On Tuesday morning, I put on a bracelet that my grandmother gave me and a ring my mom gave me, because I wanted them close on the day we were going to put a woman in the White House. Although it was illogical, it just seemed wonderfully romantic that I would have a reminder of two of the strongest women I know on the day the glass ceiling was finally shattered. I haven’t been able to take those two insignificant pieces of jewelry off since.
I’ve been trying to figure out what to say or do or even feel. This wasn’t a normal election; it wasn’t a normal presidential candidate. I watched in shock like half the country, feeling like I couldn’t breath properly, as we somehow created a President-elect Trump.
To say it simply, I am completely heartbroken. To be clear, it is not because my candidate didn’t win, not because the glass ceiling is as strong as ever, not because Republicans now have control of all branches of government, not because the country is utterly divided, but because America embraced a person who opposes every positive thing I believe and feel about our country. I have broken down in tears more times than I can count over the last few days. It feels like an attack on the things we have fought for as a nation and supposedly hold dear, equality, freedom, compassion, basic common decency.
And yet, I fully recognize that this heartbreak is nothing compared to the fear that my friends of color, of the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and all immigrants feel. The fear that survivors of sexual assault and violence feel, the dread that I think all women feel somewhere deep down that if they were ever assaulted or raped that they won’t be believed. If you think any of these fears are dramatic, they are not. A hate-filled America is already rising.
If nothing else, this election has made me come to recognize the true encapsulating bubble in which I live. Not only from being a part of a very liberal generation or living in a state I could not be prouder of, but also from living as a straight white person in a time when I did not truly recognize the extent of my own white privilege until late Tuesday night. I was shocked by the results, shocked that this country was as divided as it is, shocked that it could be as ignorant and as unfazed to a racist, misogynist bigot, as it is today. My own naivety is what probably hurts me the most.
The morning after the election, my sister told me she had never felt more American, never felt so willing to fight for her country, to fight for what she believed. I could not have felt farther from that. I felt utterly defeated. Not only for all the reasons I have already named, but also for my own field, public health, a field that struggles constantly and consistently for equality, equity, and the improvement of lives, believing that small actions can truly change the world. This was a defeat of everything we uphold as basic principles of our work.
I don’t want this statement to be just a complaint or my own personal journal entry of all my feelings. This election made me hopeless and defeated, but I also know I can’t stay in that state for long. So this is my action list, a personal to do list to tell the government that they do not have, as Paul Ryan so joyfully put it on Wednesday, “a mandate” from the American people. I’m starting with the simple things that I can do, and those issues I feel educated enough on to properly and confidently articulate. Mostly, I’m starting with healthcare, simply because I know it, and that is enough of a start for me to act. I may not be fully motivated to take this on yet, but this is my first step and I encourage everyone to make your own list and take the first step too.
- Have an honest frank conversation, and try very hard not to yell my head off, at anyone who tries to tell me Trump will not repeal the ACA, or the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare). BECAUSE HE WILL. A number of news articles have said he has already gone back on his campaign promise and said he may just amend the ACA, which might be true. But this is so misleading it makes me cringe. The two aspects of Obamacare Trump wants to keep are minor, pre-existing conditions and staying on your parent’s plan until you are 26. These are crucial, but they are also bipartisan reforms that were discussed way before Obama was elected. Everything else, he wants to destroy, including taking away insurance from 20 million people who gained it through the marketplace, improvements in coverage of mental health care, and free preventative services.
- Educate myself on what he plans to replace Obamacare with. There are a few good explanations from the Wall Street Journal, Vox, and The Atlantic.
- Spam the hell out of Republican Representatives and Senators reminding them for the need for healthcare reform and declaring that they should not repeal the ACA until they have a replacement. If they absolutely insist on repealing the ACA, they need to replace it immediately. We cannot afford to leave 20 million people uninsured. I’m starting with the Republican representatives of San Bernardino and Orange Country, traditional red districts in Southern California that both went blue this election, for the first time since the 1930’s in the latter. They do not have a mandate at all and I feel the need to remind them of this. First and foremost, I’m starting with Ed Royce, the Representative of the district in which I grew up, who will soon receive dozens of emails and letters to his Brea office and Washington offices. For those in my hometown, here is his contact info: http://royce.house.gov/contact/getintouch.htm.
- Remind everyone that you can still enroll in the ACA’s marketplace. If you enroll now, you are guaranteed insurance through 2017, at least in states with their own marketplace, such as California. And one other thing to remind your representatives of, enrollments have surged since Tuesday night. Insurance = access to healthcare, remind your representatives of that everyday while they attempt to repeal it.
- I really can’t believe I have to say this, but declare over and over and over and over and over again that vaccines do not cause autism and smoking does kill, although Donald Trump and Mike Pence don’t seem to think so. I won’t even address this, because I will scream.
- Continue to advocate for syringe exchange and keep the federal government accountable to maintain the current funding allowances for harm reduction efforts. Without such efforts, we should prepare for HIV and Hepatitis outbreaks similar to that in Indiana.
- Educate myself on methods of birth control. I have a few wonderful yet ridiculous friends who always joke that I am their doctor. I realized this week, that this might be frighteningly accurate if/when Obamacare gets repealed and if Planned Parenthood gets defunded, as health educators will begin to be a very big source of health information for those who no longer have affordable access to physicians. Thus, I believe I have a responsibility to know the best and most accurate health information, especially in regard to women’s health. As many have said, IUDs will last for 5 years and are currently free with health insurance. There are 5 main types, learn about them.
- In that same regard, support Planned Parenthood. Women’s sexual and reproductive health under Trump and Pence are beyond terrifying.
- Lastly, this is not health related, but it’s simple. Support a free press by actually paying for it. I just subscribed to the New York Times, which cost me less than what I pay each month for Netflix.
This is a starting point and hopefully continually evolving. My actions are limited if they are alone, so make a list too, because it is the only way we can move forward.