Who am I to sink into the comforts of life when countless others aren’t even guaranteed survival right now?
Who am I to bemoan having to take on a second job so that I can get by AND live somewhat comfortably when countless others aren’t even guaranteed survival right now, and
I am finally learning that people we abducted, exploited, murdered, and continuously oppressed have been dealing with this bullshit for five plus centuries, and
the people native to this land were slain en masse, never given reparations, and are still among the highest statistics for systemic neglect, oppression, and blatant disregard for human life and liberty by those in power, and
nearly every “minority” group that dared step foot into our melting pot has experienced this kind of debilitating and degrading treatment at large, and now many of them are wondering at what point we will draw the line, when people will be too “like us” for us to feel comfortable putting them in literal concentration camps and dance dangerously within the gaping loophole of the Thirteenth Amendment, and
even people that have historically and continuously benefitted from the current system are outraged. And still, those who hold power make excuses for one another, sweep it under the rug where we all are now, choking on their refuse and consequences.
What had potential to be one of the shining moments of American history — a terrifying pandemic, yes, but also an opportunity for us to (responsibly) come together using the machinery we’ve been given and really create a society that makes the most people the most happy — turned into an epic rock bottom. Where the bedrock was cracked, fissures sprang and crumbled. It was the greatest prank ever pulled.
Those of us who had a few short years of a nuanced sense of idyllic hope before plunging into nearly two decades of war and divisive politics got a rude awakening in the dusk moments of Obama’s presidency. As we aged into voting, we saw the beginning of the end: an absolute pageantry of campaigning, of an election, and of a presidency. The all-encompassing glass ceiling smacked back down, taking very specific populations down many, many notches.
I’m not saying that things were perfect four or five or ten or twenty years ago. America has been the furthest thing from perfect since its so-called “discovery.” However, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I had tall expectations for the first presidential election I could vote in. I wanted to achieve something radical, progressive, humane. So imagine election night, 2016:
The night of the 2016 election, I watched the results come in in the wee hours of the morning on a television screen in the emergency room.
My roommate at the time had a heart condition; rheumatic fever had destroyed her valves and although she’d had one replaced the year prior, the rest still leaked, so any pain whatsoever in her chest was cause for alarm.
This wasn’t the first nor the last time we’d be visiting this emergency room. But it was certainly the most memorable.
We arrived around 7 or 8 in the evening. Results were still pouring in and the projected victor was Hillary, which I am almost ashamed to admit did not surprise me. I did not see any of it coming, and I mean that in a naive, overworked, traumatized college kid way.
As the night went on, however, my optimism dimmed. My friend and I were finally moved from the waiting room to a room of our own, where nurses and techs and doctors came and went, conducting their tests and asking questions. It was a relatively busy night. My eyes stayed glued to the TV screen in the corner of the room as I flipped through all the news channels, hoping that maybe if I was insistent enough on them being wrong that the outcome I saw transpiring could be prevented.
We were at the hospital until around one or two in the morning. By then, the results had come in. I was too tired at that point for rage, but the grief descended on me like an albatross. I watched all the people at what would have been Hillary’s victory speech. They were angry. They were crying. I saw in them the defeat that I felt. How could this have happened?
We went home, and I tumbled into a few hours of fitful sleep before I had to wake to go to work at 7 a.m. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I didn’t even want to think about it. I was in such denial.
That week, I had a ten page paper due in an international politics course I was taking. I didn’t have the energy to do it. I was very frank with my professor: I told him that the election had devastated me, and asked for a couple extra days for the assignment. He, an elderly Indian man with the thickest accent I’ve ever heard and loopiest handwriting I’ve ever seen and one of my favorite instructors, told me he was also devastated, and that I could have an extra week.
That was the first kindness I personally witnessed borne out of the unexpected shift that befell the country. I know that many didn’t perceive it as a tragedy, but I absolutely did. It took nearly a year into his term before I could wake up and not feel like something was sitting on my chest.
Now anytime someone brings up that wretched November night I flash back to the sterile smell of the hospital, the devastation in some patients’ eyes and the happiness in others’, having to change the channel to something lighthearted every few minutes just for a tiny bit of respite. I remember the steady beeping of my friend’s heart monitor, the worried glances the staff kept casting toward the television, the nervous tension in the air thick enough to cut with a knife. I can’t say whether it would have been better to fall asleep at my usual time that night and wake up to the results rather than watching them happen in real time. I think probably not.
As we approach another high-brow November night, I’m not sure what to feel. I understand that four years ago, many felt it was a choice between the lesser of two evils. I personally didn’t feel that way; I knew Hillary had her cloudy past, but she certainly wasn’t “evil” in my eyes.
Now, though, I do feel it. The two candidates we have are similar in character but divergent in policy. Ultimately, I’ll still have to choose the person who has inflicted long-lasting wounds on the psyches of my sisters, who has openly and loudly supported policies that overwhelmingly contributed to the racial tumult and inequality in the country. However, what I find tremendously sickening is the thought of being under our current dome of immediate influence for four more years. I don’t think I could bear it — or rather, I know in my bones that I cannot bear watching those with less than me bear it. Enough is enough.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m done walking on eggshells, but I haven’t really meant it until now. When you spend your entire life literally sustaining yourself on the praise and validation of others, consuming it faster than it can be meted out, you have to spend a lot of time and energy unlearning that programming. I’ve been wildly fortunate enough to have the means to seek vast professional and personal help to evaluate my timeline, unpack what I needed to, make as many amends as I can, forgive as many people as I can, and promise myself that whatever abundance flows through me must serve all creation in some way. So while I may begrudge the exhaustion and the extra hours at work, it’s worth it when I can buy someone I love something that reminds me of them or set up a recurring donation to a cause I admire because I no longer have to worry that I’ll overdraft my account. I want to be able to save enough for a safe and happy homecoming so I can soak up the presence of all the people I love rather than having to be a headless chicken digging holes faster than I can fill them.
I simply want comfort so that I can use that comfort to comfort others. What if the people in charge felt that way?
At twenty-four, I’m fully aware that I still have much to learn and experience. I may not be an expert in any of the fields I offer commentary on, but I’ll tell you what I am an expert on: my own lived experience and perceptions. I was fortunate to be raised and educated to consume everything critically. In my early years, I asked a lot of questions and broke a lot of rules. In my older (young) years, I still asked a lot of questions and broke a lot of rules, but learned now not to get caught, most of the time. So, I have a lot of stories. And I know I’m not the only one.
The way discourse has been occurring and evolving as its platforms grow and change can be a little alarming. The capital H Hate that I see from both (all) sides is genuinely unnerving, and it grieves me to say that I have participated in this behavior within the last four years myself. The worst one, the one I’m most ashamed of, occurred with a family member — and that conversation turned out to be the final conversation I’d ever have with him. Stuff like that really puts things into perspective, and can haunt your associations if you’re not careful.
So tell me stories. I want to know what your lived experience was and is like for you, because you are the expert. If we decide to progress to opinions and sides and (civil) debates, so be it, but first I just want to know who you are. The people I love and trust the most have been the ones to question and challenge me the most, giving me the time and space for growth I so desperately needed. How can we sit and virtually scream at each other and expect anything to get across? Isn’t it a primal instinct to cover your ears when something is too loud?
I am not here to be liked or agreed with. I am just here to be heard. If you can meet me where I am, as a fellow human of this eight-billion-and-counting-member-human-family and just tell me some stories, I would be incredibly honored. Perhaps we are still struggling to achieve a collective shift to widespread joy, but if there is anything I have learned from hearing stories of people from all over the world, it’s that we’re all a lot more alike than we think we are. You always see those articles and graphics with words in different languages that convey a sensation that we don’t have a word for in English — all of life and existence is like that.
If you’re not even sure what I’m asking here, just message me or comment anyway. Who cares? Fear can’t hold us back anymore. Fear has borne the worst sicknesses in history. I’m conquering my fear of you right now as I give you these words. If you’ve even made it this far, congratulations! I’m terrified but saddling up anyway and telling you about it. When you’ve spent so long being ruled by fear, the decision to give it the finger, albeit a trembling one, is comically scary.
Most of all, if you’re reading this, thank you for weaving yourself into the fabric of my timeline. However we left things, if we left things, you were a crucial component of my waking existence, as I was of yours, as we all are of each others’. Moments are made up of people, people are made up of stories, and stories beg to be told. So tell me. Let’s make some moments.