On November 8, 2016, I sat in a bar in San Diego, California with my friend Peter, and I watched Donald Trump become president of the United States.
I cried into my whiskey ginger until my eyes burned red and my blood boiled over.
I could smell the tension seething from my comrades as the bartender shut off the television and we all raised a glass to…our futures?
Each of us said a silent prayer: for us, for others, for the unknown. We sat in silence and stared at one another in complete disbelief of what we’d just watched. “I came here to celebrate…” I distinctly remember thinking to myself. The sticky bar top became our anchor as we drank and contemplated what was to come over the next four years.
In the last year, Donald Trump has removed the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, repealed a rule allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military, reversed a rule that would ban gun sales to those deemed “mentally defective” by the government, and cut the number of migrants and refugees allowed to enter the country from several at-risk countries.
Recently, babies were separated from their families at the U.S. and Mexico border to be put on planes and sent to foreign states to stay with foreign people. Their parents had potentially broken the law in a desperate attempt to find safety as their own countries crumbled down around them—did this mean they deserved to have their crying children torn from their arms and shipped far away?
Sitting here on my couch, listening to the coffee pot drip, watching the clouds roll by, feeling the breeze waft over my skin, my life seems imaginary compared to what these families are still experiencing in this exact moment. We are existing in two completely different realities and there is nothing that either of us can do to change it. I feel helpless. They feel subhuman.
But I don’t hate the president.
I am completely against what our government has continued to spew as the American Way over the last year.
My country is not exclusive, we are inclusive. My country is not violent, we are at peace. My country is not homophobic, we are accepting. My country is not racist, we are all one America. But I know now that this is not everyone’s reality.
The African American woman who works the same job as me but is paid less and paid far less than the white man down the hall—her America is racist. The gay couple who was denied a wedding cake because of another’s refusal to make it based on “religious freedom”—their America is homophobic. The teenagers who watched their friends bleed out on the cafeteria floor—their America is violent. The mothers from Guatemala who watched their children disappear into a detention center, only to be turned away and sent back the way they came—their America is exclusive.
But I don’t hate the president.
If I hated the president, I would be like the president.
If I excluded, judged, assumed, neglected, or denied, I would be like the president. By making comments based on feelings and opinions rather than facts and science, I would be like the president. By promoting hate, anger, and rejection, I would be like the president.
And I refuse to be like the president.
I will stand in solidarity with the shutdown, the targeted, and the unheard. I will link arms with the fearful, the stranded, and the rejected. I will peacefully protest any law, statute, or movement that attempts to leave another behind. I will be love, peace, acceptance, and understanding—because that is my America. I will not hate the president, because I will not continue to filter hate and adversity through the tunnels that run through America’s morals, filling our media with anger and toxicity.
That pattern ends here.
If we stand together in understanding, we can spread positivity.
By putting our foot down in the line of bigotry, by refusing to accept anything less than equality for everyone, by shouting love at the top of our lungs when they think that our voices will shake, we can be the change.
If we want peace, we have to start with ourselves.
I do not hate the president, because I’m not like the president, and you aren’t like him either.