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Trump’s America: Where do we go from here?

Kathryn Sesser-Dorne

By Kathryn Sesser-Dorné

Eight years ago I waited in Grant Park with then-Senator Barack Obama as election results poured in.

It was an amazing night for Chicago, and for America. I can still feel the spark in the air as we marked such a great moment in history. I was so hopeful for our country, and have been left saddened and surprised by the false cataclysm his election created.

I knew it would continue under Hillary Clinton, had she won the 2016 election, but she stood high above her competition in nearly every way. Last week, as I sat working on the Nov. 10 edition of The Birmingham Times, I kept refreshing internet pages to follow up-to-the-minute election results.

Like many, I had assumed that Clinton would break the glass ceiling and become the 45th leader of the United States. I assumed the progress we had made under President Obama would continue. I assumed that the voices who had come forward for LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, religious rights, and more would turn out and vote, thus assuring her victory.

Even if she wasn’t the first choice of some, including myself who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary, there was no denying that she was the most qualified to ever run for the office. More than that, she championed those among us who felt marginalized in an election season that seemed so geared toward racism, misogyny, xenophobia and general hatred for so many.

As the hours ticked away, and it became more aware she was going to lose, the pit in my stomach gave way to tears. Tears of anger. Tears of uncertainty. Tears of fear. My husband and I woke up the next day, both still in shock of what had happened: Donald J. Trump would soon become our president.

Almost immediately millions took to social media to vent their frustrations and sadness, as millions more celebrated the win. Cries of “Get over it already!” had begun, with some claiming that now we knew how Conservatives felt with the election of President Obama. After eight years of so many proclaiming “He ain’t my president!” we were asked to move on after eight hours.

But the biggest thing that so many who voted for Trump fail to see is that President Obama ran on a platform of hope and change. Their candidate ran on one of hate. Trump’s disdain of women, other races, immigrants, and even special-needs people was his and his alone. And while many who voted for him have spent the past week decrying claims of racism and hatred of other cultures, what some fail to see is that a vote for him was an acceptance of the whole package. It may not show a personal hate, but it shows a failure to simply care.

People have every right to be afraid. And it’s not going to go away.

On one side, I am thankful that so many I know and love feel the same way I do. Sad, scared, helpless. Afraid to see all the progress we’ve made in our society washed away when we were so close to making a real difference for everyone. But that gives me hope that we won’t stop the fight.

I am thankful for all President Obama was able to get accomplished in spite of opposition from congress. More than anything, I’d like to give him and Michelle huge props for soldiering on, and never sinking to the level of those who spouted the hate, especially from the man who would soon become president-elect. “When they go low, we go high!” should never have been a battlecry of our first family, but I am thankful for their ability to persevere.

As a white woman married to a white man, I am aware that one day my family will be in the American minority. As progressive liberals, this is something my husband and I both embrace. We are among the many that celebrate this country for its changing landscape. But it is a sobering thought to consider that if we continue on the path we are currently on as a nation, one day my son may be seen as the enemy.

As a Christian, the thought that so many could overlook such a hateful spirit and vote for Trump anyway has saddened me. I’ve prayed a lot in this past week, and I have to continue to believe that He will help us continue the progress we have made. He will guide us toward peace. But several times, I have wanted to shout from the rooftops that “God is not a Republican!” I feel in my heart that He is not proud of the choice we made. Because whether some like it or not, we were all created equal.

More than anything, I want to make sure that those who are afraid know they are not alone. The color of your skin does not indicate where you stand in politics. And while the nearly 50/50 split may seem like there was a line drawn in the sand, that is not the case.

My husband has reminded me this week that throughout history, in the battle between change and the reaction against it, change has always won. The Trump wave is riding on a dying demo-graphic. It can’t bring new people to its cause, as his core supporters seem to be clinging to a past that no longer exists. They won this time, but they will lose in the long run.

So, where do we go from here? As allies, what is our responsibility in Trump’s America?

We get out and get involved. We volunteer. Actions speak louder than words. There are so many people in Birmingham who need your help. It doesn’t always take money, it just takes time. Make it happen.

We intervene if we see something questionable. You tell someone they are welcome here. They are important. They belong.

I am reminded more than ever that change doesn’t come from the top, it starts with us. And for me, I’m ready to work.

I’m ready to work for you.

Kathryn Sesser-Dorné is the designer and a contributing editor for The Birmingham Times. She has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, and has worked with newspapers all around the country.