Finding reason for hope in a wrong-way election

A lot of people are feeling a lot of things given the results of the American election – and I am one of them.

I was absolutely caught off guard by the results. I truly believed this was the year we would see the first female president. And as a sometimes overly optimistic person, I didn’t even mentally prepare myself for the alternative.

I followed the election a lot closer than I had intended to. (I think a lot of us did.)

Like so many people, Hillary Clinton has been in the background of my life for many years. I recall the 1998 scandal (even though at the time I was not old enough to understand it). When Hillary ran for president the first time in 2008, I was a waitress and followed much of the coverage on the TVs above the bar where I worked, biting my tongue every time a customer or coworker made a sexist remark. You could say my feelings towards her were on the positive side of neutral, but grew stronger over time. I know she is a controversial figure for many reasons, but I came to see her progression and her challenges as something inspiring and close to my heart. (Call me sentimental.)

For much of my life, I grew up thinking there could never be a woman president – not in my lifetime anyway. In high school, my male friends insisted upon this and made sure that I knew it. I was too embarrassed to fight them; I knew I would become emotional out of frustration and merely prove their point. As a waitress, my male coworkers often joked about a woman’s place as in the kitchen. To them, just a joke, but to me it was much more than that.

It’s jarring to think Clinton’s own mother was born into a world where women did not have the right to vote, yet she lived to see her daughter run for president in 2008. So many people’s mothers and grandmothers have seen the world slowly become more inclusive of them. My own mother and her sisters immigrated to Canada in the 1960’s specifically to pursue an education—something they likely wouldn’t have been afforded had they stayed where they were. Their grandfather insisted they come to North America, where they would have an opportunity to carve out lives for themselves, instead of being folded into someone else’s.

And although Clinton’s loss this time around hurt more than it did in 2008, when she lost the Democratic nomination, I find hope in a world that is changing. And one that demands change. In her concession speech, she said, “We have still not yet shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will – and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”

This sentiment has been echoed elsewhere on social media, and also, in a surprisingly inspiring message by Seth Meyers on Late Night with Seth Meyers. He expressed his sympathy for parents who had to explain the result of the election to their children:

“A lot them, like me, probably thought Hillary would be our first woman president. But she won’t be. … But that does mean that someone’s daughter is out there right now who will one day have that title. … The fact is, we don’t know who you are, but I imagine this moment today will be a defining one for you. One that will make you work harder and strive further, and whoever you are, I hope I live to see your inauguration.”

It’s true this particular glass ceiling has not yet been shattered. The results prove that.

But this does not mean we should become bitter and discouraged. If anything, I am deeply moved by the mix of hope and sadness expressed by so many. It means people were ready for a female leader, and ready in a way the world simply hadn’t been before.

Let us not forget she was on the ticket.

And let us not forget how far we’ve come in just a few generations.

I don’t know what the coming months and years will look like for our southern neighbours. And I know people are feeling a lot of things right now: fear, anxiety, anger, grief, frustration, bitterness.

But in that Pandora’s Box of negative emotions, I know there is hope. I’ve seen it. In the face of great uncertainty, there can still be strength. There can still be love. Now is the time when these things are needed most.

And if the collective sadness over Clinton’s loss has shown me anything, it’s that we are in a world with the capacity for hope, strength and love.

Tracy de Boer, a PhD student in Philosophy, is a member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy. She is passionate about the ways philosophy can help us to think about and improve our everyday lives.