What this election has triggered in me (literally)
When I was 19 and living abroad, four men came into my apartment. I didn’t know any of them, but they walked into my room at three in the morning. As three of them watched, one of them got onto my bed with me and started kissing my neck, telling me that he wanted to fuck me. His friends laughed. I was able to forcibly expel him from my bed, and one of my suite mates and I were able to get him out of the apartment.
I should note that these men were not strangers who figured they would see which random apartment would get them laid on a Thursday night. These were friends of my flatmate’s boyfriend, who figured they would tag along on his visit to his girlfriend in another city and stay the night in her apartment. If they’d asked, we probably would have let them sleep on our floor. We also would have locked our doors.
It was really hard for me to pinpoint the way I felt on Tuesday night, watching Trump take one key state after another, watching my country slowly descend into the horrible red hell we’re currently in. That tightening in my stomach, not knowing whether I needed to shit or puke. Lying in bed, crying about my future and the future of my family, I finally figured out what it was. It was that same sinking that I felt seeing three men laugh as their friend tried to have sex with me against my will in my own home.
My mother made me keenly aware that I had more to fear from being out in the world than men did, a fact that was verified when my butt was first grabbed at the age of twelve. A year-and-a-half before I even got my period, I was forcibly made to recognize the fear that I would need to don like armor, and that would probably not offer much protection. But with that fear came a fierce fury and the burgeoning seeds of the feminism that now defines me.
Right now, I feel that I am in danger. That my family is in danger. Because I just watched this country elect a man who cannot string a coherent sentence together; who cannot accurately identify what our biggest foreign policy issues are; who was supposed to be tried for raping a thirteen-year-old girl (who has now withdrawn even further into anonymity because of death threats); who lost his business a billion dollars and used it to avoid paying taxes. And I’m afraid for my neighbors, friends, and the little nieces and nephews I love more than anyone else in the world.
As a young Jewish woman, I was raised with a hyper awareness of how dangerous a place the world was. I am proud of who and what I am, and how I was raised. But my family has consistently reminded me that I shouldn’t advertise my faith and culture: that there is still a large percentage of people in the world that hates us and wishes us death. Before I moved to Ireland for my semester abroad, my mother warned me that sharing my faith and culture could put me in danger. While living there, ironically, my ethnically ambiguous countenance offered me security by allowing me to pass for Muslim, and given Ireland’s wonderfully accepting attitude towards its immigrant population, it felt safer to say that that’s what I was when people asked if I was from Beirut, Cairo, or Morocco. I told the people in one of my seminars that I was Jewish, as it came up while we were studying Ulysses. Wednesday was the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) when Jewish-owned businesses were vandalized throughout Germany. South Philly woke up on Wednesday morning to store windows tagged with Nazi slogans and swastikas. I implore people to please think on that before they tell me that I have no reason to be scared.
As someone who is culturally Latino, I am terrified for what this means for my family in Mexico City. I don’t know how easy it will be for me to go see my grandmother, or my cousins who I love like my siblings, or their babies whom I’ve barely gotten to know. When my father’s passport is checked at the airport, how much suspicion will they treat him with? Ever since I was little, customs officers have been almost bemused at his identity: “Isaac Schmidt? From MEXICO?” I’ve heard them say many, many times. I’m curious (read: freaking out) about how they’ll treat us Jew-tinos who probably share our last name with a bunch of dead Nazis.
I’m scared of what this means for the rights of my dearest friends, or of what this could mean for my baby nieces should they turn out to be gay. I am a firm believer that love trumps hate, but I want all of their rights protected. And as someone who has never identified as entirely straight, I’m scared of what this could mean for my besheret (read: the one I’m meant to be with). I think I’m likely to end up with a man, but sexuality is a fluid enough concept that I stand by the idea of “never say never.”
For my friends who are Black, Muslim, survivors, disabled, veterans, etc…. (I’m sorry if I didn’t name you here), I’m here to stand with you. Hate crimes are going up across the country by 30–50%, and I want you to know that I’m here. If you want to talk, vent, eat, drink, write, march, scream……whatever, I’m here and I’m with you. I’m with you all the way.
After telling my family about my assault on Wednesday for the first time, I had a nightmare that I got into a Lyft, and the driver proceeded to touch me. Let me rephrase: the driver literally attempted to touch me (in Trump speak: grab me by the pussy) even though I pushed him away and tried to fight him off. I got out of the car and ran back into my house, he followed me, and despite my screaming, my mother couldn’t hear me and didn’t come to my aid. I woke up when I got to the point in my dream where I locked myself in my closet and was waiting for him to come find me. So I’m afraid. I’m afraid all the time. Just thought I’d tell people what a seemingly “white” woman has to fear from this election result.