On the election, and feeling unsafe
I canvassed for Hillary on Monday. I live in a swing state, so I took my three year-old daughter out with me and a fellow Democrat to knock the doors of registered Democrats, remind them to vote, and see if they needed assistance finding or traveling to their polling place. We set out at 9am with our clipboards and our Hillary pins and went around town. Most people smiled and thanked us for getting out the vote. Some expressed concern with the election. One slammed the door in my face. But overall it was a morning filled with hope, kindness, and mutual respect.
As we walked down one cul-de-sac, a man drove up and jumped out of his car. He started yelling at us: “Don’t bother stopping by my house! I’m a Trump voter!”
We smiled and responded, “We won’t then! Have a nice day!”
He came closer. “You know, you women are ignorant and stupid. You need to watch some Fox News so that you can learn the truth and know your real place in the world.”
We kept walking. “We feel good and informed about our vote. Have a nice day.”
He came closer, standing uncomfortably close to us. “You know what would really make the world a better place? Having less Hillary supporters in it.”
We turned around to face him. “Well, one of the beautiful things about this country is that we can each believe what we want and agree to disagree. Have. A. Nice. Day.”
We turned around and kept walking. And he followed us. He followed us with a grin on his face, knowing that his physical intimidation was working. After a few minutes, he finally peeled off and walked back to his house. At the time I felt annoyed, but not overly upset. We made a few half-hearted jokes about it as we continued our work, finished up, and went home.
And then I shook. I shook for a solid hour. I shook and I cried. I felt ashamed that I hadn’t been more forceful – that I hadn’t yelled or screamed or called the police. I felt that I hadn’t done enough to protect my daughter from him. The “what-ifs” started scrolling through my brain: what if he had been carrying a weapon? What if he had grabbed at us? What if he hadn’t stopped following us? What if he did something to my child? And oh my heavens, what if Trump wins?! What if he wins and this kind of behavior is even further legitimized?!
And he did. He won. Donald Trump is the next president of my country. And you know what? I’m scared of the kind of policies and laws he will support. I’m scared of his executive actions. I hope that he will surround himself with people who have restraint and who embody good judgment.
But more than being afraid of his policies, I’m afraid of people like the man who followed me. I’m afraid of the people who drive through my town, flying the confederate flag with bumper stickers that say “grab them by the p****!” I’m afraid of the people who supported Trump, not primarily because they were afraid of Hillary Clinton or more liberal leadership, but because he embodied their racist, sexist, ableist, and xenophobic sensibilities. I worry that these people will be approaching more women on the street, more people of color, more queer folk, and harassing us. Or threatening us. Or harming us.
I have a lot of takeaways from this election, but the primary is one is that, as a woman, I feel wholly and viscerally unsafe.