Like millions of people around the world, I’ve been deeply affected by the recent U.S. elections. I have lived in various parts of the United States, and will visit my 30th and 31st states in the next two months. I’ve loved this country dearly and have learned a lot from the people, the different states, and the culture. However, I lost faith in my country after hearing the results of this election. I’m embarrassed that the U.S. elected a president whose values undermine those of so many others, and who insults every woman and minority. Nevertheless, I want to make one thing clear: I am not ashamed to be an American. On the contrary, I am extremely proud of my American heritage. The 2016 election does not define me, nor does it encapsulate the rest of this country. If anything, it has reminded me of why I love America.
Since the announcement of our new President elect, everyone has discussed the division that exists in our nation and how bipartisanship has enhanced polarization of important issues. This is undoubtedly true: never have we been more opposed to each other on matters like civil rights, religion, abortion, education, the environment, economics, and international conflicts. Rather than listening to each other, we have shouted our views across the room waiting for someone to react. We are addicted to the malicious drama incited by what was once a good, ole’ rational debate.
What the hell happened to us? Politics were once something that people discussed rationally at social gatherings, but now it seems to cause anxiety and anger from all corners.
People Once Divided Coming Together
I won’t analyze why this changed over the last couple of decades. I’m not a political expert and really have no intention of fueling the fire. However, I would like to make an observation. The reactions I’ve seen on social media demonstrate that while people are angry with the election results, they are also willing to be proactive about the future of this country.
I’ve read about Jewish and Muslim mothers comforting each other because of the hate promoted by the Trump campaign. People have rushed to the support of the LGBTQ community, ensuring their acceptance and ability to love whomever they wish. I have also read an incredible amount comments from men defending women’s rights, something that speaks to my heart above all others. Fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, you name it: men and women are making it a point to stand up for one another like never before.
We will move on and we will be stronger for it.Trump and his supporters do not speak for the rest of us. The support and love we give each another is a testament to our strength as a country and why I love America.
Compassion and Never Losing Hope
I’ll admit it: I had a panic attack as I saw the results rolling in on election night. All of my coworkers looked dejected the morning after the election. My first instinct was to check on immigration sites for New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and even Denmark to figure out how I could switch my professional license to another country. I fought with my husband about leaving the country because I was so ashamed to live in a place where people voted for someone who fueled hatred for the rest of the world.
After settling down, I began watching commentators speak about education, love, laughter, and acceptance. That last point is important: we must accept the results and move forward. PROGRESS is not easy, has never been simple, and will always be challenging to meet. People forget that America is a relatively young country, so it’s expected that challenges hang around every corner.
Trump voters are also angry, and we can’t really blame them. I live in South Florida which is heavily populated and has a booming economy. Similar situations exist in New York, California, Washington D.C., and other major metropolises across the country. But what about the middle of America? Farmers, industrial workers, and blue-collar laborers who have watched their jobs get exported to other countries. People who may not necessarily agree with Trump’s social issues, but have become infuriated by low wages, long hours, and no opportunity for growth. Rather than shunning these people for their decisions, we need to extend our friendship and show some compassion.
The messages being sent around social media have been admittedly angry and confused. However, I’ve seen a lot of optimism shining through the negativity. People trying to make each other smile with jokes and pictures. People showering each other with love and comfort. So if I’m going to label another reason for loving America, it’s that we never give up hope.
Keeping the Peace
Now before everyone starts to freak out and jump down my throat, hear me out: this entire election infuriated me over the last two months, only to be summed up in one disappointing moment. I felt so angry that I couldn’t feel my legs. I am afraid for friends and family who will be targeted by Trump’s administration. Everyone has a right to feel this way. But let me educate you on a tool that I use every day as a physical therapist.
As I’ve mentioned before, I work in a hospital where we receive cases from all over South Florida. As a physical therapist, I see everyone. It’s one of the reasons why I love my work: I’m not restrained to one specific niche. I see trauma cases, cardiovascular patients, people with neuromuscular disorders, and even people with chronic medical issues. Every once in a while, I’ll even be sent to the psychiatric unit to treat patients with orthopedic issues. As you can imagine, I meet people with very different backgrounds. Many people are frightened of hospitals, and a lot of them become angry, agitated, and even combative in stressful situations.
Now let me ask you something: do you think it would be right if I screamed at or hit any of these people just because that’s how they acted towards me? Where would that behavior get me?
Nowhere. (And fired.)
Instead, I lower my voice and I tell them, firmly but gently, “Take a deep breath. You are okay. I’m here to help you.” It doesn’t always work, but it de-escalates the situation and prevents any more damage from occurring.
Next time you find yourself having a debate with a Trump voter, or even a supporter–because they are not one in the same–try to level out the conversation. Expect that things will escalate, but then do your best to keep matters calm. Be the bigger person. Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and another reason why this country is so great. Defend the people being targeted by Trump’s administration. Above all, listen and learn from each other.
Take Action and Become an Educator
Susan B. Anthony fought her whole life to allow women the right to vote. The 1960’s saw the Civil Rights movement come to fruition. Gay marriage is now legal across the United States. Just because the country saw these hallmark achievements doesn’t mean that they are permanent. Rome was the largest empire in the world for 1000 years and then it crumbled. Nothing is ever permanent, and these issues will always be challenged by people who make the same historical mistakes over and over. It is our personal duty to stand up against the opponent and teach them to learn from these mistakes.
Don’t feel ashamed if you think you have to leave the country. It is your right if you feel jeopardized, which includes a lot of people at the moment. To those directly impacted by Trump’s comments and threats: I am so sorry. This must be so difficult to digest. I can’t promise that things will be okay because I don’t know what the future holds. As a woman with a diverse ethnic background, I too feel threatened by Trump and his unqualified advisors.
However, staying is also admirable. And you don’t have to feel ashamed of being American. It’s certainly a feeling that many can understand, but you don’t have to feel that way. Instead, every time you meet someone from another country, explain the situation from your point of view. Educate that person. Spread the word.
When I was in Australia this past summer, I had conversations with people native to the country, and those from different parts of Europe. They weren’t filled with anger and misconceptions. Instead, they were civil and informative.
You can also do your best to help support groups by donating and volunteering.
Read about and interact with people of different faiths. You’d be surprised how much you all have in common.
Try and understand what made voters decide to elect Trump. I know this one is hard to understand but knowledge can be a weapon when used wisely. We need to understand each other in order to prevent this from happening again.
And finally, learn about your local representatives. They are the ones who can make changes closer to home.
Why I Love America
Like I said, I’m proud of my American heritage. I won’t shy away from that identity just because Trump is in office. If you really want to know why I love America, take a look at the list I’ve compiled for all of those who have lost faith in this great country.
I love America because the people are welcoming and warm all over the country. Sure, we all have our differences. But deep down, we share a lot of similarities with one another.
I love America for the support people lend to one another.
I love America for the progress it has made in the last century. Let’s face it, we are so far ahead of where we were 100 years ago.
I love America for its ingenuity and all the contributions it’s made to the world.
I love America for Ellen DeGeneres. She’s the best, you can’t deny that.
I love America because when I walk through customs at the airport, they greet me with a smile and say “Welcome home.”
An uphill battle awaits us, but America is home and I choose to defend it against those who threaten to destroy it.