June 25, 2017

Letting the light through the cracks

On Tuesday, I thought I would witness the impossible become possible. Today, I know I must still strive to make the impossible a reality.

This IS a watershed moment. For me. For girls everywhere. And for my nation.

I have gone through life with the privilege of achieving what I want. This isn’t to say that I haven’t faced obstacles as a female — I have — but they have always been obstacles, never barriers. This is why I am so shaken. This is the first time in my life that I have felt powerless to elevate womankind and humankind. This is the first time that I have actually seen the glass ceiling in action. I’ve felt it, but never have I seen it so blatantly. We were so close — SO CLOSE — to shattering that glass ceiling, and that empowered me unlike anything else. I danced around the kitchen with the thought of putting Hillary Clinton in the White House and cheered at the top of my lungs when I watched positive results come in.

I was going to watch the first female elected president. I was going to watch the first female elected president!

And then —  in what was a slap in the face to me, to Hillary Clinton, to Michelle Obama, to Barack Obama, and to women everywhere — I didn’t. Instead of empowering young females and showing that the sky is the limit when creating change, we elected a man who has outright admitted to and bragged about groping women, who continually evaluates females on their appearances, and who treats his wives with the same amount of respect as Henry the 8th.

This is the message I see: as women, to become president, we must be perfect down to the last undeleted email. As men, to become president, you can be a sexist, a bigot, a racist, a climate-change-denier, an egotist, and utterly inexperienced but still win.

How can any young woman feel empowered under these circumstances?

I wish I were able to accept the outcome of this election and move on. But this is unlike any other election. The results of this election show that over half of our country consciously chose to value their own economic comfort over basic, fundamental rights for human beings, human beings who have been denied those basic rights for hundreds of years. And I cannot overlook that.

Even if Hillary had won, I could not overlook the overwhelming, unsettling number of people who disregard common human decency in this country. There are people who can hear someone boast about groping women and not have moral objections. There are people who can listen to a candidate propose banning Muslims and not morally object to that. There are people who can see anyone promote gay conversion treatment and not take offense.

So maybe, this can be the wakeup call we needed.

For so many people, the fact that Donald Trump will become president means we now are forced to face issues we have been avoiding for so long. And that can become a good thing.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, and that is encouraging to me. The majority of people (even if they are the majority of people by only one measure) chose love over hate. So now is the time for us to amplify that: support female leaders, celebrate religious differences, understand racial differences and microaggressions, stand up for LGBTQ+ friends. It’s time for me to start making small changes at home so that I can finally see this change on a national scale. In fact, it is not just time. These simple actions are well overdue. And, I hope I am not alone in making these changes.  

If I am going to preach acceptance of human differences, I must be accepting of human differences. People who voted for Trump chose to set back women, black people, Muslims, Hispanics, people who identify as LGBTQ+, disabled people, and so many other individuals. But the individuals who feel this way are humans and their opinions have value too.

In trying to come to terms with this, I find solace in one of the truest strings of words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. He said “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that”. And that is how I must act. I can hate ideas, but I cannot hate people because that leads only to more hate and more division.  I am not angry at individuals. I am angry at the collective hate. And I am so so saddened by the truth. But that is anger and sadness that can be harnessed. Anger against an idea can be — must be — channelled into something positive.

And this is where I am empowered by the words of Hillary Clinton herself. In her concession speech, when she began talking to young people, I felt like she was talking directly to me:  

And to the young people in particular, I hope you will hear this. I have, as Tim said, spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks. Sometimes, really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your professional public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too.

This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.

It is — it is worth it.

And so we need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.

And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.

Hillary Clinton is my champion. She has shown the world how far women can go. More importantly, she has shown me that the world won’t let women go farther. And she has inspired me to change that. There is still room to shatter the glass ceiling, to make the impossible possible. And there is no reason for me not the be the one to do this.

And this is where the tears truly flow. They are not the hot angry tears that come when I realize Donald Trump will be our president. They are the anxious, delicate tears that come when I realize the enormous space there is for improvement, when I listen to Hillary talk and it seems like it is directly to me. They come with the realization of how much that burden — that opportunity — falls to me and girls just like me all across every state and every country.

Hillary cracked the glass ceiling; it is up to us to shatter it.

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