Who Am I Now?

When I came to visit Berlin a few months before I made the move I met a girl from New York at a bar my date took me to. She and I stayed in touch and reconnected once I got settled in. Everyone in the Berlin was interested in the US Presidential election and there were many bars that hosted viewing parties for expats and locals to watch the results unfold. Naturally, the two of us headed out together to drink beers and celebrate the election of the first female president of the United States.

My friend said to me on the walk there, “Hillary will win Florida pretty quickly and we’ll be out of there by 2 am.” To gain some perspective, Berlin is 6 hours ahead of the EST, so the coverage started around midnight here. We found excellent seats in a crowded room of people waiting for the results to roll in.

When Donald Trump took the lead from the start I said to my friend, “It’s interesting that all of the Republican Party results are coming in first”. She assured me, “It’s early, and of course those midwestern states are going to vote for Trump”. I looked at her and could tell the reassurance was more for her than me.

As voting times in state after state began to close and the numbers for Hillary weren’t increasing I started to lose hope. It had only been an hour but I had this horrible feeling that this wasn’t going to be the blowout we expected it to be. I looked over at my friend and she was feverishly texting a friend back home. At first they were sending her confident messages, “Florida is definitely going to vote for her”, “New York is all blue”, “Don’t worry”. As the night went on the messages turned into “maybe” and “we will see”.

More and more people left the bar after it turned 2 am. Those that remained cheered for every blue state but those cheers were few and far between. Then the crowd grew angry as more and more states came up red. We could even tell the announcers were stunned. At the beginning of the broadcast they were so cheerful and optimistic. As time passed, they were trying to find the words to make sense of what was happening.

At 5am I decided I didn’t want to watch anymore. America was hurting my feelings and I wanted to go home and escape it. I tried to go to sleep with a small ounce of hope left but I couldn’t. I woke up a few hours later and wanted to check my phone like I always do when I first wake up but I didn’t. I waited about thirty minutes before looking at it and saw the alert that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

People have their reasons for why they voted for him. “He tells it like it is.” “He ran on ‘pro life’.” “He will protect the interest of the wealthy.” “He says he’ll bring jobs back to the US even though he never said how.” “He’s going to make America great again by riding it of all those pesky immigrants because this stolen land is ours now. Gotta preserve the tradition of keeping people that don’t look like us down and taking their things.” There were so many people who saw the negative effect this man’s rhetoric had on the country, they knew it was wrong, but since it didn’t affect them they were fine looking the other way.

Long before this election I had stopped feeling all warm and fuzzy inside about being an American. I had faced the fact that as a woman I wasn’t respected in America. I saw that Black people weren’t respected or valued in America unless it was for their music and culture, but definitely not their lives. I knew for a long time that America wasn’t the happy, progressive, blended family that they portrayed to the world.

However, my friend from New York wasn’t ready for the US to pull its mask off and show its true colors to every other country in the world.  She took it really hard. Crying all night and morning. Getting frustrated with people who blew this event off as just another day. Struggling to find the words to accurately express how deeply disappointed and hurt she was. Then she said to me, “I don’t know who I am now”.

When people ask me where I’m from I don’t want to tell them. Once they find out where I’m from I no longer hear “What a great country! We love your President”. Now I hear, “I can’t believe your country elected Donald Trump as President, you must be so upset.” On every single form I have to fill out certain identifiers: age, race, gender, marital status, and nationality. The way that the US has been so divided and tarnished, I don’t want that to define me. I don’t want to proclaim that I’m from the country that doesn’t respect its citizens whether they be Black, female, Muslim, Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ, the list goes on and on. I don’t want to say, “I’m American” because it doesn’t mean the same thing it meant a week ago.

Everyone is always “so sorry for me”. Like I was a victim of a tragedy. Which I guess I am. Not just the fact that a presidential candidate ran on a racist, hateful, sexist, and elitist platform but that so many people in the country voted for him. A country that many used to admire has become either the butt of a joke or a rude awakening about the direction the world is going in.

Like my friend, many of us are going through the same stages of grief after this election as if someone died. We are in denial that this happened. We want to isolate ourselves from others out of fear or because we can’t bring ourselves to face this reality. We are angry with the hateful responses of some of the American people. We are bargaining with the government to save us and elect Hillary based on the popular vote. We are severely depressed about what this means for the future of our country.

Some people want us to accept it, but it’s going to take a long time to accept that this is what America looks like in 2016. The hurt and disappointment people feel is real and they need to deal with that in their own way. In many ways we did experience a loss. Some have lost their pride in their country. Some have lost faith in the electoral system and politics in general. Some of us have lost faith in humanity. Many of us feel like we’ve lost our country. Then there are those of us who feel like they’ve lost part of their identity.

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