People who take elected office in America are to be held accountable for their words and actions. Now, with Donald Trump’s presidency, I vow to not sit on the sidelines anymore.
I just gave my two-year-old daughter a kiss and a hug. Her mind, at this age, is uncomplicated and she is usually without a worry in the world (except for when we have run out of her favourite snacks or if she has to wear shoes — she hates wearing shoes). I am lucky not to have the difficult job of explaining what happened yesterday. Not yet, anyway. I hope I won’t ever have to explain to her the exact moment a nation hit back on the ideals that make it so wonderful.
It is one day after the official results of the 2016 election, and I am still sitting in a stupor. I have stopped reading and watching the news. I feel fear from the unknown for the first time. All I do know is that the Republicans have the majority in Congress again and that the rogue candidate who ran a candidacy based on fear, division, sexism, nationalism and vitriol is now president-elect.
What does this all mean, and how did we get here? Most importantly, what are the repercussions? These are the questions continually spinning around my head.
The United States of America is many things to many people. For my family, it symbolized opportunity and freedom; the two things that my parents didn’t have at that particular moment when the Republic of China was under martial law and an authoritarian government. Although we emigrated to the US with a certain amount of comfort and ability, the journey to our success as an American family has not been easy.
The negativity and racism were always there, but it lived under the radar.
“Do you eat dog?”
“No, but where are you really from?”
“Go back to China.”
“You’re supposed to be good at math.”
These are just some of the things I heard. I am sure my brother and my parents have experienced comments equally as onerous or worse over the years. When the president-elect talks about building walls, stopping immigrants and refugees, and “my African-Americans”; I feel a knot in my stomach. Is this the new normal? Are people now given the green-light to say anything? The desire to “tell it like it is” might not be so great if “what it is” is openly hostile and racist. Once this type of discourse is normalized, I worry about what comes next.
And what does this election say to women? I would like to think my daughter has ample opportunities if she decided to live there, but even if she is more qualified than a candidate or has many more years of experience, she will still be turned down for work because she wasn’t likable enough? What kind of message are we sending to our girls? Will all the work and effort she put into developing herself and her career be for nothing once she’s married or has a family? Worse yet to consider, will she merely be a walking baby machine once a woman’s choice on her reproductive system is taken away?
During the course of the past few years, I’ve had the privilege as an expatriate to view our national discourse from overseas. Admittedly, I have been feeling profound guilt over the past 48 hours that perhaps this decision to live abroad provided an easy way out of my civic responsibilities and duties. That somehow, I could have done more than just cast a vote to protect my friends, family and my vision for America.
I think the only glimmer of hope I have is that the next four years will be a good long period of reflection and action for our nation. People who take on the responsibility of elected office are to be held accountable for their actions and decisions, and we, the people, are the ones who ensure that it is done. I am not sitting on the sidelines anymore. I want to engage my country again, with new vigor and steel. I am reaching out to old friends, and building communities with new ones. I am holding elected officials accountable. I have a voice and will use it with gusto. Finally, I encourage anyone who feels the same way to join my voice, and together we can make a stronger and more United States of America.
10 November 2016