Last night our nation took its first step into an entirely new frontier as we officially nominated the first female presidential candidate. The nomination was not particularly surprising, as the rise of Hillary Clinton has been expected since the day her husband left office. But it didn’t make the event less historic, or lessen the meaning for the thousands of young women—like myself—who watched from home as a woman who was born before her gender had the right to vote pledged her state to Clinton.
I myself will vote for her, not because she’s a woman, but because she represents ideals that I believe in, and I think she is our best hope for our nation’s security. And, as Andrew Sullivan so beautifully phrased it, “The only thing between him and us is her.”
“Him” being the literal elephant in the room, Donald Trump, and the America that he stands for. A divisive, angry America, one that whips its members into a rage. One that has worked for eight years to apply pressure to the boiling pot that has become the new Republican base, until it is ready to explode, taking common sense and American values with it.
Yesterday, hours before our nation made history, I was a casualty in one of these explosions as an older man I have never met before called me a cunt after hearing me say Hillary Clinton’s name. I was standing in line for a baked pretzel, speaking to an old college friend, who had asked me if I had watched Michelle Obama’s already famous speech at the Democratic Convention.
“I watched it this morning,” I told him. “I think she did a wonderful job of humanizing Hillary Clinton.”
Like a Pavlovian response, the man behind me started practically shaking in anger as he interrupted my conversation and asked me to repeat myself. I didn’t—I was too surprised at his response—but it didn’t matter. He had already blown. Although I hadn’t said anything remotely complimentary about her, just the sheer mention of Hillary Clinton’s name had snapped something in this man, who seemed to be my father’s age. In the middle of a mall, located just minutes outside of our nation’s capital, this raging man proceeded to ask me how anyone could humanize that “Cunt Hillary Clinton.”
Surrounded by families and children, this man—who was so much bigger than me—came incredibly close to my face and called me a “Cunt for Killary.” I’ve never had someone call me a cunt to my face before, and it’s difficult to verbalize how deeply it can cut. The word means nothing, especially when wielded by someone who knows nothing about me. But there is so much implied meaning when a stranger calls you a cunt: He doesn’t simply mean to offend and degrade, but to devalue your very person. It’s far more pointed than being called a bitch, because it’s not about your behavior. It’s about your gender.
The man was nearly apoplectic and continued, now almost screaming, to rail against all the “cunts like me” who knew nothing of the real world, but who find it so funny to “sit on our Twitters and spew #feminist bullshit,” and how me and my legion of fellow cunts were going to elect that bitch to office without ever looking past her gender. There was something about how Hillary had opened her legs to all of Washington D.C. He said something else about social media. He called me a cunt a few more times.
Everyone around us was staring as I stood there, literally shaking, as the man continued to scream at me. I tried to answer, but couldn’t, instead letting out an unintelligible stream of “uhm,” and “excuse me.” My friend was speechless, incapable of processing the situation, and in a detached sort of way I noticed that there were small wet spots on my t-shirt because the man was yelling so forcefully he had actually spit on me. Terrified and on the verge of tears, I said goodbye to my friend, left the line, and actually caught myself looking back to make sure he hadn’t followed me.
I pride myself on being a woman who stands her ground, who doesn’t back down from a fight. To the chagrin of all who know me, I’m incapable of not having the last word. I don’t often feel physically threatened, and although the man did not raise his hand to make or make any kind of warning, I felt scared for my safety in a way I have never experienced before. My mind cycled through what to do: Do I call my family? Do I interrupt my boyfriend at work? Should I call the cops? In the end, I drove myself home, downplayed the situation to my boyfriend, and fought back tears as I relayed the story to family, ashamed that I had let it shake me so thoroughly. I felt vulnerable, ashamed, and violated by that man.
If this sounds insane or unbelievable to you, it’s because it is. This doesn’t happen, right? There was clearly something wrong with that man, and the state of the political union had nothing to do with it, right? But this does happen, time and time again. We have watched a Trump supporter berate a black woman on public transportation because he didn’t have a seat. We’ve seen people scream at Hispanics to go cook burritos.
We, as a country, have become so divided and polarized that we are attacking strangers in malls at the mere mention of Hillary’s name. Much of the problem is Trump, and his unabashed support for blind rage and anger. Half of the nation backs a man who has no regard for anyone but white men, and the occasional attractive female. But, as those who know him best have warned us, Trump’s regard for a person only extends as far as they remain useful to Trump. Trump asks not what you can do for your country—but asks only what you can do for him.
This self serving populist mindset is what has connected and reverberated with his base, whipping up a legion of Americans who now think solely in terms of what is due to them, and how others have robbed them of what is rightfully theirs. As Jon Stewart points out, it relies on an inherent belief that America belongs to them.
“You just want that person to give you your country back because you feel you’re this country’s rightful owners,” Stewart said. “There’s only one problem with that: This country isn’t yours. You don’t own it. It never was.”
But this anger and rage exists outside of Trump supporters, and has been there long before Trump cycled from comedic relief to realistic nightmare. It exists in my own home, quietly burning away in the heart of my mother, who has called Clinton a bitch more times than I could possibly count. It exists because for eight years, the Republican base has been ignored and stymied, both by the liberals in power and by the ambitious Republicans who have supposedly been elected to represent them. It exists because the GOP as we know it is dying, and we are in the midst of its last, desperate, terrifying fight for survival. In the eyes of the Republican base, there is truly only one thing standing between them and their country: Hillary Clinton. And so she has become the enemy, a boogeyman of terrifying proportions who will swoop into the heart of America and change it.
Although she is a deeply flawed candidate, she is the one I will support, even if it means being harassed in malls and fleeing from angry white men. Because to me, even with the campaign fraud and the email scandals and the untold number of skeletons in her closet, Clinton represents an idea of the America I would like to live in. She represents a woman I could aspire to be—a woman who is strong, poised, and prepared to adapt. A woman who wouldn’t run from that man in the mall. A woman who, as fate has made it, is literally the only one standing between us and the onslaught of Donald Trump, who is the human embodiment of the worst our nation has to offer.
So I’m with her—for better or worse, and for all that comes with it.