In late November 2016, my therapist told me that I—along with much of the country—might be dealing with something she called “Post Election Stress Disorder.” More than two years later, I am less acutely traumatized by my own realization that so many of my compatriots are racist, sexist xenophobes and I am instead more generally anxious about the nation’s political fragility. After years of being triggered by the the daily news—you know, like the unwaveringly bigoted nature of certain individuals in power and the creation of internment camps for children—politics has finally lifted my spirits this week. This week, I might even say I feel happier and more hopeful.
On Thursday, a wonderful thing happened in the American government when more women—particularly women of color—took their seats in the House of Representatives than ever before. For one, a new beacon of sanity and good judgment arrived on Capitol Hill when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to ever be sworn into Congress, took the oath of office. She wore suffragette white for the occasion. With her presence on Capitol Hill, Republican men—who have been continually trying to chip away at women’s rights and freedom—presumably shook with fear (and reportedly booed like children).
Another glimmer of change in Washington also marked what I can only hope Mike Pence will remember as one of the worst days in his political career. As a man who has built that career while restricting the rights of the LGBT community and women, I thoroughly enjoyed watching him swear in Kyrsten Sinema, who is not only a woman but also the first openly bisexual senator in U.S. history. In lieu of the Bible, Sinema put her hand over a copy of the Constitution as she recited her oath.
I derived further bliss on Thursday as I watched the first Native American women elected to Congress, Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, at their respective swearing in ceremonies. And in a time when domestic politics seem to be overrun by Islamophobia, it was a pleasure to see two Muslim women, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, take their place in the chamber. And it didn’t stop there: Ayanna Pressley and Jahana Hayes are now the first black women representatives from Massachusetts and Connecticut, respectively.
Their presence in Congress is about more than just tallying the number of women making decisions about women’s bodies. Yes, the influx of women leaders ensures new legislation created by women with women in mind, but the new class is far from shortsighted. Ocasio-Cortez, for example, has been pushing for a Green New Deal, which aims to reverse damage done to the environment. Tlaib offers another strong voice supporting the establishment of universal healthcare and the abolition of ICE. Finally, instead of putting all my energy into opposing the current presidential administration, I have something tangible to root for.
It feels as if for the first time since the cataclysmic election of 2016 that things are finally looking up (even if ever so slightly) on Capitol Hill. And reminder: Only when we turn out to vote does real change happen.
In case you need to brush up on the state of affairs, this why the 2018 midterm elections were so historic and proof that people are seeking change for the better.
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