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“Stop posting on Facebook and buy a gun.”
These were the words my Dad said to me over the phone the day after Donald Trump won the presidential election. My dad has never owned a gun and has always been vocal about despising them. I grew up in El Paso, which is a deeply blue part of an otherwise red Texas. I sat on my couch silently sobbing because my Dad saying that meant that he had given up. The America he raised us in was gone. Hate and fear won.
I woke up that Wednesday morning with swollen eyes from crying the night before and a dry mouth from the bottle of wine I drank while I watched in despair as the election numbers rolled in. I, like so many of my fellow Americans, was heartbroken. As Clinton’s numbers dropped, I tightened the grip on my glass and gulped down my wine in hopes that my sinking heart would float rather than drown.
When Trump won Ohio – the one state that has not voted for a losing president since 1960 – my sister called me. Her voice was soft and quiet, like when a child knows it is in trouble or hiding something. She was crushed. I could tell she was fighting back tears, choking on the disbelief, just as I was. Then after a few seconds of holding back the tears, we both broke down crying amid telling each other we loved one another. We are both tough women, and the only other time I had heard my sister cry was when my grandmother passed away.
That is why it was difficult for me not to cry when my father suggested that I be quiet and buy a gun. My parents raised us to stand up for ourselves and not let people get the upper-hand on us easily. They raised us to become compassionate human beings and taught us to watch our backs as well as those around us.
During one of the countless trips my family took to Juarez, Mexico growing up, my Dad took us to an ice cream shop. Amid our family ordering, a young boy and girl, about 5 years in age, came up to my Dad, and asked him if he would buy them ice cream too. Without even thinking about it, my dad responded, “Claro que sí.” The children’s faces lit up and they feverishly studied all the flavors with overwhelming anticipation. My Dad gave the cashier some extra money and told him to take care of the kids.
This is the same man who told me he was held up at gunpoint one day while in Juarez.
The police officer who held him up told my Dad that if he wanted to live, he needed to get out of the car. My Dad leaned across the passenger seat, reached into the glove compartment, and pulled out his Mexican military ID. My Dad was not combat trained, he was recruited by the Mexican Army to play basketball. Even though the ID was well over 30 years old, the police officer backed down, apologized to my Dad, and let him go. My Dad got lucky, but even after that experience, he never thought to buy a gun.
This election was important to me and to so many of my friends and family. I am Hispanic and I’m a woman, so I belong to two of the groups Trump and his supporters targeted and vilified the most. I might as well have a target on my back – and on another body part our President-elect has crudely spoken of in the past.
I understand my father’s concern: I am an outspoken pro-Clinton, anti-Trump, and anti-everything-he-insinuates, social justice warrior on Facebook. Social justice warrior – a term coined by the far right for those of us who raise our voices against the injustices we observe, whether on the internet or in real life – is a title I have adopted with pride. My father’s concern stems from my social media posts. He is afraid that someone who may want to harm people with my ideology, would seek me out, and hurt me – or worse.
Clinton supporters are not upset because their candidate lost. We are saddened because it means hate and fear won. It means that America, as a collective, said it is acceptable to hate a group of people simply for being different. Trump’s rhetoric blindly led so many people to believe that we – Mexicans, immigrants, and many other groups – were the root cause for many of the U.S.’s troubles, when it is much more complicated than that. His election made misogyny, racism, sexism, bigotry, lying, and acting like a spoiled child acceptable. The “isms” have existed for some time, but I feel like I was thrown into a time machine, and I’m now desperately trying to get back to 2016.
When I heard Trump call Mexican immigrants rapists, I was irate. Not only because he had just degraded so many humble, hard-working people, but also because his approval numbers – and with it, my blood pressure – went up.
Little did I, or the world, anticipate that that was just the beginning of it all. Trump steamrolled across countless boundaries, and every time he said something horribly offensive, more and more people came out of the woodworks to support him. Videos and sound bites of horrible and ignorant things some of his supporters were spitting began to surface, and he stood at the front egging them on. People started getting attacked in restaurants, on the street, and at work, simply for being different, for being non-white and non-Christian. It made me sick.
As a kid growing up in the late ‘90s, I never thought I would see hate rise to such levels. I thought my generation was smart enough and raised in a loving, accepting, understanding time. How wrong I was. Many of those simple ideas died when Clinton lost. The America I knew, where hard-working, kind-hearted people of any ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, physical ability, or creed could be accepted and allowed to flourish, died with Trump’s election. The America of inclusion, progress, new ideas, and non-judgment died – We collectively killed it. That is why Clinton supporters cried. We didn’t just lose, love and progress died.
At this moment Trump is assembling a racist, anti-LGBTQIA transition cabinet. Meanwhile people are posting photos and stories of being called n——, faggots, and wetbacks while others are spray painting swastikas and “Make America White Again” on walls. Women are being yelled at by groups of men saying “grab her by the p—-.” People are pulling women’s hijabs of their heads in plain sight. Children in schools are being told to go back to where they came from. Children are saying this, not just adults. My question is not only how did we get here, but why?
This behavior, this emboldened display of hate, cannot be justified. I am scared, not just for myself, but for my community, for all the people who have been a target of Trump’s hate speech, and of those who decided to support him for that reason. The UK has seen an increase in racism since the Brexit vote. The video below shows examples of how communities have dealt with public occurrences and disrupting any form of “ism.”
Although I have this fear in me, I am not going to cower. I will not hide under my covers, or move, or be quiet about what is happening all over this country. I will not stop going to festivals, events, the grocery store, or my local bar. That is what those who have hate in their heart want us to do. They want us to be afraid. They want us to hide. They want us to cower. I will not cower.
And I will not buy a gun.
What I will do is call out racism, sexism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQIA and religious rhetoric. I will hold those responsible accountable, whether it is in public, or in private conversations among family, friends, and colleagues. We may not experience the hate personally, but that does not mean it is not happening.
I ask everyone who does not agree with Trump’s hate speech – whether you voted for him or not – to do the same. Prayers, hopes, and well-wishes will not make hate go away. Action and holding people accountable for their misbehavior is what will help turn this country around and lead it back to being one of inclusion, progress, new ideas, and non-judgment. That’s what America is. And if we cannot agree on that, then we are further beyond reconciliation than I thought.