Work in the margins

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, I woke up at 4 a.m., checked my phone and sifted through heaps of Associated Press updates until I found the one I was looking for. When my alarm went off to get up for school, I couldn’t find the strength to move. I sobbed silently until I finally forced myself to go downstairs and hug my mother.

My mother, who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, date rape, domestic abuse and almost relentless oppression since the day she was born, remains the most confident and able woman I know. She has stood up for women’s rights and the rights of minorities her entire life without asking for credit or recognition, just so I can say that everything listed above will never happen to me. Because of the work of people like my mother, I love my country. And on Tuesday, Nov. 8, it felt like my country failed her.

I know many other people felt the way I did that morning: hopeless, powerless and defeated. It is easy to assume that Trump supporters voted to strip the rights of others, and we could continue to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. But then, when was the easy choice ever the right one, or the most productive?

It helped me when I remembered elementary school, and my teachers told me to show your work in the margins. This is what we can do in our own communities right now. If we feel marginalized and as if our futures have been put on hold, then let us dig our feet into the sand there, in that place of discontent.

Let us show our work in the margins.

Go to your community and thrive there. Keep making your art. Continue to combat injustices you see in school hallways and other places. Research how to reduce your own household’s carbon footprint. Volunteer at homeless shelters and human rights organizations. As long as you’re alive, you’re not powerless.

Significant air time has been given to the negatives from this election season, yet this is also a time of celebrated firsts. Ilhan Omar will be the first Somali-American legislator. Pramila Jayapal is the first Indian-American elected to the House of Representatives. Kate Brown is America’s first openly LGBT governor to be elected. Catherine Cortez Masto is America’s first Latina Senator, and the list goes on. Don’t discredit the victories of these people by continuing the focus on the negative. Your valuable voice is wasted in continuing to send out disappointed Tweets and moping in the company of the like-minded.

While we have a right to be disappointed, let us not forget that we still live in the greatest country on earth. Burning flags in the street, kneeling or sitting during the pledge/national anthem, rioting and protesting will do nothing to help the present situation. Turn that energy toward strengthening your social spheres and engaging in constructive conversation with the opposition. Heal your community with love and comradery, and, above all, don’t forget to show your work in the margins.