and do what he wants to do, but this is still a country built on the ideals and values that people have freedom and rights. I do believe that there are people in power who are not going to try and take that away. I understand that not all Trump supporters are racist– that not all Trump supporters believe in all of the things that he says– but it is unfortunate that they decided that racism and misogynistic views weren’t
enough to stop. His Islamaphobic views weren’t enough to stop him. His rhetoric that goes against other people’s human rights wasn’t enough to stop them from voting for him. And for them, there was a choice. I look at this election and for me there really wasn’t a choice.
“You can’t just take one small detail of one small puzzle piece of a greater picture and fixate on that and say, “Everything’s wrong because of this,” because that’s just simply not the case.” Whoever you are, whatever the reasons that you are afraid, you’re not alone. There are people who are in positions of privilege and power who support you. And there are people who are just like you, whoever you are, that are just as scared and who have concerns, just like you. And it’s important to know that you’re not alone and you never have to be alone. You are a person with a voice and that matters. I’m a big fan of storytelling and all those kinds of things. I think it’s really important for people to share their stories and their concerns and definitely rise up against fear and hatred because I don’t believe in fighting fire with fire. I believe in rising above. So I think it’s really important to feel in these types of times of adversity that they have to rise to something great. Everything happens for a reason and there’s a purpose. There’s a greater purpose for America. There’s a greater purpose for each one of us individually, and for Republicans and Democrats. In the end, we’re all just people and we all just want to feel wanted. We all want to feel like we have a place where we belong. And once we have that, we will fight so hard to protect it. Often that means we end up in competition with other people, but in the end we all want the same thing, and that’s to feel validated.
We have to take an optimistic view. There’s really no choice in the matter. We have to believe that things will get better. Trump becoming president is just one thing, but there are so many other really amazing things happening all over the world. You can’t just take one small detail of one small puzzle piece of a greater picture and fixate on that and say, “Everything’s wrong because of this,” because that’s just simply not the case. There are people who are being appointed all over the world who have beautiful hearts and wonderful worldviews. This election cycle was not a complete loss, as some people are saying. We put so many first women into state senates and legislatures that never would have had this opportunity before and that’s a win. So we can sit down and say, “Here’s everything that’s wrong,” but how about, “Here’s everything that we’re going to have an opportunity to fix and look forward to these next four years”? I think with this election a lot of people suddenly found that spark again and their patriotism. I think that’s one thing that’s really important about elections: that you find those people who normally are not as in tune with what’s going on in the country and all of a sudden they start paying attention. They start educating themselves. They start learning. They start reading or listening or watching the news. I think the silver lining is that this transition, this time of great change, is going to give rise to a lot more thinkers and a lot of people are going to say, “Maybe I have a job to do. Maybe there’s something important for me to do.” For me, I feel like my job is to educate people as much as possible. For me right now, it’s to keep my scarf on and to keep going and to just keep doing what I’ve been doing– to continue school, to continue working and to continue speaking about health and literacy and access and equity and all the things I think are important. With my scarf, I feel that it’s more important than ever before, not necessarily that I need to change anything or say something different, but now I just need to be seen doing what I’m do-
ing because now it’s more important for me to be a Muslim woman with a hijab more than it ever has been before. Those who know, they’re fine, but those who don’t know, I’d rather them meet me and be like, “Oh wow, she’s just like everybody else.” I’ve always been a minority. I’ve always been told, “Here’s everybody else’s glass ceiling and then here’s yours. Here’s the most you can do, the most you can be.” I’ve decided that’s not good enough and there has to be more. I have to be on the side of optimism because then what else is there to live for? Faith is really important to me and I’ve found peace in that. I have a lot of inner peace and acceptance with who I am and why I’m here and my purpose in life, so I feel like I have to keep going that way and I have to do that for other people. Because I genuinely just want people to be happy and successful, and I really do just want the world to be a better place It’s really important right now for people to realize that everything’s going to be ok. It really will be. Because president Trump is not the end all, be all. He doesn’t have as much power as he probably thinks he does. He has voice, but guess what? I have a voice and you have a voice and I choose to use my voice and keep doing what I’m doing. We all have a job to do. I choose to use my words and to help people and to continue on my path. Everyone just needs to continue on their path and find peace and find happiness and chase the light. Chase the light as much as possible. It’s easy to think that the world’s dark, but you look up at night and you see stars and you wonder, “Where does that light come from?” So I choose to see that. I choose to see the beauty in even the darkest of times.
Thank you for your interest. You can find more on Facebook or Instagram @elenafauves
ÂŠ Elena Fauves 2017