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From the Far Margins

On Nov. 9

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In retrospect we should have seen it coming; tasted the gunpowder and musk of anger in the air. We should have bought guns ourselves, or at least carried trash can lids or mace to get us home before the riots began.

An angry man will polish a firearm only so many times before he imagines using it.

Some of us took our sons and daughters into the voting booths as witness, to be part of history: the day a woman became president, the day America said it would not stand for just one race or one gender; would not countenance building a wall against itself, its children, its neighbors, its prosperity, its decency and compassion. Our children came to witness us rejecting the fear of those who worship other gods in other languages; from behind scarves, beards or veils. Children came to witness men standing with women for dignity, for self determination and the sanctity of "No."

No, do not touch me. No, I won't have sex with you. No, I won't let you kiss me. No, I don't want to hear what you have to say about my body. No, you won't be my president.

Others came to "Make America Great Again"; to build the wall, to lower taxes and elevate the sanctity of the unborn. But we all voted, hopeful, we'd lay to rest the fear so many of us felt. We didn't stockpile guns as others did. We had no reason to believe we'd soon long for the impoverished calm we'd come to know; the days of school, work, markets and barbecues; the way the children played.

For now, we hide at night from the men and women who roam with guns. We mourn that a president-elect has yet to take her seat. We cower from those riled by the one who lost—the one who sits in an armed tower and stokes the coals of a nation fraying at its every end.

On Nov. 9, 2016, in the wake of the vote, out from their houses and into the cold, people came. They ran to the Capitol and City Hall. They stormed government buildings and women's clinics. They made signs calling the president-elect a bitch and whore. They pledged allegiance to the Constitution, which—had they read it—would have told them to go home, wait four years and try again. It would have detailed the inalienable rights of women, immigrants and black men.

Those first weeks our families huddled in front of our televisions and cried. All across the country, civility broke down into chaos, terror reigned, police stations were seized, stores looted in panic, women raped. Places of worship were burned, including mosques and Islamic centers. Then roving bands torched shrines, synagogues and Mormon temples. Gay bars were gutted. Burnt corpses hung from the trees.

No home, hall or school was safe. They came looking for us—the feminists, socialists, environmentalists, Democrats, moderates and pacifists. We waited for the Army or the National Guard to come, but they didn't, not for a long time.

The character of hungry people is magnified: both beautiful and frightening; both good and bad.

With a few words, one failed and unhumble presidential candidate justified the pent-up atrocities of those who'd spent decades corralling perversions and violence into the recesses of their minds. One man gave them license and cover, and their sickness scarred a generation, cost the nation its prosperity and its place in the world.

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I ask when you endorse a candidate, do you listen to what they've said about what will happen the day after the election? Or do you almost wish for it—for the chaos and violence? Did you, too, secretly meet in basements, on ranches and compounds? Are you stockpiling fertilizer and ammunition? I ask now: What will you do if your candidate won't concede?

We are all Americans. We all want the world to be better and for our families to prosper.

On Nov. 9, we'll elect a president. Whomever it is, it will not be the president I wanted nor the president three quarters of Americans wanted—because that's the math of the presidential primary we've created in our very confining two-party system. This is a system that's open to change. It can be improved to let us vote for candidates regardless of party, allow us to rank our choices so we never throw our votes away on third- or fourth-party unknowns.

We are, the vast majority of us, among the most prosperous and privileged in the world. We wake up with clean water in our faucets, food in our cupboards and roofs over our heads. We do not generally fear we'll die on our way to work, or that bombs will fall from the sky, or the Army will come and take us without trial. On Nov. 9 we'll have a new president. We'll sigh or celebrate and go on with our lives as we have so many times before. What matters is that we do not let this divide us, within or between our parties.

What matters is that on Nov. 9 we wake and greet our neighbors and watch our children leave for school. We rise and, as Americans, remember our civility and the beauty that comes with being united for something better—not for a few of us, but for us all.