For many, the very real and seemingly imminent reality that Donald Trump will become president is a fact that is not just unpalatable — but inspires fear. There are entire groups of people in the United States who have been singled out by Trump again and again as being unworthy, criminal, disgusting, and not even fit to live on American soil. In the wake of this fear, anger, confusion, and despair, a lot of people have gained a new perspective on the country they thought they knew. On Twitter, many are providing the message anyone feeling the urge to act out needs to hear on election night: which is not to act out, but to reach out.
What many have pointed out on social media as the results have poured in, showing Trump's lead, is that even if he doesn't win the presidency, the amount of support he's garnered is astounding. The sheer number of people who voted for him is a direct reflection of the beliefs, character, priorities, and goals of the American people. To be perfectly frank, there are a lot of Americans — perhaps far more than anyone realized until this moment — who support not just Donald Trump the candidate, but his rhetoric.
For marginalized people in America, this realization is one that has shocked even Twitter out of its usual coping mechanisms of memes and well-timed gifs. This is not a time to joke. It's not an occasion to make light. But it's also not a time to let the intense emotions (that come, it should be noted, at the end of a very long day) permit hatred, anger, and fear to rise.
For many of us who are in the often-blamed millennial generation, this is the first time in our lives when we are witnessing the dark underbelly of our country's history. America is, and has always been, a nation built on slavery. It's a country whose government has claimed ownership of women's bodies and health. It claims to be the greatest country in the world, but does not provide healthcare for every citizen. In fact, the disparity in access is staggering to other first-world nations. It is a country who has singled out members of the LGBTQ community and people of color in order to enact violence against them, only to gaslight them after the fact and deny them even basic rights.
The support for Trump should not have been such a surprise, and yet it was. America, even with this history known, has projected an image to its people and to the world: America is possibility, it's a cultural melting pot, it's a new life.
For those of us who grew up here, and were educated in schools that white-washed history and gave us a very United States-centric view of the world, what has been learned about the values and beliefs of the American people throughout the 2016 election should not have been so shocking, yet it was.
When people fear for their lives because of who is leading their country — who has promised to deport them, to strip them of their rights, to deny them access to healthcare — that doesn't sound like a democracy. It doesn't sound like what America claims itself to be.
The urge to fight is real, and it comes from that fear. And whether or not Trump becomes president, things have changed for America, and it may be quite some time before so many people — who have sat awake all night, terrified — can feel safe again.
As people began to band together to face the reality, social media lit up in the early morning hours with links to several nationwide crisis hotlines, which are available 24 hours a day. Even at 2 a.m. after a very harrowing election for many.