A few days prior to the election, a friend added me to a secret Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation. As the name implies, the page is filled with messages of love and support for our favorite pantsuit-wearing presidential candidate. When I was added, the group was already around 900,000 members strong. All different ages, all diverse voices, all with their own stories, from all over the world. I spent the days leading up to the election reading posts on the page from inspiring men and women. They wrote about their lives and their votes and their wishes and dreams for our nation.
By election day, the Pantsuit Nation Facebook page had swelled to more than 3.5 million members, many of whom had donned pantsuits on their way to cast their ballot. Images of men and women and mothers and grandmothers and sons and fathers and daughters – all doing something so historic – filled the page. It was unbelievably exciting and promising. That day was filled with so much hope.
In the days after the election, my attention alternated between streaming CNN, reading the racist comments of strangers on Facebook, and navigating the terror of Twitter feeds predicting end times. I could not look away from any of it. My shock and grief rendered me incapable of turning any of it off.
Eventually, I was compelled to leave the house. I needed to procure food for my family and I was also expected at work. I mean, I knew that life had to go on but it felt like it shouldn’t go on. Like we should just all freeze in place, life paused, taking in the gravity of the situation. I was just so emotionally raw. It was like my disappointment had manifested itself physically. I was sensitive to the touch and facing the world – the world that elected him – made my heart hurt.
It also made me suspicious. I headed to pick up some essentials at Target and found myself wandering and wondering at the same time. Did that person vote for him? Did that one? Where are the people that didn’t vote for him? The people that didn’t want any of this? They’re here, too, right?
I headed to the checkout with a cart filled with some supplies for my family and not an insignificant amount of wine for myself. As I, comically, loaded bottle after bottle on to the conveyor belt, the woman in front of me turned and we made eye contact. As I plopped the last bottle down, I looked at her and said, “It’s been a rough few days.”
“It really has,” she said, her eyes welling with tears.
We chatted for a couple of minutes and when she had paid for her things and grabbed her bags, she turned to me and said, “I hope you have a really good rest of your day.” I wished her the same.
It was instantly comforting. The gentleness. The shared sorrow.
It was the “revolution of kindness,” my friend, Jill, had prescribed the day after the election.
On my way out of the store, I had to make a quick return and when I stepped up to the counter, I noticed the employee helping me was wearing a safety pin on her shirt, a symbol of solidarity and refuge that had emerged in the first few days post-election. While I was standing there, another employee walked up and asked if there were any more of “those safety pins” and if she could have one. As the team lead at returns handed one to the employee, she asked if anyone else in line would like one and I mentioned that it was the first thing I had noticed on her shirt. She quickly explained that it wasn’t something “official” that Target was doing but just something she had wanted to do. I voiced my appreciation as she handed me a pin.
It was instantly comforting. The safety. The shared resolve.
Then, as I was standing in line at a restaurant, waiting to order lunch before work, two ladies walked up behind me and started chatting about the election. When their talk turned to “giving him a chance” and “he hasn’t done anything wrong yet,” I knew which camp they fell into.
“They’re all just so weepy and sad,” one of them lamented.
“Sore losers,” the other one chimed in, as if this were simply some sort of Monopoly game and we were upset that the board had been flipped.
In a move that surprised everyone, including me, I turned and said, “I’m not a sore loser. I just have grave concerns over the direction this country is headed since the MOST repugnant man has just been elected president.” Then, I stepped up to the register and ordered my salad to go.
It was instantly upsetting. The rhetoric. The bitterness.
Is this how it’s going to be now? Sadness, suspicion, division, loneliness, outright anger? Is every day going to feel like the comments section has come to life? What can I do?
And, then I thought about that Facebook group. A page filled with more than three million people that are all feeling the same loss and anger and division I’m feeling.
Those women and men started almost immediately to plan, to organize, to prepare to take action. Within hours, someone had purchased a domain so the group could better share information. When the call for website creation assistance went out, I watched on my laptop screen as, one by one, in the comments, volunteers lined up to work.
“I can build it.”
“I’m a software designer. I can help.”
“I can code it.”
“I’m an editor but can still help.”
“I’m a writer and would love to help.”
“I don’t know how to help but I want to help.”
Hundreds and hundreds of people offering to donate their time and effort. Both women and men but so many women. Smart, angry, resolute, unwavering women offering solutions and safety and solidarity and determination. So much determination.
That’s what we can do. We can fight. In a hundred different ways, we can fight. We can rally against what we know isn’t right. There are so many of us. We’re the army.