Before the election Donald Trump whined and threatened that if he wasn't elected he would refuse to concede and warned everyone repeatedly about voter fraud. But when the candidate everyone said they were going to vote for, that millions of Americans did vote for, the candidate who is dignified and qualified, when that candidate unexpectedly loses, we aren't supposed to question whether or not the election was rigged?
I know for a fact that my ballot wasn't counted. I live in Pima County in Arizona, a highly democratic county, and thousands of early ballots like mine remained uncounted when they called the state for Trump. There's something pretty fishy about that.
In the end it turns out that supposedly Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the election due to a technical error called the electoral college. If the situation were reversed would Trump have gracefully conceded? There's no damn way he would have! Hillary Clinton may have just been too damn tired of taking all of the abuse to keep trying, but I'm too damn mad and there is too much at stake to let her go.
All over the country people are protesting. And they should. We were robbed of our democracy last week. Not everyone can get out to protest in the streets, but people like me who have young children and busy lives, we are protesting in our own way. Not in the streets but on social media, with our friends and families. We can't let this happen to our country. We are asking ourselves, what do we do now?
I have been pondering this question for many days now and here is my answer to what we do:
We fight with everything we've got. We have too much at stake to sit this one out. How do we fight?
#1. Media attention
We need true investigative journalism to look into every aspect of this. We need to declare that there has been voter fraud and start investigating. We need to investigate both Republicans and Russians and look into how they might have manipulated this election. We need to investigate voter suppression. We need to investigate Trump's fraud cases with Trump University and the Trump Foundation. We need to investigate Trump's sexual harassment and rape charges. We need to investigate whether or not we can charge Trump for hate crimes for instigating violence at his rallies. We need to further investigate the role Comey had in throwing this election with his pointless email announcements. We need to investigate whether Trump's business relationships are too much of a conflict of interest for him to be eligible for the role of president. We need to investigate the role of the electoral college and whether that's been abused as well as how we can overturn it. We need to investigate this entire election with thorough reporting.
#2. Legal action
We need to follow up all of this journalistic investigation with legal actions against all of those responsible for intentionally impeding the election. Voters in each state need to hold their states accountable for properly counting their ballots. We need to hold Comey accountable for colluding to influence an election. We need to hold Trump accountable for all of his crimes. We need to hold the Republican Party accountable for their gerrymandering and voter suppression. This is the United States of America. Let's sue these assholes!
#3. Protests and petitions
We need to continue peaceful protests and signing petitions. We need to demand that the electoral college be disbanded and the popular vote instated. We voted and we deserve to be heard. This is our country, and we're not giving it up without a fight.
There is a lot that needs to be done, and of course we all have busy lives. Pick one action and run with it. Call your local news station or paper and ask them to investigate this election. Talk to the lawyers you know about pursuing the legal aspects of this. If you can't make a protest in person, sign a petition. Do what you can do and know that no matter what happens you can feel better for having tried.
I leave you with this inspiration from Bob Marley, "Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights...get up, stand up, don't give up the fight!"
When I was a little girl my mom did a very good job of teaching me to see things from different points of view. I would ask her challenging questions about the way the world worked and she would answer to the best of her ability in a way that taught me that life isn't black or white.
"Think about it from their point of view." she would often respond when I would ask why a certain group of people acted a certain way. And she would point out how some people were raised differently, or how their life circumstances gave them a different point of view than I had. And my mind would expand from it's tiny little center of judgement to a greater acceptance of our many differences.
Unfortunately for our country, not everyone had a mom like mine.
It seems like every year we are increasingly divided. Red states vs blue states. Liberals vs conservatives. Pro-choice vs pro-life. Pro-vax vs anti-vax. We are pitted against one another as if our differing ideologies are insurmountable. We become the "other", and the judgements rain down in online comments where we make bruising accusations about the other's intelligence and sanity.
This polarizing reminds me of my experience with gangs growing up on the Navajo reservation. As a teenager I was friends with people from different gangs, and I flitted back and forth among my various friends without worrying about who was wearing what color.
One day this disregard for differences seemingly led to the death of several of my friends at a party. A friend I had invited showed up, and it turned out he was from a rival gang, which I hadn't realized when I invited him. There was fighting and eventually gunfire. Two young men ended up dead, and two would spend many years of their lives in prison.
I felt a terrible sense of guilt for this. When people die we often find ways to take on their deaths. The things we could have done differently that might have stopped it, may have led to a different outcome. I retreated into myself, and it took me many years to recover some semblance of my open-minded, easy going nature that I felt had led to those deaths.
Since that time many more have died in gang related violence on the Navajo Nation. The saddest aspect of it all is that most of these gang members are from the same tribe. Some are cousins or share the same clan. They grow up angry and hurt because of the results of the horrific systematic genocide and racism that has been inflicted upon indigenous people for generations. But instead of taking their anger out on the system, they take it out on each other.
What an effective way to control people. Red vs blue. Hillary vs. Trump. Distract, distract, distract. Pit us against one another so that we are so engaged in fighting each other that we forget who we are really angry at.
I have to admit I have had a hard time understanding why anyone would support Trump. My mother is much better than I am at maintaining an objective point of view. My ire goes up when I see anyone bullying anyone else. I was picked on too.
I remember one day, when I was very little, a group of boys had gathered around a puppy in our schoolyard. They were shouting at it, and chasing it with sticks and rocks. I was a very shy, withdrawn little girl at this point, and struggled to speak above a whisper in class, but when I saw this puppy it reminded me of times that I had been picked on and I was angry. "Stop it! Leave him alone!" I yelled at them, and they were startled enough to stop.
Suddenly I discovered that I had allies. My standing up for the puppy inspired other kids to stand up for it too, and afterwards we gathered around him, speaking to him in soothing voices and petting him until it's tail wagged and he forgot the abuse he had just narrowly escaped. The mean boys left and for that moment I felt a sense of power that I had never had before.
Everything about the Trump campaign has brought back that same sense of indignant injustice I had of seeing a puppy getting kicked by bullies. "How can anyone vote for this mean man?" I kept asking myself after watching clips of his speeches and seeing him invoke violence and hatred and mean-spiritedness in the crowd. The day he made fun of the disability of a reporter tipped me over the brink of understanding. How could people in my Down syndrome community supoort this man? I could not understand it.
But recently my husband told me a story that helped me to wrap my brain around it. One of the fathers in his group was grappling with who to vote for. He is a conservative, and he knows that whoever wins the election will have a huge impact on the supreme court. He has a little girl with Down syndrome and he doesn't like the way that Trump talks about women or people with disabilities, but for him the alternative has such terrible ramifications that he can't decide what to do.
Now this I can understand. While Hillary Clinton's policies and idealogies mostly coincide with my own, and her history of defending disability rights gives me great hope for my son's future if she were to win today's election, I have struggled with my concern over some of her actions. Even as I type this thousands of water protectors are gathered at Standing Rock in North Dakota, trying to stop the building of a huge pipeline that will destroy their sacred lands and endanger their water supply. President Obama has put a temporary halt to the pipeline, but he has not stopped it. It is as if he is hoping that the protestors will go away and he can sneak out of the presidency without anyone noticing how little he has done to help preserve the environment. He rode in on the promise of hope and change and saving the earth, and he rides out with American oil and gas production at an all time high, and very little of those promises fulfilled.
The woman who is hoping to come riding in after him is also doing nothing to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Whatever lip service they might give to the environment and indigenous rights is just that, lip service, and it angers me to no end. I feel even more betrayed that they are from the party that readily admits that global warming is a real and present danger. How could they do this to us? Why are we being betrayed by the people who are supposed to represent us?
And this is where I find the common bond that I had been struggling to see. Republicans, Democrats, we are not so different. Mostly we want the same things, with some minor differences. We want our friends and families to be safe, for our freedoms to be protected and for our government to look out for our best interests and otherwise stay out of our business. And none of us is getting our needs met.
If we could stop pointing fingers at one another for a moment and come together, we could stop those mean boys from kicking that puppy. But it is much easier to point fingers at one another, to feel that we are superior in our ideologies. Just like those gangs that I hung out with in high school, we have been played so well that we are attacking each other instead of the system that has failed us.
When our own government blatantly violates it's own rules, like ignoring tribal treaties and using violent force against peaceful protestors, then it doesn't really matter which puppet leader we elect. As long as their strings are controlled by corporate interests, we will continue to see our environment and our rights eaten away.
There is this old saying, "Together we stand, united we fall." Today that is an especially important reminder. We have allowed our petty differences, our "othering" to blind us to the real problems that are plaguing our economy, our environment and our freedoms. Together we must find common ground, and we must stand together to stop this great evil. We cannot let mega-corporations bully us any longer. We must protect our water. We must protect our land. We must protect each other. I don't care if you are blue or red or purple, you are human, and you can change the world, together with me.
It starts with voting. Today, on November 8th. The democratic system might be terribly broken but at least we still have it. Do not let the bullies win. If your heart cannot let you vote for Trump or for Hillary, vote for someone else, someone you do believe in. They always tell us that third party candidates can never win, but that's only because we believe them. Vote for the people you believe in, and for the things that matter most to you. And then stop blaming the other side, and start a conversation. Ask "How can we work together to make the world better?"
I believe in you. And I believe in me too. Wherever there is an attempt at greater understanding there is tolerance. And where there is tolerance there is peace. And where there is peace there is greatness. Let us all be great.
Every year starting in November I join the ranks of all the other wistful writers who hope that signing up for National Novel Writing Month, aka Nanowrimo, will turn them into a novelist.
This year I've barely had time to write Facebook status updates much less anything resembling a novel. And I know that signing up to write 50,000 words in a month isn't going to change that. So I've decided that instead of writing a novel, I'm going to let out all of the things that I've held back on writing all of these years because I've been afraid to hurt someone's feelings, or to reveal the shitty person I really am.
You know what? I just turned 40. My life clock is ticking in a serious way and I don't have time to hold back just because you can't take it. So here goes, day 1, here's some shit I'm afraid to say:
The fact that my son has Down syndrome sucks. I put a brave face on it because I don't want to reinforce all of the negative stereotypes that are causing people to abort Down syndrome out of existence, but the truth is, I hate that my son has to work so much harder than everybody else just to reach the basic milestones that other people take for granted.
I hate to admit it but I am a competitive mom. How well my kids are doing feels like a reflection on me. I've put aside my career for years to help these little fuckers be the best they can be, and for what?
With Down syndrome it doesn't matter how much of a rockstar mom I might be, it's going to take my kid longer to accomplish things, and he probably will never be able to accomplish some of the most basic skills in life, like driving a car or having a family of his own someday. That's a hard pill for a competitive mom to swallow.
Last month was National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and I started off the month strong, posting positive little tidbits about my kid so people could see that his life is worth living.
But then someone asked me about cognition. And I wanted to respond to her question. Because most people won't say it, but what they really want to know when they find out my son has an extra chromosome is "how stupid is having Down syndrome going to make him".
And I know that I shouldn't say the word stupid. I know that no matter what word we use to describe it, that stupid is the word that we're really afraid of. That's why we don't use the word retarded or mentally handicapped anymore. And eventually we won't use the term cognitively impaired anymore because people will begin using that in a negative way too. Because no matter what we call it what we are actually talking about is intelligence, and intelligence is impacted by Down syndrome.
In answer to the cognition question, I don't know what this will mean for my son. All I know that he will not be as intelligent as he would have been if he didn't have it. And that sucks.
Which isn't to say that I don't worry about my other kid too, I just worry about him in a different way. I worry that he'll be a drug addict or an alcoholic or teen parent. I don't worry about that with Benny. So, in that way Down syndrome is great. But when I see other kids his age talking in full sentences or able to understand complex concepts like "Can you put this in the trash?" my heart breaks a little bit.
At two, the differences aren't that obvious yet, so I know that my heart breaking now is nothing compared to how hard it will be as my son gets older. The differences will become more and more obvious. Right now he makes friends fairly easily, and none of them seem to mind that he only has a few words, or that his coloring skills are incredibly limited.
There is a reason that anytime a person with Down syndrome accomplishes something that typical people do all of the time everyone makes such a big deal out of it. We are all terrified that our kids will never be able to do that.
I have mixed feelings about it. Every time someone shares that a person with Down syndrome got a job or got married or went to the prom I feel torn. On the one hand it does give me hope that my son will be able to have these things too. On the other hand it makes me sad that these things are really not that extraordinary for typical people, and it seems that it's the most that I can hope for because my son has Down syndrome.
But I'm still that competitive mom. I want my son to do extraordinary things. If he wants to be a surgeon or a novelist or fly to the moon, I want him to be able to do it. If he wants to get married and have kids, I want him to be able to do it.
But the reality is that Down syndrome can be very limiting. In every single one of his cells my son has an extra 21st chromosome that fucks everything up for him. We do everything we can to offset it, he gets therapies and supplements and specialized medical care, but at the end of the day, it's still there, and it's still harder for him than it would be if he didn't have it.
Which is why I love my son but I hate Down syndrome. So there, I said it. The shit that I didn't want to say. Tomorrow I'll say more shit I'm afraid to say. This whole month of November is going to be a shitstorm, and I'm not just talking about the election, but you can better believe it's going to come up, because that is some serious shit right there.
Thank you for joining me. I apologize if I've offended your sensibilities with my cursing or my honesty, but I can tell you that it's only going to get worse. Feel free to ignore my posts altogether throughout the month of November, as I will be continuing on this cathartic journey of oversharing until the end of nanowrimo. If you are easily offended I will see you in December, when I will return to my regularly scheduled programming.
Since becoming a mom to a little boy with Trisomy 21 I have written a lot about Down syndrome and disabilities. I am a storyteller, wife and mom to a teen and a toddler. Life is busy!