I would be lying if I said I knew where to start. I haven’t known where to start for four years. Four years that I spent hidden within myself, focusing on my family, because when Donald Trump was elected, I felt like I was stripped of the words to which I have turned time and time again to make sense of the world and its complications.
It is child’s play, comparatively, to debate policy differences. Ethical questions. To argue for or against one side of a sociopolitical dilemma. With Trump, everything was different. I did not write in response to his blatant mockery of a physically disabled reporter because I never considered the fundamental rules of society that he brought into question to actually be arguable. How does one find the words to debate two sides of a circle?
Donald Trump’s election cleanly separated my life into a before-and-after. In the Before, I had a fundamental faith in humanity that I am only now learning to verbalize – it did not need to be verbalized in the Before – a faith that if I were standing next to a person, even someone who outwardly disagreed with or disliked me, and I suddenly fell into a pit of quicksand, that that person would throw me a rope. That if I were to choke in a restaurant full of people of faiths, cultures, political parties totally different from mine, someone would step up to give me the Heimlich. In short, I thought that there existed certain principles that can only be described as human principles, tenets unspoken but understood, certainly never questioned. Verbalizing what it was like to lose this basic faith is a task unto itself.
Imagine, if you will, that you are getting ready to make bread. You go to the store and buy flour, yeast, sugar, salt, seasonings. You drive home, gather all the ingredients in front of you in the kitchen, precisely measure them out into a bowl. You reach out your hand and reflexively turn on the tap, and then… nothing. You’re out of water.
Out of water? you think. How is that possible? Water was a given until that moment, like air for God’s sake. You couldn’t possibly be out of water. But, you are. So your ingredients sit out on the counter, rendered useless, and you slowly begin to realize that it is not just about the bread. You can’t make dinner. Or shower. Or flush the toilet. Or make the baby’s formula.
Of course, you find a way to move on. You buy bottled water, you move to a hotel or to a relative’s house, you hire a plumber… and you survive. But in the back of your mind, there is a nagging feeling, never quite letting you forget: We’re out of water. We’re out of water. We’re out of water. It will only subside when you have moved back to your home, plumbing and a blessed sense of normalcy and nonchalance restored, and you can return to your blissfully ignorant state of taking water for granted.
That is the closest that I can get to describing what it has been like to live in the four years of the After.
I am trying to describe this for you because I think that if you knew how it feels, truly knew, you would never vote for a second term. The reality is that if Joe Biden wins this election, the majority of you will return to your lives exactly as they were. This is not a luxury afforded to those of us who have been thirsting for our dignity for the last four years, waiting for the mere chance for our water to turn back on. We are scared. I am scared.
The trajectory of the United States of America has been overall two steps forward and one step back, rife with government-backed humanitarian travesties. But the net direction, I feel, has always been forward: More inclusion. More diversity. More acceptance. More people afforded their rights – not all, but more. The outliers have always existed – the extremists, the crazies. But their outlandishness was never in question, until today.
Today, the fringe segments of our society – because I do believe they remain the exception – have been given a voice disproportionate to their size and worth. For the last four years, I have for the first time seen my country go backwards in almost every sense. And I want you to know that the idea of this upcoming election being about party politics is a charade. You are not voting for a Democrat or a Republican, for higher taxes or tax cuts, for red or blue. No.
You are voting for the humanity of this country.
Maybe some of you know this, and you do not care – you can stop reading, as I am not speaking to you. I am speaking to those of you who were not aware that this is what is at stake for people like me in this election – those who belong to various clubs that make them “other”: religious, ethnic, or sexual minorities, the disabled, the sick. The “tired, [the] poor, [the] huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
I am speaking to those of you who will always be able to take water for granted, and I am telling you that your vote is a vote for or against quenching your fellow Americans’ thirst for dignity, security, and societal worth.
This president ran on the platform of a Muslim ban, which he instituted shortly after taking office. Immigrants specifically from Muslim-majority countries were stopped at the airport, detained, turned away. These immigrants are not unlike my father, who came to this country with nothing and studied to become a specialist in his field who saved countless lives. He and my mother raised three daughters, all of whom are now in the healthcare field in some capacity, two in the service of American veterans.
You are voting for or against religious tolerance and the strengths that diversity has brought to our shores.
This president erected a literal wall at our southern border. He denied victims of domestic and gang violence, poverty and disease, and financial stagnation an opportunity for basic safety and security that most of us thoroughly enjoy but never earned. He looked the people who laid their hopelessness at our doorstep square in the eyes, and he denied them a chance.
You are voting for or against our position as a safe haven, a lighthouse, a symbol of hope to the lost and hurting.
This president tore children from their mothers’ arms and locked them in cages. Many of them were mistreated and abused. A narrative evolved that – take it from a mother – is the stuff of any mother’s worst nightmare. Over 500 of these children have still not been reunited with their families, the equivalent of over 20 elementary school classes.
You are voting for or against the innocence of all children and their unequivocal right to be with their mothers.
Many of you know that I am an internal medicine physician. My job is to know as much as possible about as much as possible. But my finesse lies in my ability to know what I do not know. I diagnose what I can, but I must know where to stop, step back, and hand care over to a specialist – a cancer expert, a heart doctor, a surgeon. To do otherwise would be nothing short of disservice to my patients and my profession.
Allow me to reaffirm that the SARS-CoV-2 virus makes no sense. It is killing healthy young people and wreaking systemic havoc in the human body, causing death and disability that is not confined to the parameters of any medical textbook. It is testing our resources. We need each other now more than ever for the sake of ingenuity if we can ever hope to find a solution.
This president disbanded the National Security Council pandemic unit, and when the COVID pandemic hit, discredited and ignored top health officials. His recklessness cost over 200,000 Americans their lives.
You are voting for or against the humility and teamwork that has made modern innovation possible, and the worth of the providers who are on the front lines.
George Floyd’s murder marked the beginning of the largest national movement for Black equality that my generation has seen. This president has categorically denied the existence of racism within himself and within our society. If you, like him, do not believe it exists, I say only this – you have most likely never had to worry about being arrested for a broken taillight. You haven’t been watched closely or tailed while wandering around a store without buying anything, or been reported for birdwatching, or feared your sons will be shot unarmed in the streets. Even after this election, no matter the outcome, these concerns will not be a part of your reality.
You are voting for or against the right of your colored neighbor to be just as nonchalant.
This president has admitted to groping women against their will on tape. He has repeatedly attacked his female political opponents with sexist, downright mean-spirited language that you would not tolerate directed towards your daughters from a kindergartner much less a grown adult. He has repeatedly discounted women’s accomplishments and societal status, reduced them to mere body parts to be scrutinized.
You are voting for or against the dignity, the intellectual and physical autonomy of your wives, your mothers, your sisters, and your daughters.
You are voting for or against the moral pillars of this nation: honesty, integrity, accountability, generosity, fairness, justice. On this Tuesday’s ballot are the threads that were woven together to create the vision of a nation in which all men are created equal – a vision that has yet to come to fruition, but the attainability of which has never been in doubt. My faith in our steady progress towards this ideal was never in doubt, until Donald Trump was elected.
Please. At the polls on November 3, 2020, vote for this nightmare to end and prove me wrong.