In the early morning of Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, Donald J. Trump, a real estate mogul and reality TV personality with no political experience, won 279 electoral votes and the presidency, despite a lifetime of shady business practices, losing three debates by embarrassingly wide margins, admitting to (and bragging about) sexual assault, and utilizing white-nationalist rhetoric, threatening the lives of women, immigrants, Muslims, people of color, Jews, and the LGBTQ community.
In the early morning of Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, I was lying in bed, on a full dose of ZzzQuil, eyes wide open, shaking, realizing that this is the country we live in. I didn’t sleep at all that night and wandered through the rest of the day a zombie, my worst suspicions about this country confirmed in ways I couldn’t imagine.
This will not be a sob story. This election affects the livelihood of my friends and family far more than it will ever affect me, and I refuse to wallow in pity and drown in white male tears. This is about understanding and negotiating space, because at the end of this, one thing is evident.
The United States is now a safe, comfortable place to be a white supremacist.
I’m not scared of what Donald Trump is capable of. If the last five hundred days of campaigning, the loss of campaign managers, the widespread condemnation by competent, compassionate humans and politicians, and a lifetime of wildly changing stances and denying facts have proved anything, it’s that he is incapable of doing this job. The presidency of the United States is the hardest, most scrutinized position potentially in the world, and he will not be able to do this job. There will be no wall, and every other promise of his will face the resistance of a democratic minority Senate that contains more women, and women of color, than there has ever been before. He will meet resistance everywhere he turns, and he lacks the stamina to fight it.
What scares me are the people who voted him in. The people with my face and my voice. The people who used those things, and the privilege that comes with them, to deny a platform sorely needed to the marginalized. What scares me more are the white nationalists, the alt-right. The alt-right has terrorized people on the Internet for a year, and that terror is not going away. It will no longer be predominantly online, as this is the constituency that will be legitimized by a Trump presidency. He can be stopped easily, but they will not be.
Because the country told them that they are an acceptable political body, because they mobilize quickly, efficiently, robotically, terrifyingly, because they attack people where they are most vulnerable, spouses, children, and because they elected a white nationalist into office, I fear these people. I fear how they will shape this country. I fear their unprecedented legitimacy as a body, what it will do to the people I love, looking for a platform in this world. They are terrifying and horrifying, and though they must be fought and stopped, their legitimacy, the nomination of their candidate, is something worth despairing about.
What scares me is Mike Pence, a radical anti-LGBTQ politician whose track record is horrifying. Horrifying. If Trump is impeached, and he very well may be, he will be our president. The damage that could be done if that happens is unfathomable.
Right now, I’ve gotten out of bed, gone home, hugged my loved ones, and am beginning to reckon with the fact that America is so much less safe today than it was yesterday, that these forces of violence, once on the fringe, buried in the Internet, spreading their hate in private, are now free to spew the darkest, thickest bubbling sludge of human evil in public spaces. It’s hard to wrap my head around how unsafe it is to be here now, but this is the reality.
But the hardest thing to understand is this: I am complicit in this. In my maleness, in my whiteness, in my overwhelming confidence in a Clinton presidency. I didn’t do this directly, but I was born in, raised in a culture that let this happen. And at the same time, though, my existence is an offense to the white nationalists. I am Jewish, and I have a learning disability. A large, vocal group of people, now legitimate, think I should be cleansed from this earth. I listened to Trump shout about global banks controlling the world, a familiar, long-dismissed, anti-Semitic dogwhistle, and I feared for my family. I am more agent than victim, but I am both, and I am in pieces.
We do not know what the next four years will hold. I am prepared to fight, to support those increasingly marginalized by an increasingly white nationalist America, to organize, to donate, to protest, to do the work. But the world is changed. And I’m sad. And I’m scared.