This was not the first letter from the editor I wanted to write. I had it all planned out in my head- a celebratory letter, announcing that I’d taken over as Editor in Chief, announcing Hillary’s win, celebrating womanhood in all it’s forms. Alas, here we are, and here I am. So a Christian lady and a Jewish lesbian walked into a bar once in the middle of the South and that’s how we got here, with me as your new Editor in Chief and Emily still as our fearless founder. More on that little joke later.
Life comes to us in a series of glorious and tragic moments, ones that are for the most part overlooked in our overextended lives. Even when we think we are at our most centered we miss things. We are, more often than not, living in a truth we have created for ourselves. Life has a way of snapping us back to reality. That is certainly how the 2016 election cycle has gone for me. Six weeks ago I was on the campaign trail, happily giving up my evenings to ensure that a person I believed in not only as a political leader, but also as a woman and as a personal inspiration, would win the seat she was fighting so hard for in my state. I believed with all of my heart that she would win and that my state would finally lean towards a progressive, hopeful future. I believed that decency and democracy would prevail. The issue is that I believed my definition of decency and democracy was everyone else’s definition of decency and democracy.
I spent election night with those whom some might consider the elite of my state’s political circles. I was with many of our Democratic candidates and their staff as they waited with bated breath to see which speech they were going to have to give. I was among so many hopeful citizens who were charged with excitement and ready to watch our home place turn blue, who were ready to watch history be made as Hillary shattered the glass ceiling at the Javits center in New York City. Reality hit me hard as my friends and colleagues stood on the floor of the Marriott hotel in the middle of our quaint Downtown center and watched concession speech after concession speech, all the while holding our breath as the polls closed and the numbers rolled in in favor of Trump, not Hillary.
That night I watched the candidate I’d worked for deliver an eloquent and gracious concession speech. I watched her vow to support her opponent and do everything she could to keep our state united. I watched her immediately begin a new path of work the moment she knew she’d lost. In that moment, with my arms wrapped around her friend from law school, holding back my own tears of disappointment, fear, and failure, I also felt a new sense of inspiration and determination. This woman who I have so affectionately deemed my candidate is not special in this quality. Hillary has already done the same. So must we.
This is not a simple address to write. I think of Emily, our founder, my dear sweet friend who challenges me and makes me laugh every day of my life. I think of her wife, Kaitlyn, a police officer who is tasked with the responsibility of keeping the streets safe in the wake of this election and the hatred and discrimination that will arise from the mess that has been created. I think of how many lessons in love I have learned for my future marriage from theirs and how it never occurred to me to question the fact that they were both women. It rocks me to my core that Trump is president-elect today because that notion bothered some folks here in America. I think of all of you who are devastated, confused, and fearful of what your future now holds. I think of how many times I have tried to find the words to address you these past two days in some way that might make sense of this for you, and how many times I have failed.
I think of a comment a new but already dear friend made as a joke yesterday about her husband. Her husband is Mexican and she is not. Fifty years ago, they would not have been able to marry. Times were different when they met and they did end up getting hitched. Over twenty years of marriage, two beautiful children, a home, and a whole universe these two wildly creative, funny, charming, and very kind, loving people have created together and my friend had to think twice about the race of not only the man she loves beyond all measure, but the children she created and nurtured with him. I think of the countless friends in the LGTBQ community I have from my days in the theatre in Los Angeles who feel like they’re the problem because America has told them they are.
I think of how many times I have already had to remind myself to be loving and kind instead of lashing out in the midst my own disappointment and anger. I think of how many quiet prayers I whispered this morning, in the hallways of my office, at my desk, in my car. I think of how lucky I am that I am white and from America. I think of how lucky I am that I am pretty and well educated and Christian and not disabled and that I want to marry a man and everything else that would make it easy for me to blend in for the next four years because being invisible is easier. I think of how asinine it is that the way my neurons got arranged somehow makes my rights more valuable than those of the people I described earlier, whom I speak with every day, whom I love and cherish and couldn’t imagine life without. I think of how ashamed I am that it is women like me who got Trump elected. I think of how all of those things make me feel as though I’ve failed all of you, because I couldn’t be open and loving and giving and active enough to change the trajectory of this election to make this country safe for everyone, despite my love for my Jewish lesbian bosom-buddy-business-partner-best-gal-pal, despite how vocal I am in my community, despite how many articles I write here, despite how hard I worked for our democratic party in my state. Because people like me are only interested in the rights of people like us.
Perhaps this is so difficult to write because this never was about politics. Anything to do with blue or red, bad language or emails, dishonesty or indecency simply feels too shallow. This was about the values and principles that our country rested on, the values that minorities have fought and died for. The values that we were told on Tuesday do not matter to the majority of our country. It is heartbreaking to know that we do not matter. It is heartbreaking to know that we were so close, but not close enough. I beg of you to keep a few things in mind as we head into these months of uncertainty. Hillary won the popular vote. Trump may have won by the technicality of the electoral vote, but there are still more of us than there are of his supporters.
In the coming days, I hope you will rise to this challenge: be kind. Do not let resentment fill your heart. Do not become petulant and violent. Do not become the very thing you fought so hard against leading up November 8th, 2016. Refuse to feel like a failure, whatever your circumstances are. Refuse to give in. Keep an agenda of kindness and action in everything you do. Organize community events that will counteract those that promote hatred, bigotry, and small mindedness. There is little we can do about the house, the senate, and the presidency right now. But there is a lot we can within our own communities, so dig deep, find your passion, and go after it with everything in you. There is no more important time than right now to act. The Laughing Lesbian will always be a welcoming home for you, and an open forum for you to express your grief, your plans, your triumphs and your tribulations. Especially throughout the next four years.
I fear my words have failed me. I fear there is no part of me that can give you anything that will be eloquent enough or powerful enough to inspire you in the wake of this heartbreaking political loss, but I still believe Hillary can, so I’ll leave you with her words.
“This is painful and it will be for a long time, but I want you to remember this. Our campaign was never about one person or even one election. It was about the country we love and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted. We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought, but I still believe in America and I always will. If you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. We have spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American dream is big enough for everyone, for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people and for people with disabilities. For everyone. I feel pride and gratitude for this wonderful campaign that we built together, this vast, diverse, creative, unruly, energized campaign. You represent the best of America and being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I know how disappointed you feel, because I feel it, too. And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. To all the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. “I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but some day, someone will, and hopefully sooner than we might think right now. And to all the little girl whose are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams. I count my blessings every single day that I am an American, and I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us. Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together, and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that.”
– Hillary Rodham Clinton