It’s the fourth morning I’ve woken up and had to affirm to myself that the election results were not, in fact, a nightmare. Every day I must face the fact that it’s still true, it’s still real, it’s still reality.
While 2016 has been awful, this week has been the worst. In fact, one of the worst that I can remember in a long, long time.
To be honest, I haven’t been ready for optimism. I haven’t been ready for action. I haven’t been ready for measured analysis of what can and will likely occur in the next four years. I have been so wrecked with anger and depression over what has happened that all I’ve been able to do is read, vent, cry, repeat.
I haven't yet regained the audacity of hope.
If you’re reading this, it probably means you’re feeling something similar. In fact, yours might be something so much deeper, more painful, and more terrifying than I could ever understand.
I, a white woman with a life of privilege cannot possibly grasp the fear that my brothers and sisters of color, LGBTQ community members, immigrants, Muslims, and other marginalized individuals feel today.
For many, we now live in a different America than the one we thought we did on November 7th.
I could spend many tear-soaked paragraphs trying to communicate my frustration, anger, and heartbreak. I could rally the troops of individuals who already agree with me, so that we could collectively lick our wounds in self-affirming messages of how right WE are and how wrong THEY are.
But I won’t do that.
Because that’s the exact reason we lost. We let the narrative that we are a divided country turn us into one.
We affirmed the rhetoric, the hate, the mudslinging, and let it turn us into something ugly.
We cannot win the future by putting the same hatred into the world, even if it feels justified. Even if it is against the people who voted us into this situation.
Because people are still human beings, no matter how heinous their decisions and views seem to you.
If you want to stand on a soapbox saying that you and your views respect and love everyone, then that goes much beyond putting up solidarity hashtags and posting articles that affirm your beliefs.
Wanting a better world means that you have to do something much harder than that. You have to learn to live with an open heart, one that indeed loves first before anything else. And loves everyone, even the ones who hate you.
It can be so easy, and indeed, someone satisfying, to bathe in self-righteous anger. To seethe and boil in rage with fellow like-minded individuals and scoff about the ignorant people who are ruining our country. I get it, I do it.
But we can't stay in that place. We have to harness it and use it towards building the future we believe in.
You know who else did that eight and four years ago? That’s right, the people who thought YOU and President Obama would completely destroy our country.
And look where we are.
I do want to clarify, living with love does not mean that you should accept hate, violence, oppression, or other destructive actions that you might see from others. Quite the contrary –– you should be ready to do everything you can to dismantle the systemic hatred and injustice that we see all around us.
However paradoxically it may sound, you need to be ready peacefully upend these systems.
Because if not, how are you any better than those about which you rant?
Right now, the future looks dark. We have only a short time before the transfer of power occurs and the Oval Office has a new resident.
I am not going to sit here and be optimistic about what that new resident will or will not do to our country. That is largely useless.
But if there is anything I can find the small spark of energy to be optimistic about, it is you.
I can be optimistic about the peaceful protests you will join,
the organizations you will support,
the communities you will engage,
the people you will stand up for,
the good work you will do,
the justice you will fight for,
the productive actions you will take,
the love you will spread.
You, in whatever way you can, will keep all our dreams alive.
We can no longer look to our elected leader for such intelligence, strength, integrity, and guidance. Of course, Barack Obama, like any president, was imperfect. But the last eight years, I have been proud of my leader. He has inspired me in ways I didn’t think a President could.
Then, the woman I voted for made me believe more in myself and who I could become.
I have always had a flame burning inside of me that urged me to make the world better. It’s why I started this site that is dedicated to helping people make social impact around the world. It’s why I plan to dedicate my life and work to doing so.
This election, and this year, has been an attempt to extinguish that flame…. to make me recede into an apathetic and cynical darkness.
But I owe too much to my heroes, from Maya Angelou to Pope Francis, to Martin Luther King, Jr., to yes, Hillary Clinton, to ever let that happen.
We either go nowhere or forward.
I choose the latter.
The glimmers of light I have seen during this whole process have been friends who have already mobilized. They have been sharing vows to do more, and passing along resources to show others how they can, too.
There are many good ways to make progress right now, but there’s sure as hell one wrong way: doing nothing.
The world is hurting and you are the only one who can fix it. We need your help, because we are stronger together.
Wipe away your tears, get out of bed, and go do something.
You are the hope, and now is the time.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.