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Elected Grief

Patton Oswalt

I had something else written. Something I felt good about, but was honestly somewhat rushed. Wordstock prep consumed me last week, and now I'm in Boston for a conference all week long. This is rushed, but the urgency feels right. After last night, I wrote this instead.

I've been trying to put into words how I'm feeling about this election. Everything is overwhelming, yes. I'm sleep deprived, anxious, so many things, yes. The truth is: I'm feeling like I'm 13 again – in a harshly conservative town. Realizing I'm gay. Trapped by the community I was born into. I'm feeling back in the closet and unsafe. Like when I go to the store, when I hold the door for a stranger, when I travel, that if they knew who I was, they would harm me. That they are against me deeply, essentially, as a human being. After all, the next Vice President is a man who believes in conversion therapy - who believes that with enough electroshock therapy, I can be "cured." Almost 60 million people, implicitly, supported this ideology.

Let that sink in.

Technically, as of 4:17 PM Hillary Clinton was ahead in the popular vote. According to CNN, “She had 59,755,284 votes, [...] with 92% of the expected vote counted. Trump had 59,535,522. That difference of 219,762 is razor-thin [...].” And that, “Prior to Gore's defeat to George W. Bush in 2000, three other candidates -- Andrew Jackson, Samuel Tilden and Grover Cleveland, all in the 19th century -- had won the popular vote and lost the election.” Beyond the crushing feeling of the numbers, and as Roxane Gay put it for The New York Times opinion section late into the night, "A bigger part of tonight’s story is that millions and millions of Americans are willing to vote for a candidate who has been endorsed by the Klan. They are willing to vote for a candidate who has displayed open contempt for women. They are willing to vote for a candidate whose base is openly hostile to people of color, immigrants and Muslims. We cannot ignore the hate that Mr. Trump both encourages and allows to flourish. I am terrified that the more virulent of Mr. Trump’s base will see his election as permission to act on hatred." I also recognize I still maintain a level of privilege in all of this, because I can "hide my gayness," in some respect behind my white face. I never thought I'd look at the closet as safe again. I fought so hard to leave. I can't even begin to fathom what people of color are feeling right now. Queer people of color. Muslims. Non-Christian people of color. For them, there is no hiding. There wasn’t before, and there is even less so now. I can't even imagine. I'm not ready to imagine (also white privilege working). The world was already unsafe enough for people like me, for trans people, for people of color, for women. Now, I just feel like the bubble I have built around me, after moving to a more liberal city like Portland, has gone pop! I'm exposed. The safety net revealed to be a farce. Like I've just been lying to myself – and been lied to – about the world around me.

Through all of this, I had the extreme honor the Wednesday morning after the election, to listen to Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of the "most celebrated journalist writing about race today," speak at a marketing conference. He went off script and gave a speech about sadness, echoing the fears of many regarding what is to come. In part, he talked about the future of young girls, “The leader of the free world is somebody who through his campaign was recorded on tape effectively saying to the world that the lives, the physical bodies of young girls like that didn't matter.” Several people walked out. Many just complained on Twitter that it wasn't the place to be political. I was, however, one of MANY that gave a standing ovation. Hubspot, the company hosting the conference, only statement on the speech was, "We recognize that this morning's keynote was political and not what some had expected. While the election is top of mind for many, INBOUND has always been about inspiring, positive content. We're looking forward to the week's amazing agenda." A cop-out from controversy if I’ve ever seen one. Their twitter, that normally live-tweets even the most mundane of quotes from other celebrity speakers, has nothing about Coates on their feed.

Later this week at this conference, Alec Baldwin, Anna Kendrick, and comedian Sarah Silverman will speak. I wonder if the same will be said of them. That the attendees came for work, and not politics or comedy. I am deflated, but as Hillary Clinton put in her concession speech,

I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it too, and so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. This is painful and it will be for a long time, but I want you to remember this. Our campaign was never about one person or even one election, it was about the country we love and about building an America that's hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted.

We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future.

For now, we grieve. But we cannot wallow. I cannot go back. We cannot go back. There are more words. More feelings. For now, this is all I have in me.

Stay Backwords,

Phillip Trey

PS: Here are some wise words from George Takei.

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