This has been a taxing, exhausting please-wake-me-now nightmare roller coaster of a week and I have never been more grateful for Caren Jeskey, EGD's dependable Austin Bureau Chief, to hop off the bench, helmet in hand, and trot onto the field to call the play while I lope to the sidelines to dunk my face in a bucket of water.
Four long years ago, three friends and I got gussied up to celebrate the win of our first female president. We milled about, eating hors d’oeuvres and sipping drinks in a ballroom at the historic Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin. We were ebullient and confident. We knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Hillary would be crowned our triumphant winner. We’d feel safe as the new mother of our country led us further out of a stifling past into a world where women were finally recognized as competent leaders. We’d already been touched by the power of the night back in 2008 when we elected our first black president. Times were clearly changing. We were heading closer to freedom; a world where people were judged not by the color of their skin or by their gender, but by the content of their character.
As the results rolled in, we slowly started to realize what was happening. Grace was our voice of reason, reminding us to stay calm and accept the outcome regardless of the results. The others and I tried to pull ourselves together. We managed brief moments of composure until once again we became doubled over, gut-punched with shock, fear and grief. I started thinking “we need to get out of here.” We were right next to the cesspool of Sixth Street, Austin’s version of Rush Street during its heyday. All I could imagine out there beyond the swank walls of the hotel was drunken frat bros and Proud Boys in the streets screaming “grab her by the ______!” It was terrifying. I felt protective of Jeff, who was destroyed, but for some reason wanted to stick around— denial I think. Maybe he was thinking that if we only waited long enough the outcome would surely change. The results were proving otherwise, grinding us down further each moment. I convinced Jeff to let me get him and his husband Tony home, pronto. We guided him out of there straight to the safety of my car parked nearby, as he reeled.
As a disenfranchised person, a woman, my heart poured out for Jeff and Tony that night. As a woman, I have to live with being undervalued and underpaid, silenced at meetings where men’s voices shout, and I have to put up with harassment and real threats of my safety simply walking down the street. I can, however, as a straight person marry whom I chose and have always had that right in my lifetime. Although I am verbally manhandled and have been occasionally physically groped, I do not face the reality of being the target of a hate crime every time I hold my husband’s hand.
We needed the Hillary win. We needed her to scare the misogynistic naysayers and put them in their place while we continued to build a more equitable and compassionate society. We didn’t get her, and have been watching our nation turn into a pathetic joke. Even more scary is the fact that so many of us are somehow looking the other way— or shouting in protest but doing nothing— while the man we elected behaves in unconscionable ways. He is directly responsible for the high number of COVID deaths. He has no regard for the lives of children who are trying to immigrate here for a better life. He was Jeffrey Epstein’s friend, and who knows how many women have been accosted by him. He’s a clown in a suit and anyone who can disregard his abusive ways and vote for him based on a single issue, or because he is a “good businessman” (which he is not), are harming human lives and the integrity of our nation.
I watched footage of Joe Biden appearing overly physically familiar with women, and I recoil at these images. The difference is that he is able to admit that he has made mistakes and must do better. I am not excusing his bad behavior; however, a man who is able to say “I”m sorry” and a man who is teachable is a safer man than one who is incapable of admitting wrongdoing. We cannot have a grandiose, woman-hating, migrant-hating man from an immigrant family taint our soil any longer.
I realize that history repeats itself and we are in a phase of change. Undoing white supremacy and an anti-feminist, anti-gender binary world will take time. I am heartened that so many strong young leaders are finally gaining some foothold. I look forward to standing by their sides, watching and helping the wave of progress wash over our country in the years to come, regardless of the throwbacks who futilely want to stop evolution.