I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything more surreal than being out of the country for the 2016 presidential election. I was invited to demo recipes from The Gourmet Kitchen at the Sharjah International Book Fair, just outside of Dubai. The organizers flew me almost halfway across the world to the Middle East, where there was a 9 hour time difference. On November 8th, I was fast asleep before the polls closed, and on the 9th, I was waking up to the election results as my loved ones were trying to stay up a bit longer, watching the unexpected happen. I slept in that morning because just like almost everyone else, I believed the outcome was a no brainer. It never occurred to me when I left for the UAE that things might take a turn for the worse. While I don’t necessarily trust polls, I had faith that everything would work out for the best.
Samantha wasn’t as confident as me. She woke up at 6am to watch the results trickle in. I got out of bed at 8am and saw her face. “It isn’t good,” she said. The next few hours were brutal. At some point I needed coffee and food, and as I walked toward the breakfast buffet, I realized I was unable to look anyone in the eye. I was surrounded by people who Donald Trump and his upcoming administration would likely view as a national threat, and the guilt I felt was monumental. Regardless of their reasons for voting, half of my country was saying “we don’t care what this means for you.” I couldn’t go into the restaurant. I felt like people were staring at me, even though I realize now that was all in my head. Regardless, I froze. Then I sat on a couch in the lobby with coffee until I could move again.
Our hotel was gorgeous, right on the Sharjah beach front. There’s nowhere I find more zen-like than the beach, and if I had been alone that morning, I probably would have spent the rest of the day (hell, the rest of the trip) staring at the water. But we had flown 15 hours to get to the UAE. In Samantha’s words, “I’m not going to let him ruin this, too.” So we tried to make the best of it and explore our strange and futuristic surroundings. While the wind was knocked out of my sails, I was relieved to have the opportunity to escape for awhile. For brief periods of time I’d forget what was happening back home, and I could pretend everything was normal.
Then it would hit me like a punch to the gut. It felt like a loved one had died. The countless impacts. Obama’s legacy, civil rights, the Supreme Court. It wasn’t long before we started telling people we were Canadian. We took turns having panic attacks and breakdowns as we checked in with the news, and watched our friends anguishing on social media. Lethargy and resignation set in, as my attempts to enjoy my trip overseas became useless. Pretending to have fun while rapidly cycling through the stages of grief is exhausting after awhile.
On my taxi ride to the Dubai airport, my sweet Pakistani driver kept telling me everything would be ok and to try not to overthink. He asked me questions about whether I thought Hillary would have been a good president (the answer is yes), and what the weather is like in DC. I asked him if he’d ever visited the United States. He said he had always hoped to, but didn’t think he’d be welcome now. I tried to offer equally comforting words, and not to cry.
Poor me on my gorgeous vacation, right? I mostly stayed silent on social media as I tried to pull my thoughts together and find the words to express myself. Eventually I read a few articles and posts that helped me begin to put things into perspective.
- How Your Calls for “Unity” are Exposing Your Privilege
- What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class
- Impact > Intent
Bottom line? As a female and as a (non-practicing) Jewish person, I feel marginalized. But I don’t feel personally threatened at this moment, and I need to always be mindful about the immediate impact this is having on people I care deeply about. Two of my friends have already been harassed.
The best thing we can do right now is call local government representatives to voice our concerns, and to donate (money and/or time) to causes that need support more than ever. Here’s the list I’ve pulled together so far, in no particular order. Do what you can. Consider donating in place of traditional holiday gifts this year. Every little bit helps.
- The ACLU
- The Trevor Project
- The NAACP
- Planned Parenthood
- Emily’s List
- Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
- Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
- The Southern Poverty Law Center
- The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
- Committee to Protect Journalists
- First Amendment Coalition
- International Rescue Committee
- Campaign Zero
Remember that these organizations will need support for at least 4 years, not just in the immediate future. Did I miss any worthy causes that should be linked above? Please share them in the comments below.