How do you live with an abusive mother? This is a question which has been plaguing me for years but which seems far more pertinent today than it normally does. It is a question which, in its many forms, is dogging Americans in the aftermath of the election. Whether America is the motherland or an adoptive mother, a foster parent or perhaps simply a hopeful ideal, she holds many of the same responsibilities given to human parents: to love, to protect, to allow her children freedom and to grant them the ability to pursue happiness. And yet these expectations, simple as they may seem, are not always met; abusive parents exist, and America is one of them.
I last saw my biological mother about five years ago. After she moved away yet again, I decided to conduct an experiment: I would not be the first one to establish contact. After all, I had spent years pursuing her, and all I had received in return was a string of verbal abuse, controlling behaviors, attempts to turn me against my father and extended family, and all the accompanying emotional damage one can expect to go along with such a relationship. She called me one day not long after she’d moved away, left a message on my voicemail that she was driving through town on business and to call her if I wanted to see her. I called back within five minutes, only to be told she’d already left, and that turning around was not an option. That was the moment I decided to begin my experiment. I didn’t call her, send an email or a Facebook message, a letter or a text. I didn’t hear from her for months. When I finally did, it was my birthday, and what I received was hate mail. My biological mother had made it clear that she did not want me.
Now, following the election of a man who spews verbal abuse against and threatens the physical well-being of many of this country’s residents, I feel like I have been let down by a second mother. This country is a form of mother to so many of us, whether we’ve grown up here or just arrived, whether we are citizens, dual citizens, documented, or undocumented. Yet for many, it feels as though America has rejected us, and if not us, then our family or friends.
Clearly, the massive support Trump garnered primarily from a white population is not indicative of a new or resurgent discriminatory base; ask people of color, or members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, or those with physical or mental health diagnoses, and we will tell you that this country was never a post-anything society. The United States has never been post-racial, as the thousands of innocent black bodies lying still in their caskets have shown us. The past 48 hours, and indeed the entirety of the election cycle, have confirmed our fears that the glass ceiling is still far out of shattering range.
The United States has a tenuous, contentious, hurtful relationship with many of us. I worry that that relationship will only become more strained, more abusive, as Trump and Pence conspire with the Republican-led congress to deny us basic human dignities such as access to health care, most notably reproductive and mental; the ability to live without fear of our own deportation or that of our friends and family; and the freedoms of religion, speech, and thought which are meant to be the cornerstones of our (indirect) democracy.
When confronted by the reality of an abusive relationship, wanting out is instinctual, if complicated. In many cases, as has been my case with my biological mother, time away from the source of pain can help to heal. At a distance and surrounded by friends and family – my father and stepmother in particular – and with the help of mental health professionals, I could heal. Believe me, I understand the collective impulse to flee which this election seems to have triggered. I am in Denmark currently, studying abroad in my penultimate semester of college, and many of my friends have expressed reluctance to return home. As NPR reported this morning, the Canadian government’s immigration webpage has been shut down by a surge of American traffic. I have Mexican citizenship, and several months ago I joked that I knew which side of the wall I’d be on, if the worst came. Well, the worst has come, and I feel America tugging at my heartstrings, willing me to come back. It feels as though a family member has died, and I am needed at home for the funeral. In the coming months, I know, America will need me – will need all of us – to support those targeted by Trump’s terrible hate. In the case of this abusive relationship, we cannot run; instead, we must join ranks and fight. This will be so much harder, but we must remember: el pueblo unido jamás será vencido.
This is not to say that we can fight the results of the election. My Facebook page has been flooded with messages of grief and support, anger, bewilderment, and fear. Among these messages are those which call for action, for marching against a Trump presidency. Let me make this clear: it is crucial that we do not protest the results of democracy. We can – and we must – stand against hate, and together in love and support. But to protest the results of this election would be a confirmation of the fears of the Trump electorate: that the “intolerant left” seeks simply to silence them. We can hope for an impeachment (though the reality of a Pence presidency would not be welcome either), but ultimately, as many Britons could tell you, we are stuck with this madness, and must be prepared to act accordingly.
That action: we must form a strong base of solidarity, of comfort and safety, and we must wait; this waiting, I know, will be the hardest part, but it will serve to prepare us for the long road ahead. We will wait for the inevitable proposal of hate-fueled legislature, for the nomination of bigoted justices, for cracks to appear in the façade of democracy. Then we will protest, we will march, we will sing, we will hold each other up and hold up the shelter that this country was meant to be. We will keep this country from crumbling and we will rebuild it, or make a new palace, a home and mother both to everyone who seeks love and acceptance and asylum, because there is no other way forward. We must do this, we must we must we must.
In the meantime, I send my love across the ocean, to all the survivors of the domestic abuse our mother country has inflicted upon us. Stay safe.