I have never felt like my life was pointless before. I have always felt that the work that I do is meaningful, that I am changing the world by sharing my gifts, and that I matter.
The day after the 2016 election nothing mattered to me. Life became wholly pointless and filled with regret. I continued to try to rationalize that what was happening could possibly be real. I have never had my foundation and beliefs rocked this hard.
I had so many thoughts: Why hadn’t I joined the Bernie Sanders movement? Why didn’t I help campaign for Hillary Clinton, why didn’t I help people register to vote in my predominantly middle-class African American community? I hadn’t even been bothered to help my developmentally disable brother, who up until recently was not even allowed legally to vote because he has been incarcerated for a felony, until it was past the deadline for him to register. Why did I even bother voting when an overwhelming majority of white women voted FOR Donald Trump?
Truth be told, I didn’t bother voting for Barack Obama in his second run for president. It just seemed like such a slam dunk, and I’m sure I was busy doing…something else? Regardless of the reason, I am absolutely culpable for Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump as much as the 40% of Americans who didn’t vote (although that’s a much trickier topic than it seems which I’ll get to in a later blog post) and the millions of others who voted for “the lesser of two evils” or voted along the same party lines as their parents, or who voted against Hillary because she wasn’t likable enough. Or voted for Donald Trump because he is going to “make things the way they used to be” Terrifying.
In hindsight, I see that I have spent quite a bit of time doing absolutely nothing. At the time, however, I felt like someone had stolen something from me. Like an innocent bystander, dumbfounded and helpless.
I went to Union Square in Manhattan where many organic protests and rallies had been congregating since the election results. Rather than continuing to tell people how angry I was, how scared I was, how worried I was, I listened. I had spent all this time worrying about myself.
This time, I listened to others instead of spending time telling others. This was actually quite a big deal for me. As a person of privilege, you are constantly told that your voice matters, you should share your thoughts, and that your opinion counts. But that is really at the heart of the problem. We haven’t been listening to each other for a very long time. And we have spent all of our time becoming really divided over party lines, rather than united in our need for a better country.
I spent about an hour listening as people passed around a microphone in a massive swarm along 14th street. People sharing stories of discrimination, rape, harassment, hate crimes, intimidation, poverty, homelessness, drug use, but the unifying thread was that we all care about making this country a better place and meeting the real needs of the people. Not a proclamation of “Make America Great Again,” a slogan rife with racists, homophobic, sexist, hateful subtext. The care and love and passion for change inspired me and gave me at tiny piece of hope to glue onto my shattered dreams. Rebuilding is a slow and painful process, but it begins today.