By Abby Petersen
I woke up Saturday to the sound of a blowtorch in my backyard. I wandered to the kitchen window to find my neighbors, Karen refugees from Thailand who live below me in our duplex, burning and plucking the feathers off of chickens. This is less unusual than it sounds: I live in South Frogtown, an area of St. Paul known best for its diverse population and allegedly high crime rates.
When I walk out of my house, I can smell the marijuana next door and I can hear arguments from down the street. When I walk out of my house, I see the neighborhood I have grown to love.
On Nov. 8, 2016, America elected Donald J. Trump as President of the United States after he won more than 270 electoral votes. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, won less than 230 electoral votes but won 47.8 percent of the popular vote compared to Trump’s 47.2 percent. Using the exact number of votes each candidate received, according to The New York Times, subtraction shows that Clinton received 777,019 more votes than Trump. Elections are not decided by the popular vote, however, they are decided by the electoral college.
Social media erupted early Wednesday morning after news outlets declared Trump the winner and Clinton’s campaign called Trump to concede the election. American citizens celebrated publicly. American citizens wept publicly.
I woke up in my blue house in Frogtown at 6:55 a.m. Wednesday, unable to press snooze after I read the outcome of the election. An election of political divisiveness was over – the American people had spoken. And yet as I sat in class that morning, I could see only the faces of my neighbors. I saw them smiling, laughing and teaching us new words in their native tongue. I saw them handing us eggs Sunday afternoon. I saw them escaping the civil war in their home country to come here, to America, a country that has just elected a president who stated he refuses to admit refugees from Syria.
People on both ends of the political spectrum hurled vicious comments back and forth over Facebook, Twitter and even in person. Trump voters rejoiced and braced themselves for the inevitable backlash from the anti-Trumps who have, for the past year or more, branded Trump as a xenophobic, racist, misogynist. Clinton voters lamented their loss and dutifully spewed insults to Trump’s “basket of deplorables.” Conservatives moaned their wish for liberals to realize that with the checks and balances in this country, Trump could never become a dictator. Liberals fought back by reminding their adversaries that Republicans now hold the majority of the House and Senate.
I shed tears on my pillow the day the video recording of Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush in 2005 was released. Not because I was especially surprised, but because I realized the actions of a person who pressed me against a wall when I was 14, groped me and forced me to kiss him had just been justified. I shed tears Nov. 9 because my country had just elected the man who justified those things. The man who would not allow my downstairs neighbors in his country if he had the choice.
As a Christian, I know that love and justice did not lose Nov. 8. Those values live as long as Christ does – and praise be to the Father – He is alive. Love and justice live on as long as followers of Christ continue to build His kingdom. This I know. But I also know I worship the God who suffers with those who suffer, weeps with those who weep and defends the oppressed. I believe those categories include the minorities in America who now fear for their lives and the lives of their children, whether or not I personally believe their fears are rational. I worship a God whose greatest commandment included an incredible commission: love your neighbor as yourself.
No matter who you voted for, remember this. The majority of those who celebrated Nov. 9 did not celebrate because they believed racism, misogyny or white supremacy had won – at least we desperately pray. But people who mourned and grieved Nov. 9 did not mourn and grieve because a Republican was elected or because they are afraid he will become a dictator: they wept because more than 60 million people voted for a man who normalized and vindicated racism, misogyny and white supremacy. It is not the man they fear. It is the people he represents.