I woke up feeling so calm on election day. I was cocky. I was complacent. I was excited, even. I was almost psychotically excited, in fact. I have been spending time at my aunt's house in upstate New York, away from the city, the noise, allowing time and space to continue to heal. I drove down to the city and I listened to the new Alicia Keys album and the Hamilton soundtrack on the way. It felt good to listen to these battle cries in art form on my way down. I didn't get to the city until 3pm. I voted. As I walked into my polling station, there was an older man in a wheelchair volunteering and he directed me to the next room. There was no line. All the rest of the volunteers there were women. I whooped after I put my ballot through. I smiled at the women sitting there, with tears in my eyes. We all looked at one another in the eye, with understanding, with respect, it felt exciting. It felt profound to be voting for a woman. I ran back inside my polling station, because I didn't get a sticker. The woman volunteering said "We ran out! Can you believe it? So many people came through!" I replied "Well, that's what we want, right? Awesome!"
I drove to Brooklyn to visit a friend recovering from a surgery, another woman. She had just come back from voting, despite being in a considerable amount of pain. I thought, how badass. Another friend lives 5 minutes up the road, I texted her to see if she was around. She's from Jordan, she's Muslim. I wanted to gather round all the women I know. I went to pick her up, she told me she was about to leave to watch the election at another friend's home. I stopped by with her, not planning to stay, but happy to have the chance to see them on such an important evening in our history. They had made chili, or "Chillary" -- there were more women present, men, too: lesbians, gay men, immigrants, including Muslims. It felt exciting, it was "our night". I was grateful to see them, on what I was so sure would be an historic night. I was then planning to drive back to Manhattan to go to yet another friend's election viewing party, another woman, a staunch feminist and a Latina. The polls started coming through, I couldn't look away. I texted her: "I'm leaving in 20 minutes to come uptown." But I kept looking at the TV. Impending doom started to set in. I texted her again at 10pm saying "I'm sorry I haven't been able to peel myself away from [the] tv. I'm so scared." She replied "I'm actually terrible company right now." Polls kept coming in. It got confusing and all too real. We know the rest. I went to bed at 3:48 am Wednesday morning, woke up at 8:30 am in "Trump's America" and I've been in a weird dream state ever since. One friend kept saying, as the night wore on, bless his heart: "You guys, I still think she's going to win, I still have hope."
This quote from Toni Morrison has been circulating around social media in the past day "This is precisely the time when the artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." Toni Morrison was one of the first writers I read, when I was 13 years old, who really made me want to write, too. The world she creates is so rich, so deep, so full of wonder and awe and pain and grief. I've been pretty numb the past 24 hours. I've cried, I've been in shock, I've spent a lot of it with some family, who are not related to me by blood, but who may as well be. I've read a lot of articles about "What You Can Do Now". I've read other articles, about "What It All Means". I read Trump's victory speech transcript, because I need to not hear his voice right now. And so now I'm writing something down, I'm listening to Toni, and I'm writing.
I'm angry. My anger is palpable. I feel helpless. I don't feel fearful, because I made a conscious decision to no longer be fearful for separate reasons, just a little while ago. Fear has no place in my life. I should be fearful, because I am a woman with opinions in a country that just voted in Donald Trump as president. Self-pity is tricky. I tow the line with self-pity so often. I trick myself into thinking I don't feel it, then I catch myself feeling sorry for myself, then I check myself and breathe and move on. But these two feelings: fear and self-pity, it's true: there is just no room for them right now. We cannot be silent. I spoke to my friend at 3am on election night, she's on the west coast and she asked "What does this mean for your healthcare, Nora?" I responded, I don't think it means anything good for my healthcare. But the truth is, I don't know what it means exactly. We have yet to know what it means. David Axelrod was on CNN with the other talking heads that night, and it was comforting to hear him say it's not as simple as just repealing the Affordable Care Act, and I know that there are checks and balances in place so progress will not unravel as soon as January 20th rolls around. What I do know is that I'm fortunate. I have health care right now, and this election is a signal to me to do more. Not just for me, but for the voiceless, for those other patients who are not as fortunate as me, to fight for them. For women who are not as fortunate as me. For anyone is more vulnerable than I am.
The person who gave me her liver was a woman. She died and I lived. I have no idea what her political views were. I don't even know her name. All I know is she was a woman, and she was 50 years old. So that means that she was born in 1965. That means that she was 8 years old when Roe v Wade took place. That means that she came of age in the Reagan-era. It means that she saw a lot of bad decisions made by the US government, and a hell of a lot of progress for women. She could have even been an immigrant woman. She could have been black. She could have been gay. She could have had an abortion. She could have been Muslim. Or Mexican. Or any one of the many, many ethnicities that exist in the United States of America. Her blood now pumps through me and keeps me alive: regardless of whether we were different, regardless of where we both came from, regardless of hate. If that's not a case for racial equality and equality of the sexes then I don't fucking know what is. By the way, my argument would probably be even better if I had received my liver from a man, which I very well could have. If I had received a liver from a man, I still wouldn't have been voting with my vagina on Tuesday, I'd still have been voting with my brain, which remains intact.
Personally, it means, more than anything, that I have an absolute, no questions asked duty to fight for women because this woman is the reason I'm still alive, whether she knew it or not when she signed that Organ Donor card on her license, or when her family gave consent at the time of her death. I'm not heedless to the idea that this woman could have been a Trump supporter, or a third party supporter. I'm not deliberately creating an image of who this woman was in my head, according to my liberal ideals. And I'm not saying that there is no way she could have been, considering we are in New York--we've read the numbers on how many women voted for Trump around the country, and I actually don't have a guarantee that she was from New York. I'm saying that she was a woman, and I'm a woman and we deserve more than a sexist, woman-hating, racist, xenophobic bigot in power. And there is work to be done, because hate won out and it's alive and well in America today, but love--and work--prevails.
The other thing I've been thinking about over the past day is: I've been going to a clinic with transplant patients at least once a week, if not more, for over a year. The patients I see around me are overwhelmingly Black, Latino and Arab. I see them. I know some of them. There are white men and women too. Many of the people who took care of me in the hospital and continue my care at the clinic: the doctors, the nurses, the nurses' aides, the janitors, the kitchen staff: they, too, were Black, Latino, Asian-American, Muslim-American as well as recent immigrants. My favourite nurse's aide was from Haiti and she was a firecracker, and a beautiful woman, who cared. My favourite nurse was from the Philippines, who was a true Nasty Woman in the very best sense of the word.
I am fiercely protective of these people. I am forever indebted to them. These people were failed by their country on Tuesday night and so was I. So, I'm not sure exactly where to place my anger and frustration, what exactly it is I can do. But I know I have to fight in whatever way I am able. We all do. In this moment, it felt like writing something so that's what I did. Earlier today it felt like donating to the ACLU and to Planned Parenthood, it felt like signing petitions and doing some busy work, to not be consumed completely by the news. I don't know what tomorrow it will look like. It won't be better than today because this is an extremely painful time for America. But I'll wake up and I'll be alive and that woman who died, whose liver I have, we'll be figuring out how to move forward, together. There's a lot to fight for, and we're all awake to it. This is not a time to be silent.