On the morning of November 8, 2016, my daughter and I woke up full of hope and promise. Today was the day; we were going to elect Hillary Clinton as president on the United States. We would transition from one intelligent, qualified leader to another. It was the day that being smart and thoughtful would win over being stupid and brutish.
On the morning of November 9, 2016, I woke up my daughter to tell her that none of that had happened.
She cried herself to sleep for a week.
I comforted her by telling her that this is how democracy works.
Yes, two million more people voted for Hillary, but they were in the wrong states. Their votes didn’t matter.
Yes, the Electoral College was created partially as insurance against the populace doing something insane, like electing a bigoted, reality star with no political experience.
No, it didn’t make any sense.
I told her that our country had survived horrible leaders before: Nixon, Hoover, McCarthy. We could survive Trump.
I reminded her that the new president would have knowledgeable advisors.
I assured her that he would still have to follow the laws.
In the worst moments when she felt evil was creeping into her bedroom window, I told her the sad truth: our lives wouldn’t change that much. We’re middle-class, white New Yorkers entrenched in Upper Westside progressivism. We’re protected by that privilege. He couldn’t get to us.
I was wrong. Our lives have changed.
Not as much as many people’s lives, though. Nobody in our family has been shot or deported. We haven’t had our jobs threatened. Nobody in our family has been told we can’t use a bathroom because of what we look like.
For the most part the changes in our lives are small nails constantly being tapped through my skin.
- I switch off NPR while I’m preparing breakfast, because I don’t want my daughter walking to school afraid of what the President is doing or saying.
- Two years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. While I’m fine now, worries about health insurance and preexisting conditions laws crowd into my thoughts daily.
- Friends in Puerto Rico have been left without electricity or clean water for months.
- I avoid Fifth Avenue. Once a beautiful street full fantasy, it now looks like it’s under marshal law. And then there’s millions of my tax dollars that have been spent protecting Melina and Barron while they remained at Trump Tower, rather than feeding the homeless, paying for pre-K, or repairing the subways.
- The admiration has threatened our city, by trying to withhold funds as long as we hold on to our sanctuary city status.
- My daughter has learned more curse words from the President of the United States than from any single source, including myself.
- Joining millions of people marching in the streets has become a regular part of our lives. We spent her eleventh birthday protesting gun violence at the March for Our Lives.
But the thing that’s changed the most is that we’re all scared.