This election almost changed me. I had hoped to wake up on Wednesday morning with news that the United States had elected its first female president, but instead was shocked to hear that America had voted otherwise. I will admit, it left me devastated. Not because my candidate lost, but because I saw the election as a fight for something bigger—the view of the United States which would be projected not only across our vast nation, but across the world. Were we going to project inclusion, community, and prosperity, or did we believe that we were under siege, angry, and divisive? In the early days since the election, I was saddened that America had apparently chosen the latter.
As my shock of the outcome fades, though, I realize now that my view of this election represented only one perspective. There were many others: a chance to see change in a stagnant political system versus a return to the status quo, the expression of frustration across great swaths of this country against what they perceived as a future in which they were left out. For many, it was not about rhetoric or words, it was bigger than that. And they chose to go another route.
Since the election I have spoken with family and friends, many of whom who did not vote as I had, and you know what, they are still the same people they were before the election. We still share the same everyday concerns, find the same things funny, and show each other the mutual respect that has come to define our interactions. They know that if something were to happen to them, I would come to their side—in defense, solidarity, or sympathy. And I know that they would do the same for me. I am aware, through social media, that this is not universal, and that many relationships have frayed due to the political divide. I see reports that hate crimes are on the rise. The name calling on both sides of the political spectrum is intense, and there is no sign it is waning.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared of what the next few years might bring. I fear that the things I believe in—social justice, women’s rights, marriage equality, and access to health care, for example—will be scaled back. I also worry about what messages have been imparted to my children, and how the next few years will affect them.
But I believe in my friends, my colleagues, my community, my city, and my state, and I believe that no matter what happens today or in the future, America is still a great country. I plan to do my part to ensure that does not change by embracing compassion and empathy. In medicine, I will continue to treat my colleagues and my patients with respect, regardless of who they are and who they might have voted for. I will also wear a #safetypin to take control of my own fear and to show others who feel similarly that they are not alone.