What I Wish I Had Said

November 12, 2016

What I Wish I Had Said / Unbrave Girl

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might have noticed that things have been pretty quiet on here as of late.

There are many reasons for that.

There are the usual reasons: work, daily life, binge-watching all the episodes of Good Girls Revolt because OMIGOD SO GOOD.

And then there’s, well, the big fat volcano of bile and horribleness that was the recent United States’ election. As I watched the debates and other news coverage and read all the Internets (including the comments even though I knew that clicking on “see all comments” would make me want to bang my head against a very hard table, repeatedly, forever), I found myself at a loss for words.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I had words. Lots of words. But most of these words consisted of four letters. Most of these words were in ALL CAPS. Most of these words were angry and hurt and punctuated by excessive exclamation points — lined up like little baseball bats at the end of each of my sentences.

But I want to keep things light and fun on this blog! I want you to laugh! I want you to like me! I want my blog to be the one little space on the Internet that is not full of comments that make you want to punch yourself in the face, repeatedly, forever.

So I kept silent.

Not just here, but also on my personal Facebook page and in my face-to-face interactions with people.

I didn’t post any links to any articles or videos that expressed my views — views I knew were not shared by many of my family and friends.When family and friends posted things I found offensive or knew were untrue, I didn’t confront them — I just quietly unfollowed or unfriended them.

It was for the best I figured.

It wasn’t worth getting into petty political arguments with family and friends.

It wasn’t worth making anyone uncomfortable.

Besides, what effect would I have anyway? There was nothing they could do or say to sway my opinion. Likewise, I figured, there was nothing I could do or say to sway their opinion. Why waste my energy when I’m already terribly busy with other stuff, like work and daily life and ALL THE EPISODES OF GOOD GIRL REVOLT BECAUSE OMIGOD SO GOOD.

When I went home at the beginning of October for a friend’s wedding, I was worried that the topic of the election would come up. My parents are very much Republican, and I am very much not. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) if they were voting for Trump. But I knew my mom especially is not a Clinton-fan. I also know my mom especially is not the type to keep quiet about these things. The last time I had gone home was before the Democratic primary. I asked my mom to pass me the butter, and she responded with, “You’re not voting for THAT WOMAN, are you?” and I was like, “But I just wanted the butter.”

When neither of them said anything in October (other than a muttered utterance or two about Hillary being a liar when a Clinton ad had the audacity to pop up on the television), I was relieved. I figured I’d just dodged a big Donald-Trump-shaped bullet.

On the morning of the election, I woke up ridiculously early, dressed up in the only pantsuit I own, went to the polls, ready to vote for the first female President of the United States. I stood in a line that went out the door of the polling place in my racially diverse, inner-city neighborhood. I listened to my neighbors arrange a baby-sitting schedule to help our other neighbors who are parents to get out and vote. I watched two women in pantsuits hug each other and whisper how excited they were about this election. My heart swelled with pride for my country and my city. For the first time in months, I didn’t feel depressed and anxious and angry.

I was already mentally writing my next blog post. The blog post wouldn’t be about who I voted for or why. It wouldn’t even mention pantsuits. Maybe instead I’d talk about cookies and cats and unicorns and Good Girls Revolt BECAUSE OMIGOD SO GOOD. 

And, then that night as I watched the election results roll in, I realized how wrong I had been wrong.

Yes, of course, I had been wrong about who would win the election. Really, REALLY wrong.

But the biggest thing I was wrong about had nothing at all to do with who was about to become president. Or who was not about to become president.

It had to do with me.

I was wrong about keeping quiet.

I was wrong to think that just because my words might not affect change that they don’t have any value.

I was wrong to deny my own voice when so many people don’t even have the privilege of a voice.

There are many things I wish I would have said. But, for the most part, I wish I would have said this:

Dear Trump-supporting family and friends,

I love you. I respect your opinion. I value our relationship. 

I know you don’t want to get in a petty political argument with me. I know you want me to shrug and say it’s “just politics” — that we should just “agree to disagree.” Trust me, I want that, too. There is nothing I would rather do than avoid this really uncomfortable conversation we’re about to have.

But I can’t avoid it because, here’s the thing, it’s not “just politics” for me and many people I know.

It’s not “just politics” for my Muslim student who raised his hand the day after the election and asked me in class why it’s okay in America for white people to say they hate Muslims.

It’s not “just politics” for the minority students on the campus where I teach who have had racial slurs yelled out of car windows at them.

It’s not “just politics” for my recently married neighbors, who are worried that their marriage will soon no longer be legal.

It’s not “just politics” for me and many women like me who have been sexually harassed and physically intimidated by men.

I know you have your reasons for supporting the candidate you supported. I know none of those reasons are because you are anti-Muslim or racist or homophobic or sexist. But, here is the thing, the candidate you support is all of those things.

And, I know, as I’ve been told many times this week, that the President only has “so much power.” That he probably won’t be able to pass all the laws and follow through with all the policies he talked about on the campaign trail. That all that stuff was just “campaign talk” anyway.

But the one power the President does have is to set an example. 

And, frankly, the example he’s setting terrifies me. 

It terrifies my international students and the many other minority students on my campus. It terrifies my neighbors and my many other LGBTQ friends. It terrifies the one in five women who have been sexually assaulted in this country and the countless other women who have been harassed. 

I know you would probably rather “agree to disagree” as we have done for years.

But how about instead of that, let’s agree to talk? Let’s agree to listen. Let’s agree to get really, really, REALLY uncomfortable — like gritting-our-teeth-all-the-way-through-Christmas-dinner uncomfortable.

Let’s agree that what we’re talking about is not petty. Let’s agree that it’s not just politics. Let’s agree that it’s not about you or me — that it’s about our country and our people and our humanity.

I know we won’t agree on many things, but let’s agree on that.

47

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On November 12, 2016 at 4:34 pm JessieV said:

    This. Yes. Thank you.

  2. On November 12, 2016 at 5:03 pm Jennifer @ Solo Travel Girl said:

    Well said and I’ve drafted a similar post I think many of us women have the same feelings of “I should’ve spoken up but didn’t want to upset anyone.”

    Thanks for writing and sharing this.

  3. On November 12, 2016 at 5:07 pm AndiYo said:

    I may not live in the U.S. but I do live in the “splash zone”, so when this Shamu-sized hate slaps the water, we get some on us up here as well.

    So, the way you have expressed so thoughtfully what many are struggling to express about the way Trump ran his campaign and opened the floodgates to hate and intolerance, all I have to say is:

    This. SO this.

    Thanks, Sally.

  4. On November 12, 2016 at 5:10 pm Colleen said:

    So powerful! You inspire me!!! Thanks for speaking up!!!

  5. On November 12, 2016 at 7:13 pm Debby Sullivan said:

    Well said, Sally.

  6. On November 12, 2016 at 7:47 pm Lia said:

    Im with you. All the way from Downunder Melbourne. You’re right, it’s not “just” politics. It stuffs up people’s lives, just look at Syria and all the other war torn poverty stricken places on this planet. All politics.

  7. On November 12, 2016 at 7:54 pm Dyanne Foskey said:

    Thanks, Sally. Beautifully said, as always.

  8. On November 12, 2016 at 8:08 pm LindaB said:

    Well written, Thank you. So glad you are back. I was getting worried about accidents, diseases etc.
    LindaB recently posted..The Blue Lady Must Live in the Red Land

  9. On November 12, 2016 at 8:26 pm Maureen said:

    We’re with you.
    Maureen and Larry

  10. On November 12, 2016 at 9:43 pm Brenda said:

    Bravo! Well said and echoing my thoughts and the thoughts of many others as well! Please tell me that you are a member of pantsuit nation and pantsuit Nation Michigan on Facebook!? If you are not, you certainly should be. Amazing groups!

  11. On November 12, 2016 at 10:10 pm Rebecca said:

    I think a lot of us identify with this, but I couldn’t have said it that well, even now.

    However, I saw someone make the point on Twitter that those of us who are not quite as vulnerable have to make sure not to stay silent when we see others being mistreated. Hopefully, we wouldn’t have, anyway. But there will be more of abuse, there is already more of it, and we have to be ready.

    As women, of course, we may sometimes need the help of others. But there is a hierarchy even to that. I’m white, and older. So the chances of having to deal with sexual or racial harassment are much less for me. But I hope that the white couples who are having trouble explaining to their kids exactly how this happened, will also remember to make a point of explaining that some of their classmates may need help.

    The election results were physically sickening to bear. But the brutality that has followed this week has been heartbreaking.

    • On November 16, 2016 at 9:40 pm Sally said:

      Agreed. It’s been so hard to see all the reports of increased violences — especially in schools and on campuses. I’m trying to be more vigilant and attentive with my students, but it really scares me that someone might try to do something harmful to them.

  12. On November 12, 2016 at 11:34 pm Heather Shirai said:

    Hear! Hear!

  13. On November 13, 2016 at 3:24 am Priya said:

    Well said, Sally. This election took us all by surprise.
    Priya recently posted..I Am Not My Hair

  14. On November 13, 2016 at 10:20 am marteena said:

    We all need to realize that when it’s not “just politics” for any minority group, that is precisely when the majority group needs to agree to join in and say is not “just politics” too.
    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” MLK

    • On November 16, 2016 at 9:38 pm Sally said:

      Agreed, Marteena. I had a friend get mad at me on Facebook for all my posts after the election and tell me that it was “just an election” and that if we don’t like it we can just change it in 4 years. I couldn’t help thinking that for many people in this country those four years are going to feel like a torturous eternity.

  15. On November 13, 2016 at 1:35 pm kathi g said:

    Beautiful and well done! xoxo

  16. On November 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm Rick Steadman said:

    Well said.

  17. On November 13, 2016 at 5:50 pm Reg said:

    Amen.100% agree.

  18. On November 13, 2016 at 6:08 pm Aurora said:

    I feel a particular sense of shock and shame when I read that white people, and definitely white women helped put Trump into office. As a white woman myself, I failed. I didn’t do my work and stayed in my little bubble. I know, how, that I must do better. I must stay vigilant and speak up.

    So, I’m with you.
    Thanks.

    • On November 16, 2016 at 9:35 pm Sally said:

      I totally agree. I’ve been thinking a lot about this this past week. I come from a very privileged position as a straight, white, educated woman. I could have used that privilege to speak up for a lot of people who are a lot more vulnerable than me. And, while the people I talked to may have never come to agree with me, at least, they would have listened because of the amount of privilege that I have. Instead I just walked away and ranted to friends and family members who share the same opinions as me. In many ways, I feel like I was just as complacent as the many Trump voters who claim they voted for Trump because of his promise for jobs even though they didn’t agree with his stance on race and immigrants.

  19. On November 13, 2016 at 7:49 pm Leslie in Oregon said:

    Thank you for this post, Sally. Unfortunately, this President will have almost-unprecedented power, since both chambers of Congress will have Republican majorities, and the new, tie-breaking justice on the Supreme Court will be a Trump appointee. Our collective voice and action will be the only check and balance on the new President and his minions. That means that you will have ample opportunity, should you choose, to do whatever advocacy work you regret not having done during the election. (What I regret is that for all the election work I did do, it did not occur to me to write you in Michigan and urge you to make your voice heard. It could have really made a difference there.)

    • On November 16, 2016 at 9:25 pm Sally said:

      Leslie,
      Yes, it’s all very terrifying. I’ve already started working on taking action — including joining a protest and attending a number of activist events and volunteering to teach refugees at the Islamic center in town. I know it’s not much, but, hopefully, I’ll be able to help in some way.

      • On November 17, 2016 at 3:11 am Leslie in Oregon said:

        Well done, Sally! What you do is worth a great deal. I’m going to shed my sad sack and follow your lead! Appreciatively, Leslie

  20. On November 14, 2016 at 12:10 pm Samantha said:

    Thank you! This was beautifully written. As much as it made me cry, it also brought me peace. I too have regrets for not speaking up, but it made me learn to speak up for what I have to say.

    • On November 16, 2016 at 9:24 pm Sally said:

      Samantha,
      Glad you appreciated it. I have definitely been doing a lot more speaking up this week — including participating in my first protest. So I guess that’s a good outcome of this whole thing… but, too bad, I had to wait for the country to be in jeopardy to do so. 🙁

  21. On November 16, 2016 at 3:33 pm Jessica said:

    Bravo!

  22. On November 17, 2016 at 6:07 pm Zandria said:

    Very well said, Sally. I know what you mean. I’m a non-confrontational person, so I didn’t have many political conversations pre-election either. I probably could have done more. We all SHOULD have done more.

    • On December 11, 2016 at 1:45 pm Sally said:

      Yes, agreed. I really regret not saying more, so now I am NOT holding back. Even though I know I’ve made a lot of friends and family members uncomfortable.

  23. On November 23, 2016 at 9:12 am Choi Kum Fook said:

    Hillary was over confident and by the wrong information of media,so at last she lost the election! Miss Sally, were you Hillary supporter?

    • On December 11, 2016 at 1:42 pm Sally said:

      Yes, she was over-confident, but I think almost everyone was over-confident. Many Americans, including the media, couldn’t imagine Trump ever winning the presidency after all the hateful, incorrect things he said on the election trail. Sadly, that is a reality we will have to imagine now… 🙁

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