Friday, November 11, 2016

The Future Is Female (My Thoughts on the 2016 Election)

Dear Millennial Women,

When I first started blogging, I never thought to use my voice for anything more than writing book reviews, sharing Polyvore sets, and snapping pictures of food porn. (Bit of background: I started my first-ever blog, the Chick Lit Kitchen, to showcase my 15-year-old self's favorite books, fashion, and recipes.) Today, as a somewhat-more-enlightened journalism major, I realize that as a writer, I have an inherent responsibility to advocate for my audience.

While this isn't a political blog by any means, it is a blog for millennial women. I am a part of this demographic, and this demographic largely constitutes the audience of my work. Consequently, millennial women are also one of the demographics I fear most for over the course of the next four years.

My heart hurts for the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. I ache for the little girls whose dreams of becoming the President of the United States have been brutally crushed (I, too, was one of those hopeful girls, once upon a time); for the black girls facing cries of "White supremacy wins" (to me, it never will); for the Muslim-American women who are terrified to wear the hijab in public; for the LGBTQ ladies who fear they won't be able to marry the women they love, or that they'll be brutally beaten for using the wrong public restroom.

My own fear of a Donald Trump presidency stems from a lot of places deep within me. I am a sexually-active college woman who isn't currently using birth control for health reasons. I don't think I'll start birth control again, but I'm afraid that if ever I want to, I will no longer have the choice, nor the privilege of having my prescriptions provided to me for free. That being said, I also fear the ominous possibility that if Trump follows through on his campaign promise to ban abortion and "punish" women who seek them, I won't be careful enough and will end up bearing a child long before my time.

But this isn't just about me. Many of us share these similar fears. Many of us are college-age women, who not only fear for Planned Parenthood, but fear for our own educational careers. Under Donald Trump's presidency, there is a very real possibility that the United States' economy could tank. Next year, after filling out the FAFSA and receiving our aid packages, I expect we'll feel the effects of that economic burden.

For all the ladies who will graduate into the working world throughout Trump's presidency, I worry that the job market will be tougher than ever. Under President Obama, the United States saw historically low unemployment rates. Trump will not maintain the policies that have healed our country from economic recession. He will deregulate the economy, giving too-big-to-fail economic giants the same broad authority and discretion that brought about the financial disaster of 2008.

As a journalism major, I am also terrified by Trump's embrace of Russia and China, two countries where the state limits dissent and censors the media. I will be graduating into the America that Donald Trump has shaped to his volatile whims, and I do not have a hopeful view of what my profession will look like in 2020.

I know that many of us are sick and tired of hearing about the election and its consequences. On some level, so am I - but I refuse to condone hatred. That goes for both our president-elect, and the people who elected him. Their hate is inexcusable, but so is ours. Whether we support Trump or not, we cannot take our anger out on those who hold views different from our own, simply because they are different. That would make us no better than him.

Wednesday night, I stood with the roughly 10,000 protesters in Boston, Mass who spoke out against Trump's victory. As cathartic as it was to scream "F*ck Donald Trump" with one of my best friends from high school, I can honestly say that the vision of so many saddened, enraged, terrified Americans shook me to my core. How did we become so filled with hatred? How did I, someone who wants nothing more than her safety and her rights protected by her government, become a part of this deplorable, worldwide phenomenon?

Still, I'm not done protesting. Admittedly, I will probably continue to scream, and shout, and rant on social media for a long, long time. My heart is hardened by this election. I am angry about what happened this year - not only in the presidential election, but overall, both in America and around the world. Between terrorist attacks abroad, mass shootings, police violence, and now this, I will probably spend much of my lifetime overcome by grief.

But I am also hopeful for a different approach: taking action.

Today, I signed up for Amnesty International's Write for Rights campaign. Each year, Amnesty International takes on twelve human rights cases worldwide. For example, this year, one of their cases is encouraging President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden. I hope that by helping Amnesty International address human rights abuses around the globe, I will somehow be able to atone for the past and future abuses of our country's next president. You, too, can Write for Rights by signing up here.

Write for Rights alone is not enough to overcome the absurd amount of hatred in this country and around the globe. I know that, and you know, that there are not enough volunteer opportunities, campaigns, protests, or human rights organizations in the entire universe to atone for all of the sins humankind has committed throughout its short history here on earth.

Yet still, we can try. And we should try.

As millennial women, I believe we have an inherent responsibility to stand up for our own rights, and for the rights of others, that are being abused. On that note, here is a brief, incomplete list of ways I would encourage you to get involved in the democratic process in the aftermath of 2016:

  • Donate or volunteer. Organizations like Planned Parenthood, Americorps, and the ACLU will all need your help now more than ever. A short, but by no means exhaustive, list of suggested organizations can be found on Buzzfeed.
  • Attend a love rally or peaceful protest in your city. Not all protests right now are aimed at venting anger - some, like the love rallies occurring around the nation today, direct support at groups who might feel victimized after the election. Peaceful protest is a safe and legal way to fight back against hatred.
  • Become a listener on a site like 7 Cups. Suicide hotlines received a record number of calls after the results of the 2016 election. Volunteering your time to provide emotional support to people who are left feeling vulnerable, scared, alone, angry, or depressed by American politics right now will have a direct and measurable impact on these people's lives.
  • Write to your congressperson. Trump can only do so much by executive order. Many of his policies will require the approval of your local congresspeople. Reach out to them - they are there to hear your concerns. Encourage them to vote in a way that protects your rights and the rights of victimized minorities.
  • Help elect officials who will protect your rights. Some elected officials' terms will expire during the Trump presidency. Work with political organizations and campaigns in your community to elect officials who will vow to protect your rights against the abuses of this demagogue.

I promise that after this election season, I will try not to bring politics back into this blog for a long time. America has healing to do, and part of that healing is learning how to turn our attention back to self-care and everyday life. However, this is an extraordinary time in our political history. I cannot and will not remain silent.

This blog gives me a unique platform to speak out against hatred. I will exercise that right as freely as I can, for as long as I still can. Under the dictatorial leadership of a man who condones a state-owned media, I wake up every day wondering for how much longer this right will still exist.

That man, Donald Trump, is not, and will never be, my president.

Writing, protesting, and speaking out against hatred are my ways of healing from the aftermath of 2016. I hope that you, too, will find your own way to recover and cope with the results of this year's devastating and tragic election. Please stay safe, take care of yourself, and do what you have to do to feel as good as you possibly can about the future of our country.

American democracy is not dead. Planned Parenthood refuses to go down. Blacks and Muslims and LGBTQ people are here to stay. The revolution lives on.

In that revolution, for me, lies hope.

Wishing you love, kindness, peace, and hope,
Haley Marie

P.S. If any of you are feeling scared or unsafe, or just need to talk about what happened, please do not hesitate to reach out to me in the comments below, on social media, or privately via e-mail. 

Free expression and open political discussion are encouraged, but hateful speech will not be tolerated and will be removed.

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