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An Open Letter to the United States
5 years ago · · election · Explicit
We are struggling. Last night we witnessed one of the most influential elections take place and the results are quite terrifying. For the first time in recent history, we as Americans elected a president despite his horrifying past and present. We elected a man with no experience in politics over one of the most qualified women out there. Obviously, we will have to live with the consequences of our decision. While the outlook is not immediately good when taking it all in, I can only hope that none of the promises Trump made in his run for the presidency will actually come true. I can only hope that he improves the economy as he claims he will. More importantly, I can only hope that he won"t follow through with the violent, bigoted platforms he stood so tall on for the past year and a half. It has not even been 24 hours since polls closed and the final count was made, but I can see how this election is affecting my life indirectly. In fact, it has been affecting my life before a final decision was even reached.
I don"t think I can talk about this election without first talking about how I was brought up. Growing up, my parents were not really political. They didn"t go out and vote each election like we were told all adults should. They didn"t watch CNN or MSNBC. They paid little attention to most political issues that didn"t affect them directly. Sure, they had their views on certain issues that I adopted throughout my childhood and into adolescence. To this day I am still a supporter of gun rights, as well as other issues that Liberals are historically against. They each had completed their respective programs in technical colleges and didn"t have much schooling further than that. That"s not to say they aren"t intelligent people; my dad is one of the most influential people in my life when it comes to decisions that will affect my future career. Particularly, I don"t think I"d be where I am today without his help in developing skills such as communication, respect, and work ethic, values that I hold very high for myself. My mom has also been a huge support system for me when it comes to schooling and future career options, always encouraging me to go above and beyond the expectations and to feel proud of myself even if I don"t achieve exactly what I set out to.
I don"t want to make this sound like my parents are completely on a different page than me and we will never overcome our differences. The whole point of democracy is that the citizens can voice their opinions without backlash or fear of being judged by others. This is obviously not the case in modern day politics, but family is family and nothing will come between that. However, there were instances over the past few months when I began to pick up on some slight hostility between us and our political views. With this 2016 election I saw a shift in my parent"s opinions. Granted, during the last major election I was in 7th grade, and then the following re-election I was a junior in high school, still blissfully unaware of much of what was going on in the country, let alone my parent"s thoughts on the country. Their opinions on issues, however, became apparent sometime in the past year. News clips of Transgender bathroom laws, I think, is what really started it all. Being a stereotypically accepting millennial, I had no problem with these laws being passed. I understand the concept of human rights and don"t believe that the idea of literally defecating in public should be completely blown out of proportion when it comes to which gender can use which room. My parents, however were against it. Not violently and aggressively against it, but just the backhanded comments of "that"s not right" or "I don"t agree with that", usually accompanied by a wrinkled nose or similar facial expressions. I brushed it off, calmly stating that you don"t pay attention to others when you"re in a restroom anyway so it shouldn"t matter. Issues in the media, however, escalated from there. The controversial Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, especially after the shootings and riots in Milwaukee, our home state. The racist comments made by my dad were actually startling and upsetting, although I didn"t let on that much about how upsetting it was hearing those words come out of my dad"s mouth. I have always been "politically correct" about issues such as race and gender ever since high school, which my family has never taken seriously. They will say a completely inappropriate comment or joke, and then look at me for a reaction, suppressing a laugh and saying "it"s just a joke". The problem with making race or gender or any other sensitive topics into a joke is that it only perpetuates the idea that it"s okay to marginalize that group. While it"s just within the home that you"re making that joke, you eventually leave the home and go out in public to interact with these groups of people, and you have all of these completely incorrect stereotypes and negative thoughts in your head, slightly clouding your judgement. So, it"s very hard to stand up against these hurtful topics when your own family doesn"t take you seriously and listen to the reasons why their words are not okay.
The biggest turning point in this entire election in terms of how I view my parents, specifically my dad, was when the story broke about Trump"s conversation with Billy Bush. The infamous "grab her by the pussy" comment. It is a horrifying comment to come from a presidential candidate so close to the actual election, even if the comment was made a number of years ago. To me, that just means that if he"s said offensive and violent things like that in the past, there is a good chance he feels the same way today. I mean, just look at everything he has done to women just while on the campaign trail. Derogatory comments toward professional women in the field, gross comments about the attractiveness of his daughter, and many more that would take too long to list. So when my dad, the father of two college age daughters, husband to a wife, brother to a sister, and son to a mother, asks me in a condescending tone "did his comments really bother you that much?" I feel absolutely crushed. Did his comments really not bother you that much? Casual talk about sexual assault when you have women that you care about in your life doesn"t have an effect on your opinions of this man up for a presidential election? After I tried to explain to him that people with thoughts like Trump"s don"t change and that"s dangerous, my dad simply says "yeah, he was a douche about it" along with something else that I honestly can"t remember and don"t want to put words into his mouth by guessing. Nonetheless, he was not fazed by these recordings literally admitting to, at least the thought of, sexual assault. As a daughter, this is an upsetting thought. Your dad is supposed to be your knight in shining armor there to protect you from the evils of the world, and here my dad was blatantly defending the dragon instead of slaying it.
From this point on, I have honestly felt a little disconnected from my dad, which is so heartbreaking. Just everyday conversations about certain topics and his mannerisms get me super irritated with him, and it truly does hurt to know that my view of him is now skewed because of his political opinions. After that big Trump scandal, anytime Trump would be in the news my dad would make it a point to bring it up, just to provoke me. This becomes so tiresome when I need to defend my viewpoints to someone whose opinions on every other topic I respect so much. One day we were watching some show on TV and my dad starts insulting the person on TV for something they were saying or wearing or doing. I snapped and told him he doesn"t need to voice his opinions on everything he ever sees on the TV ever, because this is actually a bad habit of his. He can never say anything nice about the things he sees on TV, just points out the negatives. All of us in my family have pointed this out to him at one time or another, but this time he just smugly says "people in glass houses shouldn"t throw stones". I ask him what that"s supposed to mean and he just says it again, adding that he will call me out next time I"m yelling at the TV. I laugh and say "okay, that won"t be a problem considering I literally never yell at the TV." Later that night we get into an argument about whichever game of the World Series was on TV, and after I accidently make a very sarcastic comment about it, he yells at me to not be like that and that I"m not always right. He says "just letting you know now, because you will realize that one day." Again, I"m irritated and go to bed fuming. How is it that this election is slowly picking at our relationship in aspects that have nothing to do with the election?
I have not yet spoken to my dad since the election results. I went to bed before the final count was made, because I was already feeling anxiety about the results as they came in, but at that point Trump had a considerable lead over Hillary. I could hear my dad in the living room emotionlessly reading off the states that Trump had won in, and I knew I couldn"t leave my room and risk the possible gloating. I had to be prepared with a speech telling him that Trump winning was actually the United States losing. That, without sugarcoating it, we were fucked.
I am lucky enough to be a straight, middle-class, able-bodied white girl from the middle of Wisconsin. Being raised in a predominately white farming community, I never once had been harassed about my race, religion, or sexuality. I never had to fear mine or my loved ones" safety when out in the community. I have privilege and I recognize it. This doesn"t mean I don"t feel a deep empathy for peers that are a different race, religion, or sexuality. I am so afraid for them with the results of this election. My English professor took a few minutes at the end of class to speak of the racial issues occurring recently on our campus and how our president-elect"s past words may affect this further in the future. She reminded us to be careful and watch out for it, and pointed out that many students were afraid in this time; many students of color didn"t come to class today.
So, today as a very confused, angered, and frightened country, we need to band together. We have to remember that even if this monster got elected president, there are only so many acts he actually has the power to complete on his own. Congress still has much of the control over our country, as well as state and local governments. We as humans are intrinsically programed to do good things, and that"s exactly what we need to do. Being a good person with appropriate morals and values will keep this country from its demise. Obviously, a large portion of the country is surprised and fearful of the results from last night, which just makes us stronger together. Remember, we are all on the same team.