I am back, and I am sorry for such a long silence. At this junction, I felt the need to write on the blog, again. There is this urgency that took hold of me as we entered January and the inevitable is upon us. You know what I am talking about. The 45th President of the United States of America is going to be inaugurated on January 20th, and I cannot help but feel restless, and continuously disappointed with how the 2016 presidential elections unfolded.
I was super excited about this election, even more so than in 2008 when the possibility of the first Black President gave us hope for progressive change, and made many of us root for Barack Obama. This election was a milestone for me. I was going to have my voice heard after years of sitting on the sidelines and watching. As a recently naturalized citizen and a first time voter (Yes, I am ashamed to confess that I never voted in Senegal, although I was the first to complain about the government), I could not wait to cast my vote. I registered as undecided and studiously read about the history of both major parties. I followed the campaign closely and leaned toward Bernie, though the possibility of having the first Woman President took over my heart most of the time. When it was clear that Bernie would not be the democratic nominee, I easily went with Hillary. I watched all debates and was confident that her opponent had no chance at winning. Not because I underestimated him, but because I overestimated the American people’s goodness, their tendency to fight for justice, and their ability to think for themselves. However, when I saw his rallies on television and listened to people around me, I was shocked that so many, especially women, found him capable of assuming the highest office in our democracy. The realization that such a large number of people espoused his scary ideas was overwhelming.
I voted early in my state to make sure I did not miss out on the opportunity. I proudly wore my “I voted” sticker all day, and smiled every time I looked at it. I was elated, and proudly American. I guess like many of you, I was too arrogant and comfortable in my belief that she would win. I did not necessarily agree with all she stood for, but the alternative was not an option for me, and I liked to believe that it was not the option for most Americans. Although it is true that the majority of Americans voted for her, he still won, and THAT, is the truth that we need to face. A good number of Americans thought that his rhetoric and propaganda were what they needed, and went out in numbers to have their voices heard.
My nervousness turned into shock when he won. I did not know what to tell my children when they woke up excited that she had won. My daughter cried, and my son sat on his bed, silent. I hugged them and held my tears. I realized then that they went to bed in one country, and woke up in a very different one. One in which we might have to fight harder than even before, to matter. I considered taking everything I own and run back to Senegal. As the Wolof saying goes: daw ca ba ngay ami tank [One should run while one has legs]. Yes, I freaked out. At work, my colleagues cried with me. Without telling me, they had worried about me because they saw me as one of the people he was targeting in his speeches and tweets: I am an immigrant, a Muslim, and a woman. Their support showed me that many Americans were not happy he won. After the initial shock, I was numb for days.
Now, the man who vowed to deport millions of immigrants and block another million of Muslims from entering the US, a man who was caught on tape talking about women as objects with no value that he could use and discard at his will, is going to head the most powerful country in the free world. This worries me so much that sometimes I do not sleep well at night. I am worried about the future, and I cannot find peace in knowing that America is a strong democracy with a majority good people who would not stand aside and let him have his way. I am worried about the future of my children who know no other country but this one. However, when I thought more about going back to Senegal, I was reminded that this country is mine too. I have lived here most of my adult life, and my children were born here and know no other home. They have the right to this country as much as I have a right to Senegal.
It is only few days before his inauguration. My shock and panic are dissipating slowly and I have come to terms with the inevitability of his presidency. However, I will not be disempowered. I have decided that he may have won the electoral vote, but he will not win over me. During the first weeks after the elections, I hesitated to answer people’s eternal question “where are you from?” These days I respond: “I was born and raised in Senegal, but I am an American too.” Depending on how the conversation carries, I might add: “I am a Muslim too.” If they voted for Uuru Aara, they would know that I am pretty much the sum of all identities whose rights he promised to alienate. But they would also see that I am here, I am staying, and I am not afraid.
As always, your comments and feedback are welcome. I’ll be thrilled to hear your experiences with this year’s elections and how you feel about the future.
 In Wolof culture when you are upset with someone and do not want to utter their name, you call them Uuru Aara, which does not really have a literal meaning but is understood as “the one whose name I do not want to utter.”