Just like any Friday, I woke up, forgot to eat breakfast, and nearly sprinted out the door to get to work. I got to work, found parking, and walked through the community college campus that I work at, found my preferred seat at the front desk that where I specifically work, and got myself situated. The campus last morning was particularly empty, as barely any students passed my desk for the first few hours. I was out by myself at the desk, and it felt drastically lonelier than most days. There weren’t the random bursts of laughter from the students downstairs. Most of the staff members had tired, reluctant energies as they passed by my desk. Only a few said hello or looked at me in the eye. Usually I would find that strange or even awkward, but I understand. Yesterday January 20, 2017, the day that Donald Trump became our 45th president.
Many of my friends up in Seattle or in my social circle are feeling the immense gravity and hopelessness of this year’s inauguration and what it means for the future of our country. Many of the women in my life are or have already prepared to buy permanent methods of contraception because of the very real threat that birth control will be even more scrutinized and less accessible than ever. Many of my LGBTQ friends, including myself, are despondent about LGBTQ rights, including the right for same sex couples to marry and the continued oppression of transgender folks. The pain and frustration of people of color seem to be more visibly heightened than ever before. Those who are immigrants or undocumented are expecting to be attacked, threatened, and dehumanized in unjust and real ways. The list is overwhelming and endless.
I’ve had a few months to come down from the sharp pain that came right after the election in November. Maybe it’s because one of my major coping mechanisms is to dismiss the severity of things easily and pretend like everything isn’t happening right now. I do feel spiritually exhausted and dazed by the relentless incompetence and indecency of the incoming administration. As I stop to give myself a moment to breathe and reflect at my desk, across the hall, I see students brining food to the Veterans Center for what I assume to be their “Inauguration Celebration.” Seeing them boast in that lounge while watching Donald Trump officially become the president while laughing crudely, reminds me of how some people in this country can sit and occupy any space in any way that they want without having to be aware of how they actually affect others. I saw them act even more boisterously before the election, seeing a few individuals wearing “Hillary for Prison” t- shirts or gloatingly high fiving each other right after the election was decided, essentially repeated slaps to my face. But that was months ago. Yesterday, folks in the Veterans Center (and I’m sure many others in general around the country) gathered together to cheer and take pride that their presidential choice was chosen. And to be fair, if the other candidate were in that position today, many of us would cheer with pride that our presidential choice was chosen. For a few moments, I was able to sneak on Facebook to watch the inauguration as it was happening. I saw it happen as it was happening- it is now official. A symbol of immense division, ignorance, and fear is now our president. The dread and fear for millions of Americans came true. For many, the privilege of sitting back to gloat and ease back comfortably is lost and foolish to think otherwise.
After any defeat, there is a bigger responsibility of the defeated to make do with their new circumstances and continue to empower themselves and preserve what they believe is right, although it may be more formidable and disheartening than ever before. The idealism of progress is so dangerous, because if we hold on to the perception that progress only means going forward, we are shell shocked when an unaccounted factor comes in, forcing us to move back 3 spaces.
So in these moments of defeat, the ones who choose to push forward and stick with it with no guarantee of success are the ones that will continue all the way to the end. How can we empower ourselves in every circumstance that is thrown our way? After I watched the inauguration, students came to my desk and I was busy assisting them for a few hours. At one point, the Director of the Diversity and Equity Center came to the front desk to chat with me and my co-worker about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), diversity, and people of color in education, etc.- conversations that pumped all three of us. The director a few moments later left, and as I watched across the hall those folks adoring the new President, I decided to find all the Black leaders that I was connected to at my former college, so that the Director of the Diversity and Equity center could have better resources and support for the mission he had in mind. I printed off the list of contacts, and walked to the Director’s office, passing the Veterans Center. As some may sit in complacency and eat Cheetos while watching a Cheeto become the new president, others know that the necessary work starts now. Onward.