My nostrils burn as the smoke of cigarettes, joints, and burning American flags surround me at the protest. They create a cloud of confusion, anger, and fear — the same feelings with which I woke up the morning after the election, in addition to uncertainty and sadness.
As a political writer, I had prepped a post-election piece about hope, the future, and my belief in a better world. I told myself I would be ready to publish it regardless of the election's outcome, but as Hillary conceded the election, I did not have the audacity to be hopeful. I tried to get through the day by viewing the world through a nonpartisan lens, rationalizing Trump’s victory and the future of this nation. But the results of this election are unchartered territory, and I cannot predict the future nor pretend that I am emotionally unaffected by recent events. So instead I took to the streets of Portland with hundreds of other protesters, hoping to find a sense of community and solidarity.
But the chants of “F**k Trump,” “not my president,” and “ho-hay, racist Trump must not stay” did not assuage my fears. Donald Trump's victory, while painful and unexpected, is legitimate and fair. I had to ask myself: Is this what democracy looks like? Like supporters of a candidate who fairly lost according to the rules of our system protesting against the winner, denouncing his election? The hardest truth of this election is that enough Americans in enough places wanted Donald Trump to be our president.
I walked about 3 miles with the protest. I did not continue farther because I was uncertain about how I would get home, felt nervous about escalating tensions, and also felt uneasy. When I returned to Pioneer Square, where the protest had begun, I saw a boy — maybe 11 or 12 years old — jumping up and down, screaming “Fuck Donald Trump.”
When did we become so full of hatred? How will we ever work across the aisle to get stuff done if we are so stuck in our own echo chambers?
Yes, I have heard what Donald Trump has said. As a proud feminist, I was appalled by his misogyny and the possibility of losing the rights to my body under his presidency. As a person of color, his racist rhetoric terrified me — as did what the widespread support of it means for communities of color across the country. As someone who has many LGBTQ friends, I pray that they will all be safe and validated despite indications to the contrary. I am not happy with the election's outcomes. I am not happy that Hillary Clinton had to concede. But I do accept that Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States and I do not believe fighting this hatred and negativity with our own hatred and negativity is the answer.
As Hillary Clinton conceded the race, she reminded us of her own dream of a bighearted America, an inclusive America, and a diverse, welcoming America. That is my American dream. I understand the fear that persists throughout our communities. I understand the need for support during a time that feels like our world has been turned upside down and we are confused. But what are we really fighting for when we say that Donald Trump is "not my president"? Are we making the world a better, more inclusive place? By protesting this election, we are only drinking the poison that has spread so much hatred through this country already. By protesting this election, we are not listening to the other side, nor are we "going high" when they "go low," as Michelle Obama wisely advised.
It’s hard to compromise, to care, and to progress if we refuse to accept the inevitable. Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States. I hear the people who say he is not a voice of progress, not "my America," and "not what I stand for." But I implore those same people to think about and consider the people whom Donald Trump does represent. True progress will not involve writing them off, but rather working to bring them in. So, going forward, while it is OK to cry, to mourn, and to be angry, try to embrace those emotions and then release them — because in order to achieve positive social change, we must be kind, bighearted, and resilient.
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