Today We Mourn For The Country That Could Have Been; Tomorrow We Fight To Get It Back

We are all so tired.

It's been a long 24 hours. It's been a long year. In 2016, we have watched the deadliest mass shooting in American history, targeted at a gay club on Latino night; we have watched as unarmed black men were shot by police, including Philando Castile and Alton Sterling within 48 hours of each other; we have watched a racist, xenophobic liar who has openly bragged about sexual assault run for president; we have watched countless injustices and disasters happen not just in America, but on the world stage. It seemed karmically fitting for that year to end with the election of a candidate who cared for these marginalized populations; a candidate who advocated for the rights and safety not just of "all Americans," but recognized that there were systemic and enduring issues that affected specific Americans who needed her help — help she had plans to give.

Unfortunately, that is not the end to this year that we got.

A lot of people are going to try to tell you how to feel today now that Donald Trump has beaten out Hillary Clinton for the presidency, but that's only because they don't know how to feel themselves. The truth is, on this day, you get to feel however you want. You get to cry. You get to post angry tweets. You get to stare catatonically out the window when you're supposed to be working, and you get to panic in those quiet moments you are left alone and realize holy crap, holy crap, this is actually happening. Your emotions are valid, and nobody can dictate them for you.

There is no timeline for when you should be done feeling what you are feeling right now. But when you are ready — be it tomorrow, or next week, or next year — take that sadness, that anger, that panic. Channel it. And fight back.

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If you want to duck your head down and stay out of the fray for the next four years, when we have Donald Trump in control of the White House and a Republican majority in the House and the Senate, ask yourself this: How will this affect me? What will it mean, if Donald Trump sets out to do all that he promised in his campaign, and it actually happens?

If you can't think of a way, you are lucky. Too many Americans — minorities, immigrants, the LGBT community, among many others — are not.

There's an extremely high chance that if you are reading this, you are one of those such Americans who will now likely be at risk throughout the next four years. I am sorry that this nation has failed you. The only way it could fail you even further is if the "safe" Americans didn't do every damn thing they possibly could to undo it.

To those of you who are thinking of leaving the country, first and foremost, I understand the urge. But if you can stick this out, then please, please do. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: your best chance at making Donald Trump's goals for this presidency as unsuccessful as possible is to stay right where you are. Your best chance at protecting the rights Americans have fought so long and hard for is to be here to push back when they are threatened. If enough of us leave, there will not be anyone to stop him.

"But I'm just one person," you might be thinking right now. That's true. And although it seems in the aftermath of this like your voice and your vote do not matter, the truth is, they matter now more than ever. And there is so much you can do in the next four years to protect your fellow Americans.

Right now you may be afraid, angry, devastated, stunned, and furious. But the one thing you are not and never will be is helpless.

You can get involved with NARAL Pro-Choice America. You can fight against racism with Showing Up For Racial Justice, and help end police violence with Campaign Zero. You can educate yourself about Islam to support Muslims and speak out against Islamophobia. You can read about all the times Trump called Latinos "rapists" and "killers" to make sure the nation does not forget, after it slid under the radar of this election. You can check GLAAD for how to continue to advocate for marriage equality. You can donate to RAINN and Planned Parenthood, or visit their sites for volunteering opportunities. You can educate yourself on fighting climate change, both in your own life and the political sphere. If you're a woman, you can ask for a raise. If you're a man, you can tell your female coworkers how much you're making. You can speak up when you see injustice — in the real world, on social media, in passing comments at family reunions.

Most importantly — and after an election like this, with such poor Millennial turnout, I cannot stress this enough — you can vote.

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If you want to scream and denounce people for electing a racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic man with no political experience into the most powerful position in the free world — well, I do too. But we have only four years with him, and we have our whole lives to spend with the people who voted for him. We won't be able to make every single one of those people understand the importance of protecting the very rights they just helped vote against, but we can try. We can lead by example. We can continue to publicly, determinedly advocate for positive change, and protect the rights this country has already fought so hard to win, and hope that the rest of the world takes note.

Right now you may be afraid, angry, devastated, stunned, and furious. But the one thing you are not and never will be is helpless.

"This is painful and it will be for a long time," said Hillary Clinton at the beginning her concession speech on Nov. 9. But toward the end, she said what needs to be our personal mantra going forward: "This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

So take your time, America. Feel your feelings for as long as they demand to be felt, because those feelings are your greatest strength. That fear you feel right now is the same fear that America was founded on — the same fear that motivated us to make change hundreds of years ago, and create a nation based on the fundamentals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We weren't so great at it then, and until today, we were doing better — but we are nowhere near done yet. Nothing proves that quite like this election. There are a long four years ahead of us, and there is so much work to be done.