I’ve taken some time to digest and sit and think. Miraculously there were times this weekend when I forgot all about the election. It probably helped that I have gone off social media. It helped that I don’t have cable. It probably also helped that I refused to read the news. Ok I lied, I couldn’t keep away from the news, but I refused to allow myself to react to it. Those numbing defense mechanisms I learned as a child, were really helpful this weekend. I danced, I sang, I cleaned. I did everything to take care of me. I have had so much riding on these last couple of weeks. The election wasn’t the only news I’d been waiting on months to find out the outcome of. It’s no wonder my nerves have been a wreck. But this weekend finally allowed some clarity that if you’re still reading I’d like to share with you.
Immediately after the results came in I was hurt. I felt betrayed by my country. I saw people say to get over it. I saw people say not to be angry. This election was fueled by fear by anger. Many times in my life I have been told my feelings are invalid. This week was like a flashback and all I could do to get through without lashing out on someone was reading the words of women I admire. To those who have been told not to be angry I hope these words help you:
“We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons. All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, in order to attract or please men. There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.” Maya Angelou
I have let myself grieve. I have left myself cry. I have let myself feel everything. But on Thursday I put on my smile and gave out as much love as I could. And I will continue to give out love and hope because I cannot and will not allow myself to become bitter.
I know what values I have and why I voted the way I did. I know that those are shaped directly by the experiences I’ve had. Some experiences I’ve had are traumatic or hurtful (abuse as a child, having a gun pointed at me when I was 5 by a police officer, being approached by someone at the grocery store telling me not speak Spanish, countless sexual assaults) and others a lot more positive (seeing my mom become a U.S. citizen, a police officer believing me and filing a personal protection order, becoming a first generation college student, becoming a mom to a beautiful baby boy). Those experiences shape my world view and for all the good and all the bad, I do not hold bitterness about the way my life has been. The trauma is not my communities fault.
On Tuesday and Wednesday I forgot for a moment that many people have no idea what it’s like as a person of color, as a woman, as an immigrant, as a believer of a different religion, as a single mother, as a person without insurance, as a person with disabilities, as any kind of other. I forgot that liberals, Christians, Democrats, Republicans and independents have had different experiences. Like I cannot forget where I come from they cannot see life from a different point of view if they never have had to. So when people on Wednesday were saying things like “everything will be fine.” I got angry because I forgot. I forgot that they cannot forget themselves as much as I cannot forget myself. It took me a while to process but the exact reason I was angry was the exactly reason I had to practice compassion.
I cannot fault those who voted contrary to everything I believe about women’s rights, about police brutality, about immigrants rights, about diversity because they have not had the experiences I have had and as much as it hurts, they don’t understand and their values lay elsewhere. I am not angry at them. I am angry at the institutions that continue to keep only a certain type of person in places of power. I still believe the countries leaders have a responsibility to the most marginalized of this country and I still believe I have to use my voice to help keep my leaders accountable. But I do realize my reality is different than half of the countries and I as well as others have our work cut out to help them see what life is like on the other side.
I listened to stories of women afraid to wear their Hijab. I listened as people told me they were worried about speaking Spanish in public. I heard children say their whole family was now going to be deported. I saw real fear to show any sense of “otherness”. So if you have at one time or another felt “other” and worry about your place in this country I say to you:
Do not let them rob you of your identity. Do not let them rob you of your security. They may have won the election but they will only ever really win if we fall into fear.
This election season has challenged a lot about what I believe about humanity. I have sat and thought about how do I personally move forward. How do I create change? My answers aren’t concrete and my actions may seem small. But it begins with compassion. I cannot abandon my values now just because the leader of this country doesn’t seem to have any. I have to remind myself to practice it even when it’s not reciprocated. That’s why I’m challenging myself to practice it a lot more by being the most obnoxiously respectable Latina I can be. I have thought long and hard about this. In this deeply conservative town, I will no longer call myself “Kuh-ree-nuh” to make it more comfortable for you to pronounce. My name is “Ka-Ri-Na”. I won’t hold back speaking Spanish in public. I will not allow my identity to be threatened.
I will continue to champion for causes I believe in. I will allow my anger to fuel my responsibility in making a difference. But I will not allow my anger to consume me. I will not be reckless, but I will not be complacent.