For four years, I have felt varying degrees of heartbreak and betrayal. It began with the deep pain that someone who brags about assaulting women with no consequences can then be elected president. I woke up the morning after the election, after very little sleep, crying with a feeling of dread. I somehow made it to work where I processed grief with my interns — young women who just voted in their first election.
Oh they asked: “How did this happen? What do we do now?”
I had no answers but I told them, “I understand how you feel. I don’t know, but we will come up with a plan.”
My fiancé and I traveled out of the country within a month of the election. When people asked where I was from, I told them I was “from New York City,” not the United States, hopefully sending a signal about who I am. I told people I don’t know how it happened, it wasn’t me. I avoided politics at the holidays because I really did not want to know who actually voted for this monster.
Instead of organizing a trip to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration as planned, I organized the people I love to attend a march. We made signs, we followed the rules, we were peaceful. I felt slightly better because we were surrounded by so many people who felt the way we did: heartbroken and betrayed. There were so many of us that we never actually marched because it was too crowded, we stood surrounded by people with broken hearts wondering what we could do.
Then when I looked at social media, I saw that people across the world joined us in solidarity. “We will get through this together. We will remind each other that truth matters and our voices matter. We will protect our vulnerable people. We are united in our grief.”
We start to see our rights, our humanity stripped away. The courts get stacked. People are banned from traveling to our country because of their religion. We see photos of children in cages alone, separated from their families. We see more Black men and women shot and strangled by the police. We march. We see more school shootings. Absent real leadership the teenagers step up to lead. We start to hear a cry of MeToo among women. Women share their stories of assault and harassment. We gather around them to protect and uplift them. We watch assaulters appointed to our highest courts. We march again. We are peaceful. We engage in local politics and take back the House. We begin to have hope.
More kids in cages. More Black men and women murdered. Peaceful protests used as fodder declared disrespectful. We are tired but continue to march.
A worldwide pandemic literally stops us in our tracks. We have no leadership. We are scared. We are divided. We are not a community. The truth is watered down by lies and inaction. The lies make it impossible to keep each other safe. There is a divide. The sirens are wailing. The hospitals are full. More lies. Less leadership. More divide. Black men and women are still being shot and strangled. We march in masks, enraged. One of our strongest advocates and sheroes dies. They steal her seat. We are afraid. We organize. We make calls. We vote. We begin to hope. We are afraid to hope. We wait until we know the winner to cry, to celebrate. We know that four years of fear and violence, inaction, and death made space for EVERYONE to vote. We mourn for the hundreds of thousands that died due to no leadership.
They say it was rigged. They say it fraud. They lie. He says find the votes. He said they won. They storm the Capitol at his urging. They plan violence. They deface property. They are safely escorted out. The vote is confirmed. New leadership is coming. Leadership that believes in science. Leadership that believes Black Lives Matter. Leadership that not only believes that women can lead, shows us a woman leader. We know there is lots of work to be done. We know we still need to fight. We know we still need to protect those who need protecting. We can clearly see the people who hate us and the people we love. Our work is just beginning.
We hold our breath and cross our fingers that hope arrives at noon.