Issue 4: America is...

Hi Badass people!

When I first thought of this issue, I, like many others, thought it would be a different outcome. It seemed like we were on the road of progress and social change with Hillary Clinton and we would finally be able to have a female president. I remember watching Hillary Clinton accept the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention on TV with my mom and both of us crying as my mom said: “I hope we’ll finally have a woman president. We’ve waited a long time for this.” It seemed like there was only way the election could go and that was reinforced by the people I followed on Instagram, the videos I watched on Youtube, and the articles I read online and in newspapers like the LA Times, NY Times and more.

I started out as a Bernie Sanders supporter because I am more left and strongly believed in his message of advocating for making college tuition free and decreasing student loans, increasing the minimum wage to $15, combatting climate change and giving a platform to the voices of indigenous tribes and Black Lives Matter. I volunteered with Bernie Sanders’ campaign multiple times as well as called people for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This election felt different than others before because I was fully conscious of all that was happening and could have an active role in participating in and volunteering with political campaigns. The outcome hurt a lot not just because of the horrendous hate speech Donald Trump spewed against so many groups of people, but because no matter how much work and time people devoted to campaigning for equality and justice, the result didn’t go in our favor.

The night of the election seemed like a dream turned nightmare where the impossible became possible. It seemed to go on forever with no end in sight. I tried staying up as late as I could, and even at 11:30 at night I thought Hillary Clinton could win as long as she won every swing state (which is nearly impossible). It didn’t seem fathomable for the outcome to go in Donald Trump’s favor, yet it did. The next president is a racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, xenophobic reality TV star who bragged about “grabbing women by the pussy” and not paying his taxes because that’s “smart”.

I still cannot say Donald Trump is our president because to me that evokes a sense of community and unity that I don not feel with many of my fellow Americans. It’s hard to wake up in a country that feels foreign to you in ways it never has before. It’s hard to see someone wear a Make America Great Again hat, as I did on November 9th. I couldn’t look that man in the eye and as he crossed the street, I felt betrayed by someone I didn’t even know. It’s hard to think about the man who will be the next president and how little respect and value he places on the lives of people I call my closest friends.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what America is and how I would define the place we’re in right now. With Donald Trump as the next president and all that he stands for, I believe we have a Crisis of Ego. The ego tells us that we are above someone else, that our life or morals are more valuable. The ego hides behind the “I” and “me” when one says, “I don’t like (insert religion/race/sexual orientation here) rather than “I come from a different background than (insert religion/race/sexual orientation here). I’m here to understand what their experience is”. In an episode of the Messy Truth, Van Jones interviewed a Trump supporter and tried to find common ground with him. After the man started sharing various talking points directly from Donald Trump’s platform such as Hillary Clinton’s emails and the problems with Obamacare, Jones tells him he wants to see if there’s someone to talk to who’s “not just this rapid-fire machine gun of angry antipathy” towards someone he’s never met. Jones continues by asking the man what he’s concerned about and what his fear is to which the man responds, “the lies”. Jones was willing to peel back the layers to see what a person from the opposite party believed without responding with anger, but understanding. He was willing to listen to someone and truly ask them what issues they believe in, even when they support someone else, and prompt them with questions to go below the surface and find similarities. I think one of the best ways that we can get through these next 4 years is having conversations with people who might not believe the same things we do, but being open and willing to hear what they have to say.

A large part of American culture is attached to the the word “we”, as it begins the Constitution’s preamble. “We” means inclusion, unity, community but has not historically lived up to that. In an article in the NY Times Magazine, the author states: “For ages, “we” wasn’t more than one gender or race or sexual orientation. “We” was white, straight and male.” Ta Nehisi Coates remarks on this as well in Between the World and Me: “The question is not whether Lincoln truly meant “government of the people” but what our country has, throughout its history, taken the political term “people” to actually mean”. America’s history is full of prejudice and discrimination, of pain and anger that every group who wasn’t a part of the historical “we” has faced and dealt with. Our “we” of supposed inclusion created the “other” and today, the people who were known as the “we” feel their whiteness threatened by those who are different, those who are the “other”.

It still seems incomprehensible that 53% of white women voted for Trump, that they were able to look past his racism and sexism and his complete disregard for the lives and rights of minorities and the bodies of women. However, the results of the election did not discourage me or other young activists. It fired us up with a can-do spirit that has brought artists, writers, and people with voices to be heard closer together. With the Million Women March happening in Washington D.C. and here in Los Angeles, the BADASS team will be on the front lines making our voices heard. Millennials already outnumber Baby Boomers and have more power in the electorate than they do, so watch out for the next presidential election cycle because we’ll be there, loud and proud.

Forward, forward, forward

Isabel Kuh