I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight. I stole those words from Margaret Cho, but I think she would be OK with that in this case.
A bizarre set of circumstances – partly to do with taking advantage of Obamacare which made the procedure completely free – led me to having corrective sinus surgery on Election Day. I was disappointed to cancel my election night plans, celebrating with close friends as our first female president was elected to office. But I was able to take both my children to the polls that morning in handmade Hillary shirts and waited in a record-long line to allow my 3-year-old daughter to push the button for the first female president.
Surgery happened and I woke up in a daze just as the results began to come in. I phased in and out of consciousness all night long, becoming increasingly panicked as I checked my phone and saw messages from concerned friends asking me to reassure them. Some people look to me for answers. I know how to get a leaking faucet repaired quickly. I know how to get your parking permit renewed. I know where to find the best price on organic carrots. But I don’t know how to fix what is happening. What is happening?
I wake again to check my phone around 3:30 a.m. Trump has been declared the victor. I can’t breathe – literally and figuratively. I look in the mirror and my face is completely contorted. I know this is not a normal surgical reaction – something has gone wrong. I’m living in Trump’s America and with a face like this I’d be rated a zero. I take klonopin and vicodin and try to knock myself out. Everything is wrong. I must be having a nightmare.
I make an emergency appointment with the doctor the next day and my Uber driver tells me he was unable to cast his vote because his name was omitted from his usual polling place. The doctor looks at me and says, “Wow, never seen anything like this before!” and proceeds to rip sutures out of my septum with no anesthesia. I am screaming and crying and I don’t know what planet I’m on. My nose begins to look normal again. But outside it’s raining and bleak and there are swastikas on the windows and utility boxes.
This is reality. I look around and everything is bleak. I can’t answer emails or phone calls or texts. I don’t just see eight years of progress unraveling; I see hundreds of years unraveling.
The Paris Climate Agreement, the Clean Energy Act, the Keystone Pipeline, fracking regulations, the ENTIRE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY GUTTED. A president who thinks climate change is a hoax appointing a climate denier to eliminate the EPA. Deregulating the f%^&ing FDA to poison our food. KFC being advocated as the meal of choice. Rollbacks on all manufacturing regulations. A Vice President and an entire cabinet who wants to overturn Roe V Wade and ban gay marriage. A GOP House and Senate. Losing the healthcare that afforded me that surgery and kept my Sepsis bills from being over $100,000.
I am curled in a ball. I scrawl hasty and ill-advised posts of despair all over social media. I can’t help you anymore. I can’t save you anymore. I’m sorry. There’s no point.
I allow myself 36 hours to wallow in abject pity. But the messages and texts of support get me out of bed on Thursday. There are people who need me more than I need them. I want to love and comfort the world. I write “I love you” to everyone I can. I listen to the music that moves me. I hear a track from my 13-year-old self – a cover of World Party’s “Is It Like Today?” recorded in my bedroom in 1993. (World Party basically wrote the soundtrack for this whole election.)
I remember that I am still me. My children are still everything. My friends are still amazing and they are suffering right along with me.
A likeminded family member with whom I have a tumultuous personal history reaches out and we cry. I love you.
My brother becomes more outspokenly and passionately liberal than I’ve ever seen him. I love you.
My kids’ LGBT teachers are being comforted by the hugs of children. I love you.
My gay and lesbian friends are terrified about what this means for families’ legal status. I love you.
My disabled gay friend living openly with AIDS worrying about losing his HIV medication. I love you.
My Trump-voting friend tells me he drove three Clinton voters to the polls. I love you.
Everyone is buying up IUDs because we are afraid we will lose free birth control. I will protect you.
Muslim women take off their hijabs. I will shield you.
Some asshat acquaintance posts that she refused to vote but people are beautiful. I delete you.
My father who refused to vote. You get a pass. I love you. And every penny you give me will go to democratic causes.
I’m invited to dozens of Facebook groups, rallies, protests, meetings, even candlelit vigils for people to get together and mourn. If I were fully recovered from this surgery, I would be there. But hold a seat for me – I will be there soon.
This work is more important than ever. I will stay. I will fight. We may have lost this battle, but love will always win the war.
Here are a few things I read and watched that have helped in my healing:
So what am I going to do next? Well, first I’m going to take a shower. Then I am going to answer all my work and personal emails. I’m going to move forward with my work both professionally and personally. I’m going to spend time with my children and their awesome friends. I’m going to spend time with my own friends. And I am looking into the process of running for committee person in my Philadelphia ward.
Love will always trump hate. It just will. Tell someone you love them. Be kind to strangers. Pay for someone’s coffee. Stand up for people’s rights. Clean up graffiti. Don’t take shit from anybody. Stay and fight with me.