Last night, at approximately two o’clock in the morning, I saw a scene that I didn’t think was possible. A scene that the liberal media assured was nothing but a fallacy. A scene that many Americans had hoped would never happen. I saw a crowd of angry and discontented people put an authoritarian demagogue into power. And, as I watched the TV with my silent and lost friends, I felt a little bit like my grandfather.
Iran was not always an Islamic Republic. It was once a country whose weekend nights were filled with drinking and gambling, and whose mosques were attended by only the most devoted. A country that my grandfather loved very much. My grandfather was a caricature of calm stoicism. He could never put down his cigar and had a sort of silent wisdom that was admired and respected. He loved my mother more than anything and taught her to be a strong woman in a man’s world.
This was before the Revolution. In 1979, my grandfather, a deputy minister for the Shah’s parliament, watched the news as the old regime fell and the religious right had taken over the Revolution. The Revolution began as a revolt against the corrupt Shah who cared more about himself than his people. A straightforward and well-founded outcry that soon became confounded and ambiguous under the noses of those who began the revolution in the first place.
Sometime in the 1970s, Iranians began to migrate from the countryside to the cities, where drinking and gambling were synonymous to a night with the family. Many of these migrants were very religious, something that had faded away with my grandfather’s generation. Outraged by the country they saw, riddled with blasphemy, they waited until the right time to make themselves known. The Right.
So last night, as I watched the alt-right vote an accused rapist into office, I felt as I would imagine my grandfather felt. His great country taken over by those who do not represent him in an almost transparent overthrow of the status quo. My grandfather could only think of one place to begin his new life: America. A University of Southern California alumnus, my grandfather saw Los Angeles as the best place to take his family, and the only place that could feel as much like home as the country that he loved; the country that he would never return to.
Once in one of the most powerful offices in the Iranian government, my grandfather, once in America, had started out bussing tables in Beverly Hills. My mother had to work through college to support herself and my grandparents. After some time, my grandparents opened up a coffee shop in Beverly Hills, and would eventually retire with humble means. But, what was most important was that my grandfather was happy with his family. At peace in America.
My grandfather died when I was only an infant, but I still feel very close to him. My family often compares our similar senses of calm and paralleled character. And I have never felt that more until last night. I saw the forgotten and silent members of my nation rise up and stage a cause that would give them power they desire, and give them a country they so desperately wanted. I never thought I would understand the pain he felt as he realized that he did not know who lived in his country. He did not know who he shared it with. He was a stranger to his fellow countrymen. An disappointment in his ignorance. I felt him. As I watched my country transform before my eyes. As I saw my friends weep from uncertainty and confusion. As I wondered to myself, “What would my grandfather do?”
Hope. He would have hope. He would pick himself up and ready himself for whatever came next. He would know that America is better than this. That America is too good to crumble. That America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, will be better than this. I know that if my grandfather were watching this now, he would be angry. He would be sad. He would be upset. But he would not lose hope.
Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States according to the electoral college, a constitutional stipulation. We have, at this moment, no idea what kind of president he will be. Just like every president, he has made promises and made great claims for the future. We must accept, under our constitutional regulations, that he is our president.
But it is profoundly sad that Donald Trump was elected to become President of the United States. It is sad that he bragged on video about sexually assaulting women. It is sad that he is currently under investigation for the rape of a minor. It is sad that he has marginalized the United Sates with his policy promises that target Mexicans, Muslims, and black people. It is sad that so many Americans truly believed that he would help them. It is sad that so many people had no idea that this many Americans were this angry and felt so abandoned. It is sad that we said no to a female president. But there is hope. Our Constitution is still intact. Our freedoms are still alive. Our right to be angry is still our right. And I know my grandfather would still have hope.
Good does not exist without evil. Many Americans are tired of what is going on in our country. We saw it with Bernie Sanders. We see it now with Donald Trump. But just as what happened in Iran, the loudest and angriest voices are the ones that gained the most attention. Just as Sanders and other progressives cried for the working class, the people of Iran called for the end of corruption. Just as Donald Trump armed the populist movement with guns, racism, and xenophobia, the religious right of Iran transformed the fabric of its society to pertain to traditional and conservative religious idealisms.
My grandfather did not leave his country until he could no longer recognize it. We have not reached that point. So to those saying they are “moving to Canada,” I say don’t. Stand up. Scream. Fight. Fight for your country. Fight for your right to live in America. Do not let Donald Trump defeat you.
I always imagined that I’d know when the next chapter of history began, and I believe it’s safe to say it’s upon us. I never thought I’d be so scared, and so unsure of what to do next. But I know there was a reason my grandfather came to this country. America is worth it. America will recover. I believe in America, just as my grandfather did.