by Gretchen Gales
People told me to remain calm as I solemnly stared at the red blanket over America, saying nothing bad would happen. This hasn’t been the case.
It took less than a day after the presidential election for my friends to report they’d been shouted at, or had people chanted outside of their doors. My trans friend Bailey fears he will be stuffed back into the closet, back to an identity that was pronounced dead in freedom. His fear was further provoked after receiving a message on Facebook from a local police officer who told him to, “Get the fuck over [himself]” after he was interviewed in our city’s newspaper.
Another friend of mine is on her conservative college’s Allies Executive Board. She was given the middle finger by several male students shortly after her Latino friend was told to “start packing his bags.” Additionally, my LGBTQ+ friends have had panic attacks over the idea that the Vice President-Elect firmly believes in “praying the gay away” and conversion therapy.
My friend Karl is black and goes to a rural university. The Wednesday after the election, he messaged our group of friends to report, “I haven’t even been outside longer than five minutes. It’s been all Confederate flags and middle fingers. Everywhere.” When one of our friends told us to not panic, Karl responded, “I’m a minority. My classes are in the agriculture building. My Latina friend was just told to swim back home. Trump isn’t even sworn in yet.”
A colleague of mine posted on Facebook that one of her students told her a man, inspired by the President-Elect, cat-called her from the street, shouting, “I want to grab your pussy!” Thankfully, many condemned the that man’s actions and were concerned over the safety of the woman. However, one reply from a woman named Lisa was less than sympathetic, saying, “I reckon Trump is to blame also for the lack of parenting and the enabling of universities that have created this entitled cupcake generation that thinks it’s acceptable to engage in violence and tantrum throwing.”
I’m not typically so bold on social media as to engage with people whose views radically oppose my own. It’s typically a sinkhole for both parties. I channeled my anger with the apathetic woman with a (hopefully) graceful jab at her, saying, “I appreciate knowing that fearing for my friends’ lives constitutes me being a cupcake, but I hope I’m a pretty cupcake.”
I think the worst part of it all is knowing that the concerns raised about the President-Elect and what they mean for the future are disregarded, or cast aside; millennials are called “special snowflakes,” or “cupcakes” for desiring a better future for ourselves. For looking out for our friends. For wanting them to have the same rights as we do. For shifting uncomfortably when someone says, “Arrest the little shits!” or, “They need to get their overreacting asses home!” when they see news reports of protests.
Many in my rural community have said (alongside some of their own celebrations) to calm down, this is how it was going to be, nothing can change it. Maybe the worst part is knowing so many people don’t care enough to listen to the pleas not to vote for a man who is indifferent to whether or not our friends are maimed, raped or killed. They don’t care that some of our best friends may be forced to leave the country if Donald Trump and his administration go through with his promises.
Why did the election turn out like it did? Maybe voter apathy, maybe an extreme distaste for either major-party candidate. Maybe, as another colleague of mine mentioned, it was the “last knife-twist by baby boomers” who wanted to maintain an America many millennials reject, one that Trump promises will maintain the white and Evangelical integrity, an exclusive America.
With a vague fallacy of a campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” many Americans can imagine their own nostalgic longing for an America that probably never existed to begin with. Even so, it seems millennials still didn’t see a big enough threat to turn out to vote, even though they have surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest living generation, giving them significant electoral power. If Clinton or any third-party candidate had won, it’s unlikely that rights for oppressed populations would have drastically increased overnight, if at all. But what a Trump presidency shows, already, is that America chose to preserve an antiquated culture. The green light has been given to rip the hijab from a Muslim woman’s head, to paint swastikas on skyscrapers, to tear civil rights from our grasp.
Regardless of all of these accounts I’ve mentioned, this election will not affect me nearly as negatively as it could; white privilege is one hell of a drug. But we cannot be silenced into thinking that our voices are nothing more than tantrums. We are constantly told to accept the status quo as normal, even though rejecting it is what built this country in the first place. Being compliant allows for violence against oppressed populations to continue. But many people learn to dismiss the signs of oppression and impending violence as “what the media cooks up,” or they outright do not care. Whether you’ve had a friend that has already experienced heinous hate crimes, if you are an ally or want to be, never comply with silence, unless it is to pause and listen to the concerns of those who are hurting.
Remember Karl from earlier? I called him later to check on him, considering he had only briefly left his room for class. He half-heartedly joked with me, saying, “I’m going to remind myself I went to our backwards rural high school for four years. See? I can deal with more racist shit for four more years. Gonna tell myself this is normal again.”
Gretchen Gales is the managing editor of Quail Bell Magazine, a socially-minded culture and literary magazine. You can see more of her work at writinggales.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @GGalesQuailBell.