What do I tell my student?

As I sit here writing this, it’s almost midnight, and Election Day is almost over. I cast my vote around 5 pm this evening, just as the sky was dimming. I felt so hopeful, so optimistic, so proud. All day, I’ve been seeing photos of people’s voting stickers, their Clinton t-shirts and facebook photos and hashtags. All day, I’ve been looking forward to celebrating a historic election victory.

That day feels like it wasn’t today. Somewhere between when I cast my vote and when the results started trickling in, we left that happy, beautiful, hopeful day behind and stepped into a darker, colder night. The votes have been cast, and are now being tallied, and the numbers are looking more terrifying with each passing minute.

I’m a Queer Jewish woman who believes that everyone should have the right to marry the person they love and that women should have full control over their own bodies . I believe that everyone should have the right to affordable healthcare and a living wage. I believe that we are a nation of immigrants and that we should be helping refugees, not turning them away. I believe that America has its issues, but that turning back to the past will make them worse and not better. And I believe that a bully has no place in the White House.

For all of these reasons, I am terrified of what will happen over the next four years. But that’s not what’s making me cry.

There are so many reasons to cry tonight. I could be crying for the families that will be torn apart, and for the refugees who will get no second chance here. I could be crying for the Muslim Americans who will face harsher scrutiny, and for people with disabilities who will have a president who has mocked them. I could be crying for the many, many children that are literally having nightmares because of what our country might become.

But none of those things are what brought me to tears.

No, what made me burst into tears an hour ago, what keeps bringing those tears back to my eyes is a single, simple question: What will I tell my student?

Every day, I work 1:1 with students who have a hearing loss. And tomorrow, I will go to work, and I will see some of them, and the country will be a different place than it was today.

And all I can think is, what will I say?

What will I tell the students whose parents are immigrants and the student who wears a hijab? What will I say to the ones who rely on government assistance to put food on their tables? The ones who see news stories about people with their skin color, their language, their religion attacked and killed, sometimes by our very own police officers? What can I say to the student who is recovering from cancer and still needs expensive medical treatments, or to the ones who aren’t sure how they will afford new hearing aids? To the ones who want to go to college, but aren’t sure how they will pay? What will I tell the girls who thought and dreamed that they, too, might be president someday?

And what will I say to the student who told me that if she could vote, she would vote for Trump?

For some reason, that, right there, is the hardest question of all.

Throughout this election cycle, I’ve kept my political views to myself when working with my students. I wanted my students to reach their own conclusions and make their own informed decisions.

And this student, a seventh grade Hispanic girl with a disability*, told me that, if she could vote, she would vote for Trump.

Tomorrow, when I see her, she’s probably going to be thrilled that her candidate won. She’ll tell me right away how happy she is, and I will have no idea what to say to her. How can I tell her that no, this isn’t a good thing? That this is terrible for her as a woman, a person of color, a person with a disability? That, quite frankly, I am terrified of what might happen in this country over the next four years, of what ramifications those next four years might have for our country, and for the world around us, stretching far into the future? How can I tell her she’s celebrating a tragedy?

I made a decision to not share my political views, but this is bigger than politics. How can I keep my opinions to myself?

How can I face her tomorrow without bursting into tears?

What do I tell my student? What can I possibly say?

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