the day after the end of the world

On November 9, 2016, the sun rose up just as it had every day before. I woke up with a heart so heavy I felt it in my eyelids. I numbly made my way through rush hour traffic to sit in a classroom filled with other artists. A classroom I have sat in nearly twenty times over the last six weeks with these very people. But on this day, everything was different. A sullen-looking acting teacher walked through the door, his eyes met only by the tops of heads looking down at the ground. We were tired. We were scared. We were lost. “How is everyone doing?” He asked. Silence swallowed the room. Slowly I looked up at him, our eyes locked. “I’m mourning.”

The previous day had been a day that changed America. A day that changed the world. I sat on my sofa watching the results pour in. Watching as my country voted on the value of my rights. Watching as my country decided my rights don’t matter. I watched with a lump forming in my throat as my country decided I can be sexually assaulted and my attacker can go on to become President of the United States. My stomach dropped and I watched as my country decided the LGBT community deserves to be led by a man who believes he can electrocute queerness out of human beings. My eyes welled with tears and I watched as my country decided every woman deserves to be led by a man who made his political career out of stripping women of their rights, taking away access to birth control, routine health screenings, and access to abortions even in cases of rape or possible death to the mother. The last of my hope burned out and I watched as my country decided that two men who made their way to the White House by promoting rampant racism and sexism deserve to run our country.

This was no ordinary election. This election wasn’t about Republican versus Democrat. Male versus Female. Higher taxes versus lower taxes. This election was about human decency. It was about human rights. It was about respect and values and standing up for what’s right. So when I watched my country decide that my voice and all minorities’ voices were to be silenced, that all of the progress we have made, all of the great strides our predecessors fought and died for before us meant nothing, I couldn’t just chalk it up as another hard loss and move on. And I couldn’t distract myself from the fear that not only returning social stigma but soon laws as well will back me and millions of others in this country into a corner again. I curled into a weeping ball as the reality looming above me slowly sank in. My country doesn’t believe in my human rights. I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me and I didn’t even see it coming. I had no energy to fight. I had no strength to stay positive. I was overflowing with sadness and insurmountable fear. All I could do was stare at the ceiling and let my faith in this country roll down my cheeks until my pillow was soaking wet. The night of November 8 was a dark blur.

This is not the America I thought I knew. I do not feel a part of this America. I do not wish to claim pride in my nationality. I think to myself, “I could leave. Travel for the next four years. Avoid this place, avoid this danger.” But anywhere I go, I will forever be an American. I cannot run away from that. I have been and will be an American every day of my life. Even on that day, the day America decided I don’t matter. That the lives of my friends don’t matter. That human beings can be subjected to hate and violence for the color of their skin or their sex or their religion or their sexual orientation. The day America failed. Even on that day, I am an American. For the first time in my life, I find this inescapable fact to be unsettling.

The news is full of stories about hate crimes within hours after the election. A new wave of emboldened bigots led to power by this man. This is Trump’s America, by which I am sickened. And yet, the fact remains, I’m still an American. So this is my responsibility too. It’s all of ours. Even if my Vice President sees me as ¾ of a full human being, his America is still my America too. Every spray-painted swastika, every family ripped apart by deportation, every hijab torn off of a woman walking down the street, it’s all happening in my country. It’s not someone else’s responsibility to stop this. It’s up to us, all of us average every-day Americans who still believe in respecting those from all walks of life. This may be Trump’s America, but we’re still here, too. And we’re not going anywhere.

Right now all I have are questions. How do I go about my day as if I’m not terrified? How do I write about anything else? How do I think about anything else? Where do we go from here?

And right now, I don’t have a single answer. All I know is that our hill to climb is now immensely taller. I know we have a lot more work to do. I know that I still believe in love. I still believe in art. And I still believe in the future. There will always be a future to fight for. A future to work tirelessly for. A future to progress towards. There will always be a reason to reignite our hope.

November 8, 2016 was the day I learned just how horrific things are in this country.

But November 9, 2016 was the day I learned one of life’s most important lessons: Even after the world ends, the sun will still rise another day.

Taylor Byers