On the morning of the 2016 US elections, I woke up to the sound of “Oh. My. God.” It was 2:30 AM EST, 7:30 AM here in Morocco. My roommate was hunched over her phone, head in her hands, repeating the words “oh my god” over and over again. She had been following the presidential election polls on and off for over 5 hours and was just then witnessing Donald Trump reach 270 electoral votes, which is the minimum required for a president to be elected into office. It basically signified his win.
I didn’t have to ask why she sounded so upset; I already knew. I had been following the polls for months. I knew Trump had a shot at winning.
To be honest, I wasn’t very surprised. Yes, initially I was shocked, but that’s due to the fact that the news I received was sudden and horrifying. But the fact that Trump was actually elected didn’t surprise me in the least. I’ve always been very skeptical of the United States and its citizens. I can’t help it – I grew up there; I know what it’s like. I’ve driven past Confederate flags on road trips, I’ve witnessed blunt and horrifying racism on the streets, I’ve been catcalled by 40, 50, 60-year-old men in such dehumanizing and demoralizing ways that it’s made me physically sick. So no, I wasn’t surprised that Trump was elected as president of the country that holds so much hate and fear within its borders, but to get out of my duvet, turn on my phone, and see the election results right in front of me was a whole other story.
My first instinct was to tell everyone else in our building. I ran out onto the balcony. “He won,” I called down to my housemates. “I know,” was the saddened reply I got from Sarita, our teacher and mentor. Miro, an 18-year-old student, was in the bathroom brushing his teeth when he heard the news. He opened the door, shirtless, a tooth-brush dangling from his mouth (foam and all), and just stared at me. After repeating “what?!” several times in shock, to which I continually replied “Trump won,” he simply turned around and closed the bathroom door.
My next move was to call my dad; he’s always the first I turn to in situations like this – in any situation, really. He’s got a clear head and a warm heart, and it was just what I need in that moment. He answered on the first ring – I think he was expecting my call. “Dad?” I said tentatively, “He won.” It was all I could muster before I broke out in tears. We spoke for a while before I realized that I had to stay grounded, that I had to focus on who was with me at the moment, in order to maintain my sanity.
Sarita called us all down for a breakfast meeting in order to discuss and try to make sense of what happened together. At this point, we all knew Trump was the elected president of the United States. Before anything, she asked us to go around in a circle and describe how we were feeling at the moment. It ranged from deeply saddened (which was pretty common), to motivated, to angry, to anxious, and back. But many important things were said in that circle that morning; things that kept me from settling into a dark and unwavering mood.
The words I took most to heart that morning were those that reminded me of why I’m an activist – to push for change in the face of adversity – and that now is the time that this activism is most needed.
“Revolutions don’t happen when things are OK,” Johnny, one of our teachers, reminded us. “They happen when you hit bottom and then decide to fight back.”
Nonette, the mother of my fellow Earthbound student, and a well-known and loved climate activist, environmental lawyer, and indigenous rights protecter, also had words to share. “We just have to tell him that, you know what, whether you like it or not, I’m a woman and I’m gay and I’m black and I’m an immigrant and I’m still here and I’m still fighting.”
Whether you like it or not.
This struck a chord in all of us. Donald Trump’s racial slur, homophobic views, xenophobic policies, and almost-casual sexist comments have affected and targeted just about everyone at this point. To stand up to him and to say “regardless of what you want, whether you like it or not, this is me and I am still here,” is to reclaim our identities, to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, and to fight back. Whether You Like It Or Not was then and there adopted as our movement.
After our little circle, everyone felt a little more secure. We were able to refocus on our mission, why we were in Marrakech for the COP22, and what our next steps were. Our very next step was to visit the rest of Earthbound team to discuss further with them. Our “riad” that we are staying in during our time in Marrakech, Morocco is a house full of teenagers and adults aged 17 and above – the senior house, we call it lovingly. So, as we sat together that morning as the eldest of the Earthbound team, we realized we had to set an example for the younger students who might have been taking the news a little harder than we were.
So we made our way to their house and, for the next hour, we spoke with them. We asked them how they were feeling, tried our best to comfort them and inspire them with our call to action, and allowed their younger, but just as wise and even more heartfelt, words to do the same to us. We reminded each other that we are climate and social justice activists; that this is the fight we came to the climate conferences in Marrakech to fight. We healed each other and enabled each other to move beyond just sadness and on towards action – because we can’t stand motionless in the face of a Trump reign.
We’ve had bad presidents before (Bush is the first thought that comes to mind), but this is a president whose campaign saw an alarming increase in hate crimes; a president who continuously encourages violence both in and out of his rallies; a president who continues to declare climate change “a hoax” while his citizens are both literally and figuratively drowning in its effects; a president whose every word is laced with anger, hatred, and xenophobia (which are also the values his campaign was based on); a president who views women as hormonal sexual objects ripe for the picking; a president who is so clearly racist that it has shocked millions around the world to their core. This is the president that holds power over one of the most influential countries in the world in 2016, where people are more educated, aware, and globally conscious than ever. This is the president that my country voted into office on Wednesday morning.
And we’ve already seen the outcomes of his win. Since Trump got elected, hate crimes have been rising exponentially, children have been attacked, people of color have been told to move to the back of the bus or to go “back to Africa”, Muslim women have been threatened, harassed, assaulted, and beaten simply for wearing a hijab, and much, much more.
To those who complain that anti-Trump protestors, those who declare Trump #NotMyPresident or burn American flags or take to the streets to voice their opinions, are “whiners,” “sore losers,” or “non-democrats” (“butthurt” is another charming nickname I’ve seen used) – and you know who you are, your comments are all over my Facebook feed – you forget that a democracy is all about the people. If citizens are not happy about a decision that has occurred, they go out onto the street and they share their concerns. Would you prefer we sit there and take it lips glued shut, eyes pointed towards the floor? A democracy dies when the voices of its people are silenced.
I want to be a part of the democracy that goes beyond the elections. Earthbound is using the hashtag “#WhetherYouLikeItOrNot” to show Trump – and all of the world – that we are still here, that we are still fighting for climate and social justice, and that we will not be ignored. More than that, we are also using the hashtag to stand in solidarity with our brothers, sisters, and friends in the United States who are afraid to share that they are gay or Muslim or be proud of the fact that they are women, immigrants, or people of color due to the aggression and hate crimes shown by Trump supporters that reject these identities. #WhetherYouLikeItOrNot I am standing with these all of these people and more.
As Miro said the morning of Trump’s victory and our breakfast meeting and mourning: “It’s like a slingshot. We’re getting pushed back, but we are going to be flung forwards.”
I’d like to end this article with the following statement:
Dear Donald Trump. My name is Kyla Langotsky and I am a 17-year-old student, LGBTQ community member, woman, activist, and American citizen. Whether you like it or not, and you probably don’t, I am all of these things and more and you are #NotMyPresident.
Written by Kyla Langotsky (whether you like it or not)