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History in the Making

Last evening, I assured my daughter she was witnessing history. Roughly twelve hours later, I’m technically correct but last night did not proceed as forecasted. Early on, I took comfort that FiveThirtyEight predicted a Clinton win — the odds being north of 70% — settling into bed when the former Secretary of State was leading in electoral votes.

None of this softens the blow of waking up in Trump Land. Pundits and polls alike were both incorrect.

I’ve been told to relax and surrender everything to a spiritual being; I’m a former-fundamentalist christian turned agnostic atheist. I’ve been told to hold out hope; which I will, but the triteness is biting for a chronic illness patient. I know each of these generally well-intentioned narratives, and that’s exactly why I’m annoyed: the situation I woke up to is abnormal. A superpower nation doesn’t elect a demagogue every day.

Like many on the nightly news, I reveled in Trump’s early days; seizing every opportunity to make light of the year’s most blustery politician. However, as the primaries delivered victory upon victory to the possible Republican nominee, my concern began to grow. I’m unhappy to announce that my concerns were valid.

Over this campaign, Trump has not only forged a campaign of hate in his own right, but contributed to an atmosphere where bigotry, white supremacy, and violence are accepted. The soft-shoe apologists should step aside, because I’m genuinely afraid for every woman who can now be objectified, groped, or raped, while the assailant is celebrated. Immigrants, the talented individuals who make up our diverse country, are set to be screened, deported, or prevented from entering the United States at all. Like myself, if you suffer from a chronic illness, Trump aims to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the legislation that, I’m convinced, kept me alive.

This culture created by Trump has made it okay to tread over anyone who disagrees, especially where the “others” of society are concerned. Even among my friend circle, it’s common to complain about the rising cost of healthcare. The ACA, is, of course, to blame; but dare to mention how the ACA benefitted patients, and I become the target of attacks.

In at least one case, my “friend” don’t care enough to calm the onslaught of hate.

Yet, in this heavily contested election with so much on the line, many voters felt uncomfortable with the choices. I was one of them, casting my ballot for Sanders in the Democratic primary, because I thought he best represented my ideals. Even though chaos surrounded the Democratic National Convention, I realized that principals were more important than the messenger; a grown-up maxim that I wish we all aspired to. You see, I cast my ballot for Clinton, not because I expect her to lead a revolution, but to continue the incremental change that is so important to patients like me. Understandably, many voters chose to support Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party.

Whether Johnson was riding a wave of protest, we’ll never know. He cracked 3% nationally, which is significant for a third party, but still not enough to prove viable in the next election. Frankly, I was open to following Johnson, but I couldn’t. And if that argument sounds tired, consider that I’ve voted third party in a handful of elections. Most of the candidates would lose, but I had privilege to spare: taking the moral high ground was relatively inexpensive. This year is different: the Supreme Court has a pivotal vacancy, we’re standing at the most significant intersection in modern history for civil rights, minorities are oppressed (in public, as if that doesn’t turn your stomach), and patients like myself are staring down huge medical bills.

You, too, woke up in Trump Land, and we must all pay the price. Some, but especially the least of us, will pay most. If you voted for Trump, we are no longer acquaintances. If you’ve chose to live in the shadows this long, while silently undermining my most basic needs, I have no need for you. If you voted for Johnson, you must reckon with the mathematical possibility that your vote wasn’t in favor of a specific topic, but rather a note of apathy, hand delivered to each of us who will suffer from the fallout. I often endorse voting third party because, like Johnson, I wish for a viable third option. But assuming one can wrest power from a firmly ensconced two-party system overnight is a fool’s errand, and will not be accomplished without applying consistent pressure to existing government bodies; a basic technique the Libertarian party doesn’t seem to understand.

If a protest vote isn’t for or against a given topic, is it a protest at all? If the end result isn’t to eliminate war, famine, hatred, or sickness and instead contributes, even in the slightest, to the oppression of those most vulnerable — I ask: what are you protesting? Moral superiority must taste good.

I’m not so concerned with how your ballot was cast, you’re free to vote for any available candidate — but I cannot stand the self-righteous attitude trumpeted by so many acquaintances. Listen, if you exercised privilege at the ballot box, now it’s time to step up, be an adult, and advocate for those ignored by our new administration.

The fight for any polarizing issue — marriage equality, women’s suffrage, reliable healthcare — will not be easily won. Please recognize that we are in a crucial time, where individuals who aren’t the ideal, healthy citizens are being pushed to the fringes. If this scares you, stand up. This is not a time to debate hypotheticals: I need to know you’re with me.

Update, November 13, 2016:

I’ve thought long about what individuals like myself lost and who is to blame over these last few days. There is certainly blame with the horde of loud third party voters, but there’s also blame with those in our electorate who simply stayed home, disenchanted with the DNC or other political systems. So, they skipped voting for president. I didn’t address this crowd in my initial post because they were silent.

The race was tight, and voter turnout numbers now seemingly reflect a shared disgust. But from a harm-reductionist point of view, I cannot endorse Trump. The heinous, shameful acts carried out against immigrants and individuals across the LGBTQ+ spectrum over the last few days are evidence that his election (and the culture it has endorsed) is a real threat.

Whether your vote was for Trump, a third-party, or whether you abstained entirely, this is what we all must deal with. Make a donation to the ACLU or any other organization that will take up the cause of defending our freedom.

Published 9 Nov 2016