The ladyfriend and I got hitched at the courthouse on Monday, November 7. The ceremony was two minutes long, streamed live on Facebook, and after a few hours hamming it up for pictures we were happily settled in at Charles Village Pub, our neighborhood bar, eating chicken strips dipped in buffalo sauce and drinking afternoon beers. A bunch of friends stopped by that night, a steady stream of loving faces with bottles of wine and champagne in tow, and for all my cynicism about marriage—and there's a lot of it—feeling all that love at once was pretty fucking great.
We spent November 8 cleaning up and packing for our honeymoon—I mean business trip—to Montreal. Before we could do that, though, we had to go vote. We both love voting. We'd wanted to get married on election day itself, but the courthouse was closed. We like to get all dressed up for the big event—last year she wore an Abraham Lincoln beard—so much of the day was spent planning our outfits and, for her, making a truly spectacular voting tie. We then pranced over to our local library, filled in our bubbles, and headed home to pack.
And then the results came in. I'm as cynical about presidential elections as I am about marriage. I loved getting married to my sweetheart, but I'm under no illusion that marriage is the way we should distribute social, political, and legal benefits. I love voting, but I'm under no illusion that voting is the best way to make real change. If we're serious about justice for people of color, for queer people, for people with disabilities, for recent immigrants, we're never going to vote in a president for whom those will be the priorities. That might be what I want, but in my view, the president's job is largely to lead a state committed to its founding principles: white supremacy, settler colonialism, patriarchy, and a near-constant state of war. I might prefer one candidate over another, but even if he's full of Hope and Change, he'll probably end up being the guy who deports more people than any other president in history. No matter who we elect, I'm pretty sure it'll be ugly business as usual for the people I care most about.
That doesn't mean, though, that it doesn't matter who we elect. This round it was pretty clear: A vote for Donald Trump was a vote for normalizing some of the most damaging xenophobic rhetoric I've ever heard, and I listen for that stuff. It was a vote for normalizing the regular harassment and assault of women, for nationalizing stop and frisk campaigns that have directly led to the early death of so many, for privatizing Medicare and Social Security, the only programs that will keep my mother and so many others out of abject poverty as they (we) age. No fucking brainer—I was voting for Hillary.
And that was a big deal for me. I've been pissed at her since the '90s. Her support of the 1996 welfare reform law is unforgivable to me. That act was the worst thing to happen to poor people, and specifically poor women of color, in generations. Its mandatory work provisions produced people receiving this particular social welfare benefit as one of only two populations in this country who are forced to work—the other are incarcerated people. In my world we have a name for forcing people to work, and it's not a good one. Unforgivable sin.
But shit, at least she wasn't the other guy! I assumed voters would know that we can't have an unhinged Twitterer running the show. The guy has no experience, a vision that leaves most of us out, and rhetoric that is really and truly violent. And even if the majority of voters didn't agree with that, I figured Our Neoliberal Overlords would find a way to keep this unthinkable thing from happening. One thing that guy and I agree on is the assumption that elections are rigged.
I was wrong.
We tried to go to sleep once it looked like the results were settled, but even if I wanted to sleep, my new wife's anxious and speedy heartbeat kept me up. She's a Hillary fan (yes, we're in a mixed marriage), and the loss was like a punch in her face. Nope, not sleeping, not today. So we zombie-d down to Penn Station, caught the train, and sat there with our thoughts for 15 hours.
So, so many thoughts, but mostly feelings, because this just feels terrible. Even though I understand the depths of racism and sexism, two of the founding ideals of our country, it felt terrible to see them so nakedly win out. It reminded me of when people went to vote on same sex marriage, and even though folks were ostensibly voting on rights, it felt like they were casting a vote on whether or not there should be gay people. As a gay people, it's very unnerving to know that close to half of your neighbors wish you weren't here. Even though the majority of voters voted for Hillary, millions of people voted against Muslim people, Latinx people, African-Americans, women, queer people. Sure, maybe they voted out of economic interests or frustration, but that won the day over the basic survival of the rest of us. I had nothing to say, nothing to think about that.
But my job is to think, so by the time we woke up for the first full day celebrating how awesome love is, I was already thinking—about how to teach in the wake of this, how to organize, who to call, how to look myself and the rest of us in the eye. I was resisting the desire for redemption, but redemptive moments kept rushing in: At least it's all out in the open now. This is a chance for a truly diverse left to organize for real change no president could ever bring. Things have been bad before, and we figure out how to survive through it.
But there's no redemption, especially on that last note. Many of us don't survive, and I'm not ready to go into sacrificial mode. We can't assume a way out, a way forward. It'll only be there if we make it, and that's a long game. Glad the ladyfriend's going to be next to me the whole time. That's actually the most romantic honeymoon I can imagine.