I can vividly recall the day of the 2016 elections. I was so excited about the possibility of the US’s first female President. With friends and family, I had spent weeks talking about how Donald Trump didn’t stand a chance. There were innumerable Trump memes that we laughed at and gleefully circulated.
On election day, my female co-workers and I decided to dress in pantsuits and pearl necklaces to show support for our new President. I left work early that day to watch the election results confirm the victory of Hilary Clinton.
I was so proud that my daughter would watch the elections during her first year in college. Together with her friends, she would witness the swearing-in of our first female President. What better proof could there be for young ladies that the glass ceiling was penetrable and was indeed broken, at the level of the highest office in this country? “What a proud moment”, I thought, and thought about how I would call her after, so we could celebrate this day together.
But what happened next was the stuff of nightmares. I watched disbelievingly as Hilary lost state after state. My husband and I decided, at one point, this was too difficult to watch and told our daughter to go back to her dorm as well. Candidly, we were a bit concerned about some kind of an impromptu protest at her college that may turn violent. But our daughter stubbornly decided to stay and watch this event unfold to its brutal end.
A few minutes later, my husband mentioned we were out of milk. I looked at him not comprehending why that was an issue at this point.
He said, “Let’s go to Costco.”
Comprehension dawned and we both came to the unspoken understanding that we needed respite from this brutality. I quickly hopped into the car with him and away we went, mindlessly walking the aisles of the large store. Looking up from the shelves, I noticed another shopper – a woman dressed in a pantsuit, just like me. Who, it seemed, had walked away from her TV to the comfort of grocery shopping without remembering to change, just like me. She looked up and saw me, and my pantsuit. We gazed briefly at each other, in sadness. We were acutely aware of a profound sense of defeat. A loss of humanity, decorum, femininity, and everything that we held in high regard. But there was nothing to say so we both moved on.
In that state, we shopped, came home, had dinner, and retired for the night as the bad news continued to pour in. I had secretly hoped that the trend would flip while we were shopping but that was not meant to be. We texted our daughter and again begged her to go home but she refused to budge and stayed in the community hall to watch it all. Late in the night, it was all solidified – there would be no female president. The man that everyone had mocked was going to occupy the White House for the next four years. It was a night of fear and worry, and very little sleep.
The next day morning, I dressed for work, trying not to look at the pantsuits in my closet. Not far from my home, I stopped at a traffic light. Two lanes were going each way on this residential street where I had stopped. As soon as the pedestrian light turned green, a man in a wheelchair started to cross the intersection. He was in a manual wheelchair, not one of the fancy motorized ones, and was moving slowly. He may have been physically weak as he seemed able to turn the wheel of his wheelchair very little each time. I saw in the opposite lane, there was another car stopped, and the man at the driver’s seat glanced in my direction. We both silently wondered if this wheelchair would make it across the street before the pedestrian light turned red again.
The air was already heavy with defeat and it seemed we were two people trying to get on with life but hindered by this man’s ability to cross the intersection without being run over. I could feel my sadness magnify at the sight of the weak old man crossing the intersection, one minuscule turn of the wheel at a time. And in that moment, it seemed as though the burden of it all, of life itself, was getting too much.
Suddenly, as though caught in a moment of impulse, the driver of the other car got out, leaving his car stopped in the intersection. He walked to where the wheelchair was inching along.
“Let me help you, Sir”, he said.
Stepping behind the wheelchair, he grabbed the handles at the back and proceeded to gently push the wheelchair until it was safely on the other side of the road. The wheelchair occupant looked relieved and gratified at this unexpected assistance and thanked the driver. I found myself smiling with relief and respect for my fellow driver as he dashed back to his car just before the traffic light turned green.
This man’s gesture of kindness suddenly seemed to lift the fog from my spirits and changed my perspective. It suddenly dawned to me that it doesn’t matter who sits in the White House. It doesn’t matter because there will always be decency, there will always be kindness, and therefore there will always be hope.
With a sigh of relief and a silent thanks, I drove off to work, feeling empowered to face the day and the next four years.
I recall that moment today, and I hope that I can hold on to that moment of goodness, love, and friendship. And I hope I can put myself at ease. Not because someone I admire is the President of the United States, but because I have faith in the goodness of the common man – the woman in the store, the man in the wheelchair, the driver of the other car, and the many people I encounter every day. We are not helpless pawns in a political game. We are creators of our own and each other’s everyday experience. We are what makes the community, the city, the state, and therefore the nation.
And that is how I know, we will be ok. America will be ok.