My best friend believes that Hillary Clinton will win the Presidential election and is concerned about how I may react if that doesn’t happen, and Donald Trump pulls the upset. My friend believes his job is to adapt to either outcome and is thoroughly prepared to do so. Up until this point, I have not allowed myself to visualize a Trump presidency for several reasons. Initially, I didn’t believe Trump actually wanted to be the President and had entered the race because he was bored and looking for a new way to augment his brand. Taking him seriously, considering his odds of actually winning the nomination, felt like a waste of time and energy that early in the election cycle.
In an attempt to repair my mental health, after years of external traumas and the oft ensuing self-sabotage, I meditate upon positive outcomes. I know it is not pragmatic to ignore needed backup plans, but I have rid myself of anxiety-inducing, worst-case scenario thinking.
When I begin to ponder a Trump Presidency, I crumble. It feels as if everything I have dedicated my life to accomplishing could be destroyed in one day. My fight for equality feels synergistic with Hillary Clinton’s platform; Trump’s feels like an all-out assault on my soul.
Some argue it does not matter who the President is, because we will not be directly impacted by most of their decisions. As an Iraq war veteran, I have very real, first-hand experience that one President’s decision can change the course of your life with everlasting consequences.
I adapted to President Bush. Prior to participating in the Iraq invasion, I adapted to my abusive father; I adapted to a religion that declared me inferior because of my gender; I adapted to an environment at West Point that made me feel the need to apologize for being a woman; I adapted to a glory-hungry male-dominated Army chain of command that put my life in unnecessary danger, and as a civilian I adapted to a corporate environment that undermined me because I am a woman.
The consequences of constantly adapting and attempting to thrive in these hostile environments have nearly killed me. Because of my experiences, it is easy for me to imagine others with similar experiences suffering comparable detrimental consequences. I believe our country is in a serious struggle with an old patriarchal model that is succumbing, albeit reluctantly, to equality, and society will deteriorate until equality can be achieved peacefully.
I have run out of adaptability bandwidth. I simply cannot adapt to a presidential candidate that bodes to keep minorities suppressed and has repeatedly used others for both economic gain and sexual gratification.
I am a civilian now, so I cannot be shipped off to war again, but I fear that Donald Trump Presidency would encourage discrimination at every echelon, damaging the progress that has ensued during the Obama administration, to include the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” marriage equality and the military opening all positions to women. I also believe that Trump’s “leadership” would make it feel nearly impossible for women to work in fields dominated by men.
I am trying to exterminate the notion of “a man’s world” with my War Virgin platform. The timing of my platform’s launch is ideal, and Donald Trump is a prime example of why women and men alike need to speak out against our patriarchal society. Yet I am terrified that his presidency would cause many allies to lose their will to fight.
My default coping mechanism in the past was to simply shut down. This is no longer an option for me. My life depends on me facing my challenges realistically and completely.
I assume there are many others with similar sentiments, and in the worst case scenario, we need to unite, support and encourage each other to keep fighting, and look to improve the future. A Trump presidency would make this even more crucial.
I still believe that Trump does not actually want to be President, but he refuses to accept defeat. Along that same line of thinking, I implore everyone to stop accepting injustices. And if you think everything is ok, and that I am dramatizing how serious of a quagmire we are in because of inequality, I encourage you to watch this speech I gave for International Women’s Day, on March 10, 2016.
Please help me to keep fighting. Hopefully on November 9th, this article become moot.
Laura Westley is a West Point graduate, combat veteran, author, playwright, performer and veteran mental health advocate. Her memoir, War Virgin, is now available on Amazon, and her War Virgin show is currently touring the East Coast. For more information, please visit www.warvirgin.com.