Ugly American

On the night of the election I was driving from Richmond Virginia up to Capitol Hill in Washington DC.  I had been visiting friends and family in Richmond and was getting ready to spend my last night in town watching the election results with my grandmother’s best friends, a sweet gay couple in who have become like uncles to me.  We were all hopeful that Hillary Clinton would win and that my 97 year old fierce civic rights activist grandmother would have been able to see a woman finally in office.  As I drove up 95 I listened to the results come in on the radio.  About an hour outside of DC I decided to gas up and grab a snack.

As I walked in I saw a drunken man wobble over my way.  He stared at me with both a look of disgust and sexual attraction, a combo that every woman in the world is sadly familiar with.

“Trump’s winning” he said.  He got up in my face and said it again, and then again.  I side stepped him silently and ran into the rest room as he continued to try to engage me by telling me how “fine” I was looking among other derogatory statements.  I locked myself in the restroom and tried to get myself together.  I have been a victim of sexual abuse and get easily rattled by incidents like this.  I texted my husband and took a deep breath. I unlocked the bathroom door and peeked around and he appeared to be gone.  I walked out and shakily asked the clerk if the man had left and he said he had.  I got back into my car and hustled my way back to the District shaken by what had happened.  As my final hour of my drive concluded it was obvious that Trump was going to win the electoral college.  I got to my friend’s house and we all lamented to news together hoping for a last minute surge in a left leaning suburb of Michigan or any other area.

I went downstairs to the room I was staying in and let it out and cried.  I thought to myself “Is what I experienced tonight going to be the new normal?”  As the days have gone by since the election it appears to be that Trump’s campaign and subsequent victory has emboldened an angry portion of our population. I have talked to countless others who have been harassed they way I was or worse. I have read countless articles about hate crimes on the rise.

During the course of the election it seemed that Trump’s fanatic supporters kept going further off the beaten path of what most of us think about as “conservative.”  I grew up in a family that was sharply divided- half the family were Reagan democrats and the other were progressives.  For all of the uncomfortable dinners I endured with my family bickering over issues such as the Iran Contra affair or Bill Clinton’s scandal with Monica Lewinsky I never heard one iota of racism, homophobia or sexism.  I was brought up to believe that the N-word was the worst thing you could say and that immigrants made up our great nation, and that women deserved equal rights and equal pay.  I was raised to acknowledge that we all have our difference of opinions but that respect was paramount.

The inclusion of what is called the “Alt Right” (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/23/alt-right-movement-white-identity-breitbart-donald-trump) in this election year has had me spooked for some time now.  It goes against my very core.  It takes me back to a time where in the punk scene we would be fearful of white power skinheads coming to shows and terrorizing people.  Except now its and organized network of people who have succeeded in helping elect a man who has said vile things about women, muslims, the disabled and countless other minorities.

As someone who works in the beauty industry perhaps I live in a bit of a bubble of love and inclusion.  Cosmetics and hair has always been the place where those like myself who feel rejected from mainstream society have chosen to make their living.  I work with all races, creeds, genders, you name it.  I service clients with countless different backgrounds.  Living in Texas and Los Angeles for the last 7 years has made me particularly fond of the diversity in the U.S. I love that I can go from assisting a muslim woman with her wedding makeup to helping a trans individual learn how to conceal a 5 o’clock shadow. I would not want it any other way.  We learn from each other.  We embrace each other over a love of a good blush or an outstanding blow out.

I hope that in the upcoming months we will see the Alt-right get pushed out of mainstream politics.  I hope that the incidents of hate crimes go down.  I feel that the protests we have seen so far are addressing these issues of hate and ignorance beautifully. I will protest and survive this scary time.  And I hope that we as a society can rid the country of the ugly American that fails in representing our diverse and beautiful culture.

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