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Four days in November

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Berkeley High School students wave a Mexican flag while chanting "not our president" in opposition of Donald Trump's election as US President on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 in Berkeley, Calif. (Rachael Garner/Senior Staff)


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NOVEMBER 13, 2016

November 8

In the morning I drive Jordan to school, just like any other Tuesday. But it isn’t just like any other Tuesday. There is so much hanging in the balance. I am so damn ready for this election to be over, even though I know deep down that no matter the outcome, the damage has been done and the gaping wound will surely not heal overnight. The polling place is in the gym at Jordan’s school, so he comes with me to deliver my ballot, and the sweet little old lady lets him take an “I Voted” sticker. As I slip the ballot in the box, I say, “Look at this, Jordan. This is one of the most sacred rights of citizenship. It is my voice.” Outside, I hug him tightly and straighten his “Hillary 2016” pin. Earlier that morning, I told him that the Trump kids in his class would likely give him guff about it, but he didn’t care.

“I’ll just tell them I don’t want a president who doesn’t respect women,” he said. I watch with pride as my sweet feminist boy walks to his third grade classroom.

That evening, there is a spectacular sunset, so I snap a picture of him sporting his sticker and pin, and he asks if he can stay up late to see the first woman president. He is so full of hope. He believes in what he had been taught about American democracy, that it is the foe of the tyrant. It is the last night of his faith in his country. He is 8 years old.

November 9

I leave early the next morning for my 60-mile commute to school. I listen to speaker tapes to distract my troubled mind. The nausea that set in last night has not subsided, and I am continuously aware that I may need to pull over at any moment to vomit on the side of the freeway. Jordan calls me just as I pull into the Underhill Garage. I forget to take a deep breath before answering. I really should have taken a deep breath.

“How did this happen, Mom? How did he get enough people to vote for him? Don’t they know how mean he is?” The fear in his voice shakes me to the verge of tears. “I don’t know, Buddy. I guess we were all wrong.”

I spend the next 20 minutes telling him about how disenfranchised a lot of people feel right now, and how any animal who feels cornered looks for a way to fight themselves out. I explain that the Founders started this country because they didn’t want a king, so we have a series of checks and balances to keep any one person from getting too powerful. I am so torn between wanting to comfort him and not wanting to lie to him. I don’t talk about the Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate, or the terrifying prospects in the Supreme Court. He is scared for his friends. He is scared for himself. I am scared for all of us. This man, who can’t even keep his composure through a debate, will have control of our nuclear weapons.

After hanging up with my frightened son, I walk through campus like a ghost. I head to Doe to try to work on my essay, but I can’t focus. I attend the protests. I listen to Kashan talk about her encounter with a man in full KKK garb on her way to the BART station in Oakland that morning. I ruminate with Tessa on the doomed state of our planet with a climate change denier at the helm of our country. I find my Berkeley Connect mentor, Aileen, in the HFA courtyard and dissolve into tears the minute we make eye contact. She holds my hand and tells me to go home. I want to hug my kids. I want to be there to answer their questions. Strike that, I want to have answers for their questions. I want to believe myself when I tell them everything is going to be okay.

November 10

I go to work as an English T.A. at my old junior college. Ann, one of the teachers with whom I work, tells me that she feels like her body is still moving and doing the things she is supposed to be doing, except that she doesn’t believe in anything anymore. So many of my students want to talk about it. Some are afraid that their parents will be deported. Some are afraid that they will be deported. Many are afraid that the color of their skin will make them targets in this new world where “the voice of the people” has declared that overt racism is again socially and politically acceptable. I feel powerless. I feel guilty for wallowing in my own pain and fear when I know that it can’t possibly compare to the pain and fear of others. Stories are coming in from across the country of minorities (many of them children) being targeted physically and otherwise at school, at home and in broad daylight. I feel like I have been transported back in time. Or to another place. Is this really America?

November 11

I’m pissed off. I’m ready to fight. I will be an ally to those who need it, and I will be a thorn in the establishment’s collective side. I will remain vigilant. I will raise my children to be critical thinkers and activists. I will use my education and all other forms of privilege to benefit others. I will heed Langston Hughes call to “let America be America again / The land that never has been yet / And yet must be — the land where every man is free.”

Contact Bree Cassells at 


NOVEMBER 13, 2016