Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election Day in Japan

I spent the historic election of 2016 in Japan. Saddened to not be surrounded by my fellow Americans as this event took place, I clung desperately to my cell phone, which would be my window to experience  this election. My day went like this...

I sported my "I'm with Her" button all day to show my allegiance to Hillary. Throughout the day I got many looks, inquiries, and messages of support for her. Teachers and students all seemed to be on my side. 

I started quickly working in the morning at a pace that was a reflection on my inner feelings. I was nervous, anxious, unable to settle. I had set reminders in my phone to let me know when it was 8 p.m. 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. on the American east coast so I would remember to check the status of the votes. 

After polls began closing in the U.S., I pulled up a live NBC News YouTube stream. I hid away to eat my lunch and take in as much of the continuous talking heads as my free time would allow. This is when I found out where we stood  and I began to get more and more anxious. 

David is the other JET working in my school. He is from Ireland, but on this day he was just as invested in the American election as I was. We both sat at our adjacent desks in disbelief at what we were looking at on our phones. "When will we know for sure," he asked. I told him we had a few more hours to go. 

In a couple of my classes I was able to take the opportunity to tell me students why I was wearing that button and what it meant. Most of the students in my school know about the American election, so their interest was piqued when I gave them the update. Every Japanese person I have talked to could agree. Trump-bad. Clinton-good. I made it clear that this election was historic for us. I saw the girls' faces light up when telling them that Hillary Clinton could be the first female president of the United States, and how huge that was. I wanted so desperately for Hillary to be a role model to young girls all around the world. 

I experienced my only peak of happiness when the entire west coast turned blue on NBC's map. I wanted to personally kiss every person in the entire west coast. But as I'm sure you're aware, my excitement was short lived. As my work day continued, the inevitability of a Trump victory became more and more apparent.  

When my work day finished, I went to see my friend Mari in her office. As we began talking, other teachers in the room began talking about the American election with us. One teachers reached out his hand to me with some chocolate in it. I am not sure of what he said but, I know it was something along the lines of "here you go friend, you're going to need this." Mari and I could agree I needed lots of chocolate and maybe some wine when I got home, to pacify my feelings of depression. 

I got out of school as quickly as I could because I needed to be alone to let the events of the day fully sink in on me. I sat on my couch and consumed no less than 10 mini candy bars (thanks Christopher) to drowned my feelings in chocolate. I decided to visit the onsen, thinking sitting in the hot water would soothe and relax me after a day full of tension. Even there I couldn't get away from the inevitable. TVs were playing U.S. election coverage on Japanese news programs. 

I walked home in a daze, feeling disappointed, defeated, and confused. Say what you want about Hillary Clinton, but when people lumped her into the question "is this the best we can do?" I never agreed. I believe she absolutely IS the best we can do. She worked hard for decades, shattering glass ceilings, blazing trails, and dedicating herself to the service of others. She DESERVED this, more than anyone. Donald Trump does not deserve to be given the gift to represent us. 

For women like me this hurt especially bad because we were so close. So incredibly close to achieving this long over due opportunity for equality. I believe she was our woman. She was supposed to be our first female president. I wanted so bad to be given the opportunity to experience what our country and the world could be like with a woman in charge. 

At the end of the night we all knew there would be some happy people and some disappointed people. I unfortunately had to be on the side of the latter. My disappointment will loom over me for some time as I try to make sense of our America. But, in a spirit of optimism I quote  Michelle Obama. "Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on Earth!"