Election night, my wife and I went out to eat at a Thai and sushi restaurant about 10 miles from our home in rural Central North Carolina. I had been there months ago to get a bowl of soup, but it was her first time. When we walked into the small restaurant, it felt like we had just walked into a private party — uninvited. Every face, except for the waitress, was white. Every head of hair was varying shades of gray.
What were they seeing that caused them to stare, long after we were seated? Was it my wife’s beautiful, shoulder-length locs, tinged with their own grayness? My short platinum hair, in need of a touch-up? The two of us — white and black — together?
We settled in this predominantly white, predominantly Christian, predominantly Republican county three years ago. We moved here from our apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y, so my wife could spend the last days of her mother’s life with her.
We live on a piece of land that we’re told again and again is the most beautiful in the county. We have kind neighbors, helpful neighbors — neighbors who panicked when we told them we were considering moving closer to Raleigh-Durham last spring after my mother-in-law passed. They didn’t want to lose us, they said. “It’s hard to find good neighbors,” they said.
After Trump’s vulgar “Access Hollywood” comments came to light in early October, one of my neighbor’s asked what I thought. We talked for over a half hour, each of us respectfully sharing our opinions. He thanked me for telling him I planned to vote for Hillary Clinton — I was the first who admitted that to him, he said. “I still love ya anyway,” he said before going home to watch the presidential debate that night.
While my neighbor would later put two Donald Trump signs in his yard, I couldn’t bring myself to post a Clinton one. While she had my vote, Clinton didn’t have my adoration. My vote for her was a vote against him, plain and simple. I wasn’t willing to risk what felt like potential harm to myself, my wife, our home for someone I wasn’t passionately supporting.
Now I’m left to wonder if I should have done more than vote.
In the early morning hours after learning Trump had won, I sat in bed holding my wife as she cried. She wasn’t crying because her team had lost. She was crying because she feared that what has been gained through the hard work of so many for so long now has the potential to be lost.
Civil rights. Gay rights. Human rights.
The Pollyanna in me wanted to tell her not to go down that rabbit hole — to keep her focus on what she wants, not on what she doesn’t want. I even suggested that Trump’s victory must be for the highest good or it wouldn’t be happening, which rang hollow even as it was coming out of my mouth.
My own tears and fears would rise up and spill out later in the day while I sat at my desk listening to people drive by honking and hooting at my neighbor’s pro-Trump signs. The sound gave me the same sickening feeling I had listening to Billy Bush and the other men on the Access Hollywood tape laughing as Trump talked of kissing and grabbing women by the “pussy” — because, as a “star,” he could.
In the afternoon, one of my family members, a Trump supporter, called to check on me. She showed compassion when I cried and couldn’t talk. She tried her best to understand what was behind my tears, even though I found it impossible to explain.
Today, this piece by John Pavlovitz, a Raleigh pastor, helps me to understand better what I am feeling — that this isn’t “just sour grapes” about losing an election. It’s about this:
“Every horrible thing Donald Trump ever said about women or Muslims or people of color has now been validated.
Every profanity-laced press conference and every call to bully protestors and every ignorant diatribe has been endorsed.
Every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation Mike Pence has championed has been signed-off on.
Half of our country has declared these things acceptable, noble, American.
This is the disconnect and the source of our grief today. It isn’t a political defeat that we’re lamenting, it’s a defeat for Humanity.”
I, like Pavolvitz, feel now as though I’m living in “enemy territory.” I feel that especially so living in a county where 77 percent of the people believe that someone who has spewed hate and vulgarity deserves to lead our beautiful country.
I find myself looking at the blue states, imaging a move to Vermont or back to Colorado, where I lived for about a year.
“We wake up today in a home we no longer recognize,” Pavolvitz writes. “We are grieving the loss of a place we used to love but no longer do. This may be America today but it is not the America we believe in or recognize or want.”
Like Pavolvitz, I am grieving, but I’m also hopeful. Hopeful that I’m wrong about Trump. Hopeful that my marriage remains recognized as just that — and that other same-sex couples won’t lose their right to marry. Hopeful that my Muslim friends and those they love are safe. Hopeful that my wife’s daughter and her longtime girlfriend, both black and lesbian, will be safe, too.
Hopeful that Mr. Trump meant what he said in his victory speech: “We have to bind the wounds of division. We have to get together.”
Hopeful, mostly, that love really does trump hate.
This post originally published on anniescholl.com.
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