There is a lot about me that could make you think that I’d support Donald Trump if I were an American citizen. I am white, I am in a heterosexual relationship, I am a Christian, and I live in a province that is infamous for its support of the PCs (which is the watered-down, Canadian equivalent of the Republicans for those of you who don’t know). And there was a time that I could have been.
In my teens, I was convinced that women’s rights were a waste of time. I mean, I’d love to stay home and have no responsibilities. And what’s the point of voting if I was just going to vote the same as my husband. I parroted these opinions, thinking that it’s what would make me desirable. After all, I didn’t want to be one of those feminists. I believed that abortion was wrong, that women who got pregnant had to “deal with the consequences,” that homosexuality was a sin, that homeless people were lazy, that other religions were misguided at best, that immigration was something that big cities had to deal with.
I am not proud of it.
I would have been a prime Trump supporter years ago. I would have gobbled up the rhetoric because it aligned with my world view. I would have turned my nose at Hillary because she should know her place. Maybe I would have dubbed Bernie Sanders the antichrist because of his popularity.
But last Tuesday while the votes were being tallied, I was taking a bath and I looked up at the ceiling and said, “Dear Lord, please don’t let Trump win this. I have never been more afraid of anyone in my life. I don’t even live in the same country and I am afraid. I can’t imagine what all of those people he’s scornfully mocked are feeling right now. Please, God, if I’ve ever asked for anything, let this be where you work a miracle.”
Then I looked at the count. Florida was being tallied and already it wasn’t looking good. When I went to bed, sleep didn’t come easily.
My children woke me up early in the morning. I could hear Monkey whining to come out of his room, but I stayed in bed for a moment. A heavy weight of fear pinned me to my sheets, only releasing me enough to let my reach for my phone. Then I saw the news. Trump had won.
I’m dreaming, I thought and I tried to turn over and go back to sleep, but Monkey was awake and this was real.
On September 11, 2001, I was in my dad’s Intrepid on my way to the second week of seventh grade. I remember Dad was unusually silent. He’s not talkative at the best of times, but this was different. We were listening to the radio, not the usual Michael Bublé CD, and I remember hearing that some building had been hit by a plane. I didn’t understand what it meant.
When I was dropped off at school, things seemed normal until my first class when our principal came over the intercom to explain that something awful had happened and we were going to have a moment of silence. That moment in silence marked where the world changed for me. My education was suddenly peppered with discussions about terrorism, war, and the Middle East. My limited understanding about what was going on led me to fear.
We were at war because somewhere, a group of people hated us. I didn’t understand why. Perhaps it’s because my pre-teen brain wasn’t ready to comprehend the complexity of international affairs. Probably it’s because people didn’t think we could understand it and only presented a watered-down version that didn’t provide any answers at all. Maybe the people educating us didn’t have all the answers themselves. I don’t think anyone was prepared for what the future had in store for us.
Everyone knows where they were the day the towers fell, when they heard the news. That was a Tuesday that changed the world. I can’t help but think that last Tuesday was the same.
I could have been a Trump supporter years ago. But why am I not?
My confidence in my beliefs was slowly chipped away as I got older. Things happened at church, where I’d picked up most of my beliefs. Things that my heart told me were wrong, but my brain told me were the results of my beliefs. I tried to reconcile them quietly, trying to make them fit into the boxes that I’d created long ago. When they didn’t fit, I stuffed them in the back of my mind. Under the staircase where they wouldn’t be a bother. I tried to forget.
Then in the fall of 2007, I was raped.
Things changed for me that year. I refused to deal with the experience and looked to my beliefs to understand what had happened. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have been drinking. I should have stayed with my friend. I shouldn’t have been flirting. I shouldn’t have accepted a drink I didn’t pour myself. I shouldn’t have even been there in the first place. My fault.
So I packed the experience up. Another box placed under the stairs where the others were festering. I’d learned a lesson, hadn’t I? I’d done something wrong and now I was the soiled woman that all the purity books talked about. What is it that I’d heard? Oh yes, no one wants a piece of gum that’s already been chewed. No man wants a wife who isn’t a virgin.
I let my life go to shit then. I’d diminished my quality as a wife. I was already chewed up and spit out. There was nothing to safeguard anymore. So I partied. I drank. I smoked some marijuana. I let myself be all the things that I was warned to stay away from as a little girl. It didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t matter anymore. The whole thing sunk me deeper and deeper into a depression that I couldn’t escape.
I met Brian in the midst of that depression. He chose me, even then. He stood by me for each panic attack, each irrational outburst, each threat of suicide. Until one day I begged him not to go out with his friends. In the darkness of that October night, I remember him standing silhouetted in the bedroom doorway.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he said. “I can’t keep wondering what I’ll be coming home to. You need to deal with this.” Then he left.
I wrote letters to each of my family members that night and tucked them under my mattress before downing a bottle of pills.
I knew I’d wake up the next morning because we didn’t have anything that strong in our house. What did surprise me though, was that I was glad to wake up. The late autumn sun snuck its fingers through my basement window pane, illuminating the mostly empty room. Brian had come home. He was sleeping soundly next to me. For that, I was grateful.
His words from the night before still stung, but I realize now that I did need to hear them. I swore he wouldn’t see the pain I felt like needles under my skin. I made a decision to fake it. I clutched my feelings of inadequacy, of worthlessness, firmly to my chest, but my face would be smiles and small talk.
People tell you to fake it til you make it. For me, it ended up working. Had my feelings been connected to a neurotransmitter imbalance, I know this would not have been a solution. My self-loathing was a practiced one, one that I’d spent years preparing the ground for. Rape was the seed and my subsequent actions were the water. I shouldn’t have been surprised at what grew.
The crappy thing about that self-loathing is that once it’s planted, you spend your whole life plucking its weeds. Sometimes it convinces you that what you feel is real, that anything awful that comes your way is directly related to how truly, deeply, perfectly wretched you are. Other times, you look it square in the face and tell it to get behind you. If you’re not careful, though, the weeds can grow where you least expect them.
The birth of Monkey, and the horrible hormonal swings afterwards, caused a bout of postpartum depression. I failed the exam they give you at the doctor’s office and was scheduled for weekly visits to a therapist. Experiences, beliefs, fears, and my overwhelmingly low self esteem poured out in each hour-long session.
Yes, I could have been a Trump supporter. That was when I knew only a handful of people of colour in my community. That was when many of my LGBT friends weren’t out. That was when I thought that if I followed my restrictive, narrow-minded rules, I wouldn’t get hurt. That was when I thought that if others got hurt, it was because they didn’t follow those same rules. That was when I prioritized financial success over loving people.
Since then, I have learned a lot. I spent time with people who didn’t look like me who were kind and loving and smart and nothing like what the newspapers told me they’d be like. Friends of mine came out as LGBT and I realized that nothing had changed. They were the same people I cared about and that maybe what I’d been taught about them wasn’t true. I had children of my own and realize exactly how insanely hard it is to be a parent. I learned to respect single parents because I can’t imagine doing it on my own, especially when the world looks at them like they’ve done something wrong. I learned about rape culture, the patriarchy, and privilege and how those things directly contributed to what I experienced. I have a great appreciation for the women that fight for equality and strive to be a voice for equality myself.
I am not a Trump supporter. And I don’t think that every Trump supporter has the same world view that I had years and years ago and maybe they don’t have the same views as Trump’s most avid campaigners, but I do think that Trump supporters have declared with their votes that those views are okay. They have said, “It is okay that Trump gropes women without consent. It’s okay that he makes fun of disabled people. It’s okay that he is an alleged child rapist. It’s okay that he is part of a lawsuit about illegal business practices. It’s okay that he hasn’t paid taxes in years. It’s okay that he wants to mark Muslims and deport millions.” And this is what breaks my heart and makes me afraid.
I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Is everything going to normalize after a couple of months once people get used to the idea that Trump is going to be president? Are things going to escalate? What is it going to mean for my home province, where Trump’s rhetoric has effectively taken hold?
I am desperately hoping that people have voted for Trump out of misinformed fear. I don’t like to think that people are as racist as it seems, but each new report of hate crimes gripping the US is telling me otherwise. I’m convinced that many of those people would change their minds if they spent some time around the people that Trump has so viciously espoused his hate towards. It’s easy to hate people you haven’t met. It’s easy to fear things you don’t understand.
I am having trouble myself not fearing Trump supporters because I sure as hell do not understand. I don’t understand how Hillary Clinton was the greater of two evils. In fact, I don’t see how she was evil to begin with. I don’t understand how fellow Christians, who believe that our Christ was a person of colour with no wealth and who spent his time with criminals preaching love and kindness, decided that hate should prevail. I don’t understand and I am afraid. Afraid for the rape victims who never speak up because even their president has been accused of rape. Afraid for the people of colour who are attacked because even their president doesn’t value their lives. Afraid for the Muslims who have already had to shoulder the burden of 9/11 even though they had nothing to do with it. Afraid for the LGBT community because they are being condemned and killed over love. Afraid for women (yes, even the white women who especially let the rest of America down) because one by one, our rights are eroding away.
I won’t let this fear turn to hate. But I also won’t let this fear leave me cowering. That is why I had to write this and why I had to share a story that I am not comfortable sharing. I stand with victims of assault. I stand with Muslims, and people of colour, and LGBT folks, and women. I stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and the Truth & Reconciliation program. You are not alone. I love you, I believe you are worthy, and I hope that in the end, love will prevail.
Comments have been disabled for this post at least for now. To be honest, I am really afraid of the reactions people will have to this post. I ask that if you comment on social media or here (once comments are allowed), that you be gentle no matter what side you’re on. While it’s okay to have differing opinions, I will not allow hate, name-calling, or bigotry, all of which get to be defined by me when it’s on my pages. Thanks for understanding.