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A Note to Those Struggling in the Wake of the Election

United States Activism
by Paige Smith Nov 12, 2016

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Matador Network.

I woke up this morning with a heavy heart. Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency feels apocalyptic to so many of us, not to mention unjust and unfathomable.

How can a nation who elected our first black President just eight years ago suddenly endorse a man who is blatantly racist? How can the large majority of this country feel comfortable supporting someone whose values represent a clear devolution of human rights? How can Americans place their own economic agendas ahead of basic human decency and progress?

I have so many questions, but none of the answers make sense.

Today, I feel sad for the LGBT+ community, minorities, Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and my fellow women, all of whom have had to endure gross levels of hate and prejudice at the hands of an influential person in power.

I feel sad for young girls and boys, who are being taught by their country today that there are no consequences to bullying and sexual assault. I feel sad for police officers, who may be emboldened to also be reckless with their positions of power.

I feel sad for the conservatives and Republicans who fought adamantly against a Trump presidency, and whose very real ideals and principles are now sullied with hate.

I feel sad for the teachers and parents who will have to explain to their children why racism and sexism still exist in this country. I feel sad for the millions of activists who work tirelessly every day to promote equality and secure a better quality of life for Americans who’ve been disenfranchised and made to feel less than.

I feel sad for Hillary, whose tenacity, compassion, grace, and dedication to this country’s betterment have been overshadowed by ignorance and hate.

I feel sad for all of us who feel like we’ve lost a dream today.

A death of sorts has taken place. The picture of justice and equality we had is shattered. The America we thought we knew does not exist.

This loss is real, and we are allowed to feel deeply saddened, scared, and upset as we navigate these uncharted waters. We are allowed to feel despair as we absorb this new reality and the pain that comes with it. We are allowed to grieve.

But only for a little while.

The best thing we can do is accept this change with dignity and hope. We have to accept it, then we have to move forward.

We can’t be self-indulgent for too long. The world is counting on us. It’s counting on the millions of us who have proven, with our words and votes, that we value human rights for everyone. That we value Mother Earth. That we value compassion and generosity and courage and respect. That we value equality and growth. And that we value love above all.

We have three choices today, the same three choices any of us ever have in this life.
1) Accept what is.
2) Resist what is.
3) Leave.

We can jet off to Europe, apply for citizenship elsewhere, or tune out and hide away from the world. Cut ourselves off from politics, ignore the plights of people we don’t know, and shut ourselves away in an Internet-free bubble.

Or we can resist. We can spread blame. We can lash out in anger at anyone whose beliefs differ from ours. We can cut people out of our lives and refuse to take enjoyment in anything. We can let ourselves be destroyed.
But neither of those options accomplish much. Nor do they empower or strengthen us.

The best thing we can do is accept this change with dignity and hope. We have to accept it, then we have to move forward. And as we move forward, we cannot forget the convictions we held or the vision we saw for our country.
We have to push onward to fight for what we believe is important and just. To fight for a future that supports, empowers, and celebrates the millions of people Donald Trump’s candidacy dismissed and devalued.

Now is not the time to say fuck it and stop trying. Now is not the time to crawl back into your corner and keep your opinions to yourself.

Now is the time to stand up, speak out, and take action.

What does taking action look like? It looks like you, reaching out to the people in your life who’ve been most affected by the hate in this election and expressing your solidarity. It looks like you, promising — verbally, not just behind your computer screen — to participate in important conversations about serious issues, even if the issues don’t directly affect you. To vow to actively call out racism, prejudice, and sexism when you witness it. To agree not to cower away from confrontation when people’s lives hang in the balance. To admit to your privilege (if you have it) and educate yourself about the issues that affect the lives of your friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans.

It’s no longer enough to be nice and mind your own business. To stay quiet and keep to yourself when people across our country are experiencing oppression and powerlessness is irresponsible and shameful.
I urge you to use this trying time as an opportunity not to sulk, but to show the world what you stand for. What do you want to be known for? Who do you want to be?

Do you want to be shattered and bitter and disillusioned with humanity? Or do you want to be optimistic, brave, and resilient?

If you’re devastated by Hillary’s loss, be a force of calm and strength for those who can’t yet comprehend the election results. Be a model of compassion, empathy, and unconditional love. Be a beacon of light and hope. Be an activist.
Protect the people who aren’t as safe as you. Speak out for those who have no voice. Have respectful, civil dialogues with people whose opinions differ from your own. Keep your mind open and your heart full.

We can’t control what happened, but we can control how we choose to react to it. We can control how we choose to walk through this world, and the mental state we inhabit as we do. We can choose whether to have faith or fear.

Use this fragile time to think carefully about how your beliefs and decisions will affect the people of this country. Use this time to send words of gratitude to those who stand for equality and kindness. Use this time to fight for love.
As Hillary said today in her concession speech, “Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

It’s always worth it.

May we be strong. May we find peace. May we love one another. And may we carry on, however wounded, with a sense of hope.

Love and light.

This article originally appeared on Feed the Good Wolf and is republished here with permission.

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