Between the Lines: What they can’t have

Today, I don’t want to be happy.

Like so many of my colleagues and friends, I’ve been up for the better part of 24 hours, covering what was supposed to be a major victory, if not a landslide, for Hillary Clinton. This article should be about the challenges that the first female president will face and the long,, grueling road the country had to journey to get to this point.

But that’s not our reality. Donald Trump is our next president. Come Jan. 20, Barack Obama will leave office and Trump will take his seat in the White House.

It feels like a bad dream, the type you dread but know will be over once you wake up. But there is no waking up from this nightmare.

For so many people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, Muslims and even just people with basic decency, the last day has felt like a slap in the face.

When Trump started his campaign, some of his opening remarks centered around how Mexicans, my people, were criminals and rapists.

For nearly every other group imaginable, Trump has attacked and hurt them in equal or worse ways. Whether it’s bragging about sexually assaulting women or threatening to keep a group of people out of the country based on their religious beliefs, he’s had no bars to hold in his scorched Earth path to our nation’s highest office.

He’s become a tool of the far-right, a convenient excuse for racists, misogynists and xenophobes to creep out from the shadows and show their faces. And to top everything off, they can now spout their hatred with legitimacy. Their candidate, after all, is the President of the United States of America.

So, no, I don’t want to be happy. I want to be angry. I am angry. Angry at a nation that chose a man who has scorned so many of my people and friends. Angry at the spineless opportunists who propped him up along the way. Angry at it all.

But anger won’t fix any of this. Donald Trump is great at making people angry, because it’s easy. But what he hates, that’s something he can’t stop, something more powerful than any rage.

It’s joy.

Joy is like happiness, but it’s more beautiful, more profound. It’s the feeling of being in your mother’s arms or hearing a beautiful song for the first time or running through a playground as a child. It’s pure and perfect and powerful, everything that Trump is not.

See, that’s what this election has really been about. It’s not been about policies or who is qualified. It’s always been about whether or not our country would choose a president who has made it clear that our joy is a threat to his own existence and the existence of those like him.

Joy is what’s made us strong, even when the weight of the world has been too much to bear. It carried our forefathers from distant lands to this country and allowed us to build our lives into what they are today. Without joy, there is no motivation, no inspiration, no creation. Joy has been the spark for all of it.

The beautiful thing about joy is that it can never be taken. Not without your permission, at least. People will hurt us, call us lesser, hate us, abuse us and even try to kill us to take our joy away. But they can never have it. Not if we don’t let them.

So let them have their day. Let them have their Oval Office. Let them have their election. But never let them have your joy.

They can call us rapists, criminals, terrorists, pieces of meat, whatever. But they will never take our passion. They will never take the feeling of love we have for the people we care about. They won’t have it because we will refuse to give it to them.

Even though it doesn’t seem like it now, the American Experiment has seen darker days. Only 50 years ago the federal government had to enforce the voting rights of all people, regardless of their skin color. Now, we’re coming off of the presidency of a black man. Make no mistake, progress has been made. But there’s still a long way to go.

This morning, we woke up to the reality of a President-Elect Donald Trump. It’s a new day for our country, one that may seem murky and cloudy. I’m not happy. I’m sad and scared and confused and angry.

But tomorrow, I may be a little bit better. And the day after that will be better than the last. I’m going to work and write and love harder than before, because that’s what brings me joy. That’s what makes me unbeatable. That’s what makes us unbeatable.

Joy is the one thing they can’t take from us. Our joy is the one thing they will never have. That’s why, even though it feels like tomorrow will never come, it’ll be here eventually. And we’ll be able to smile again.

Joy is why, even when we’re down, we’re never truly defeated.

  • Absolutely! Well written, Esteban!
    Hate and anger cloud our judgment and there is only one clear path ahead for all of us. To understand why hate won the Oval Office and how to reach out to those poor souls who had no one but a man like Trump sticking up for them.
    There is very little love in this world, very little respect for the life of a fellow human. We have to keep pushing for those within the fabric of society, a little at a time.

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