I have tried my hardest to shelter you from the ugliness of this, the 2016 presidential election, but I fear I have failed. The morning after the election, your beautiful innocent brown eyes were wide with excitement as you crept into my room to hear the results and I found myself speechless. There is nothing I can say to soften the blow of the truth. I cannot sugarcoat that the woman you adored and looked up to since the primaries was defeated by a loud and proud misogynist. I cannot dull the pain of this disappointment and the foreshadowing of future disappointments I try not to envision in your tears.
My silence is weighing on you, and I wish I could steady my voice long enough to explain this bitter shock to you, but for now, my embrace is all I can offer. A few moments pass and you ask me if I am afraid of Donald Trump. My inner instincts were to quickly dismiss that assumption, but it is a ruse, my love. And in fact, your 5-year-old wisdom has managed to pick up on the feelings I am so desperate to hide. I hope one day you can read this and understand what I was unable to articulate the morning after the election.
My fear is not fear as much as it is dread — it is impossible to explain the dynamics of this election to a child whose very future depends on the decisions of our government. How can I explain to you, my daughter, that the man who shall become your president has demonstrated an almost pathological desire to belittle, humiliate, abuse, and objectify women? How can I encourage you to utilize your mind as your strongest asset when we are going to be led by a man who has expressed that a woman’s physical attributes are of utmost importance? I fear a world where our male allies are intimidated and forced to abandon our side during our fight for gender equality. I fear that the hopes of universal parental leave, equal pay for equal work, fair representation, and women’s reproductive health issues will be set back 50 years. I fear that these things will come to your knowledge in a manner I cannot control or siphon. I fear that these truths may hurt you and shatter your belief in your magnificence.
As the election results crept in, I tried to draw comfort in previous elections where outcomes often seemed to favor Republicans in the beginning of the night. But then as the clock drew closer to midnight and the map shone crimson, anxiety filled me. Still I clung to the hope that the liberal population centers would outperform expectations and carry her to victory, but once Pennsylvania fell into the Republican column, I turned off the TV and stared at my husband. Shock is a word that completely undermines the levels of panic that silently reverberated between us. We were both well aware of his promises to ban Muslims, register Muslims, monitor Muslims, and scapegoat Muslims.
Suddenly the only place we have called home echoed a resounding “Get out!” at us and we heard it clearly. That night we slept with eyes wide open, like those awaiting impending doom. The morning would bring our young children demanding election results and an explanation neither of us was prepared to give. So am I afraid, my love? Yes, I am afraid. But not of Donald Trump — I am afraid of the forces he has awoken and emboldened. I am afraid of those who will look to scapegoat us and impinge on our civil rights. I am afraid of the aftermath of a Trump presidency. I am afraid of the hatred and the division. I am afraid that hate will materialize in front of you and shatter your innocence and your faith in this country and your fellow man. I am afraid that the beauty of this country, its rainbow of alliances and possibilities will be sacrificed at the altar of his ego. I am afraid that my faith in the inherent goodness of those around me is in fact naïveté and blind optimism.
Not too long ago, as I sat in an 11th-grade history class at Sharon High School, a new section was introduced to the curriculum. It was called Facing History and Ourselves. It was a class focused on identifying and therefore preventing the root causes of genocide and ensuring the Holocaust never happened again. I remember reading about the steps it took to dehumanize and demonize minorities to the point where the majority of the country could watch them be carted off by the millions to their eventual death.
I remember thinking how ancient and impossible it all seemed, how it must have been a uniquely German problem. Yet this election cycle, as I watched Donald Trump’s improbable rise to the highest office in the land, my shock solidified into resignation. I finally understood the necessity of studying and learning from our history. His entire campaign has been rooted in dehumanizing, demonizing, and scapegoating defenseless minorities. And what had seemed an impossibility only a few weeks ago became a grim reality. So, my love, yes, I am afraid. I am experiencing a kind of fear rooted in dread and knowledge that humanity can so easily be swayed against its own self. I fear that we have only just seen the beginning, and that you and I, we are not a part of his plan for the revival of America’s greatness.
Despite all this, there is a bright spot to which I desperately cling. I see a future full of people who believe in that bright shining rainbow of possibility. I see my generation and yours becoming fluent in words like social justice, privilege, equality, opportunity, generosity, and most of all, love. We think as a community, as a unit. I hope that I am not being presumptuous when I write that we will not be jaded out of our idealism like earlier generations. I hope that my fellow millennials will take this election as a warning sign of what happens when we are complacent, our worst nightmares for our country and our children, might just become our reality.