This year has been a horrible one for us as Americans and last night was the turd cherry on the shit sundae. But there's always some good in the bad. Even if it's just a single person making a huge realization about the struggles of others.
It’d be too obvious to say that the feeling of your heart breaking is a painful one. But for me, it was a particularly odd feeling as well. As a straight, white, male last night was uncharted territory for my mind and emotions. In my 23 years of life, the worst rejection and loss of faith I’ve ever felt is when Chipotle runs out of guac to slap on my burrito. But last night I watched the world of my girlfriend, my gay sister, and my other friends who still, unfortunately, fall into the category of “minorities,” fall to pieces. I felt what it really means to have your heart absolutely broken.
In a single night, I learned the way so many of my female friends feel every time a man’s glare is held on them for just a little too long. I learned the way my sister and gay friends feel when they’re told they cannot legally spend their lives with the ones they love. I learned the way my African American co-workers feel when they walk down the street with a hoodie on after dark. It took watching a handful of hearts break all at once, up close and personal, to truly understand all the pain, fear, and hopelessness these people feel every single day of their lives. Before last night I thought I was a relatively strong person. But after literally fighting back the tears of a nervous breakdown I came to the realization that I’m nowhere near as strong as the people who are forced to live with these feelings every day.
In a single night, I had to go from a boy to a man. I put on a happy face and tried to make the best of a bad situation for my younger cousin when he texted me in a panic asking me what the “actual f*ck,” was going on. I didn’t know. I still don’t know.I held my girlfriend in my arms and consoled her the same way a parent tells their child after losing a little league game. “It’ll be okay,” I cooed to her, wanting to believe it myself, even though I was, and still am, totally unsure if it will be for her.
In a single night, I seriously reconsidered every philosophy, belief, and value I had on America and the goodness of the human soul. I had no reasonable explanation or calculation for all the people who enthusiastically voted for an outspoken racist, misogynist, homophobe. Coming to the sad and logical conclusion that, they too, are xenophobes. I had to take a look at my life, one filled with wasted time on how to best use my 140 characters to ironically roast the Kardashians or some other celebrities fifteen minutes of ridiculous fame. Even the words I type now have an eerie sense of hollowness to them. I once thought the people who read them took them into account and used them to live a better life. At the very least, they reinforced my own vigor for the country. I was wrong. All the essays and impassioned speeches I gave to friends, family, co-workers, (and anyone who would listen), about the pure American spirit, make me feel like an idiot now.
In a single night, I hated my own ironically detached generation so much it sparked a deep sense of self-loathing and shame I’m not sure I’ll ever recover from. We thought this wouldn’t last. Something we could all Snapchat about for a few seconds and let it disappear into the ether, never to be seen or uploaded again. It’s about to last for four long years. Even longer if Trump’s appointed Justices decide to do us all a disservice by leaving the bucket un-kicked past his term. We got complacent with the way things were. So complacent in fact, that this was all a big joke to us. A big enough joke to write a dead gorillas name on 11,000 ballots. We grew so apathetic that most millennials either didn’t vote at all in the name of Bernie or wasted their vote on a man who didn’t know what (let alone where) Aleppo was as a “protest.” We really showed “them.” Whoever they are… We showed them just how greedy and selfish we are when huge groups of female, black, and Hispanic Americans failed to be “won over” by Hillary. I guess it's our way or the nuclear holocaust way.
In a single night, my trust of even the most credible news media vanished. How could so many experienced nonpartisan journalists and forecasters be so embarrassingly wrong? I’ve lost all hope in the stats and facts that we’ve tirelessly calculated and hung our hats on for years. It’ll now make lunatic conspiracy theorists out of us all. A desperate attempt at self-therapy left theorizing on how the election could possibly be rigged. Every poll, study, and projection from this day forward isn’t even worth our lowest of speculations. The one and only fact here, in a world where they may slowly disappear, is that we have lost.
In a single night, I made one other very important and tough personal decision. I would keep writing and giving those impassioned speeches because I need to believe that we can be better than this. Maybe not now. Clearly not now. But in the future. There's no doubt that we'll be fighting our way out of a corner, one we painted ourselves into, for a while. But despite this crushing blow to our collective ego's (mine especially) I really think we can do it. Who knows, Trump may become the most important thing our country has ever punished itself with. Maybe if we spend enough time with our noses in the corner we’ll never willingly put ourselves there again.