Why I Don't Feel Safe In Trump's America

by Lindsay Merbaum

On Election Night night, I sat on my girlfriend's couch in my royal blue "I'm With Her" blouse and watched, stunned, as the country handed the presidency to Donald Trump. "He's going to win, he's going to win," I murmured to myself over and over. I'm not sure if I was trying to accept this as a reality, or repeating the words like an incantation, a jinx, one that would produce the opposite effect.

Later, after we could no longer hope for a Clinton recovery and we'd turned off the TV, my girlfriend and I held each other and cried. This election was not just a defeat, but a sign of how much hatred exists in America. Each red state on the map hurt to look at. Each one felt like an assault on people of color, queer people, on women of all stripes. "I knew they hated us," I told my girlfriend, "but not this much."

The morning after, a white male colleague told me he was trying to lose himself in his work and put the election out of his mind. "I can't do that," I told him, "because I am worried about losing my rights."

"You feel personally affected by this election?" he asked me. I thought about how a man accused of sexually assaulting women will soon be living in the White House. I thought about a friend's comment that morning, that this election feels like a hate crime. I replied to my colleague, simply, "Yes." I did not say, "Yes, because I am a woman, a Jew, and queer" because I didn't think I should have to defend or explain why this election matters to me, personally. The fact that it causes me pain and fear seemed so obvious. How could it not affect me? It affects us all.

Around the same time, another friend of mine was being harassed by a man in a Trump hat on her way to work in downtown San Francisco. A teacher friend meanwhile consoled her young students, who were terrified their parents would be deported.

What I feel right now is grief — that mixture of disbelief, anger, and longing associated with a loss — but not just because "my candidate" lost, as if this were an ordinary case of two competent candidates battling it out, offering up different viewpoints and strategy via civil discourse, with the public ultimately opting for one over the other.

I don't feel safe. When I watch support for a bigot spread across our country like wildfire, turning the map red, I am touched by that hate. I am afraid as a woman, as a Jew, as a queer person. As a human being.

The talking heads on Election Night made me want to scream and throw something at the TV, what with their infuriating commentary about the message Trump's supporters have sent with their votes this time around, as if that message were a rational one containing specific demands, as if this were all business-as-usual and we hadn't just elected Hatred over Reason after a campaign full of violence. As if racism and misogyny are attitudes that should be treated seriously, with reverence. Taking seriously viewpoints motivated by hatred normalizes this vitriol and creates a distance between Trump's actions and our daily lives.

It's a fallacy to pretend that deporting members of our communities or making sweeping changes to our healthcare policy is not a personal issue. I cannot think of anything more personal than the government taking control of our bodies, moving us across borders like chess pieces, examining the contents of our uteruses. But the truth is, I am afraid not just for my neighbors, but for myself. When Trump lambasts the media and Jewish reporters receive anti-Semitic threats, I don't feel safe. When Trump says women who have abortions should be punished, I don't feel safe. When I watch support for a bigot spread across our country like wildfire, turning the map red, I am touched by that hate. I am afraid as a woman, as a Jew, as a queer person. As a human being.

The protest vote, the anger-driven vote, the "f*ck you" vote were designed to shake things up. OK, mission accomplished. Many of us are shaken. So now what? Our only recourse is to join together and fight for equality, progress, and hope. In other words, to do our best to honor President Obama's legacy by pushing to enact the progress Clinton promised us.

On Election Night, I half-jokingly proposed a plan on Facebook to start a "pussy militia." By morning, I'd received so many responses from friends and acquaintances that I'd realized I was onto something and began thinking about what all these motivated women could accomplish. Meanwhile, I got the idea from a friend to make a donation to Planned Parenthood in honor of Hillary Clinton.

Our nation has gone low. Very, very low. In response, we again have to go high — fear and all.