I’ve eaten a lot of tacos and drank a lot of mezcal over the past few days to help fill the election-sized sinkhole in my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with friends and family. The feeling of going to sleep in tears, waking up in tears, and digesting the reality of the exit polls was a very specific flavor of helplessness and fear and grief. I’m sure 1 in 3 American women in college know what I’m talking about. I’m sure Muslim-Americans and LGBTQ Americans and non-white Americans know what I’m talking about. The visceral pain and danger facing millions of my countrymen and women is very real.
Election Day happened one week after my move to Mexico. For context, I’m a white, blue-eyed woman who doesn’t speak Spanish yet — I stick out like a sore thumb. Mexicans have no reason to accept me to Guadalajara and yet I’ve been welcomed so heartily. I lived in Italy in 2011 and was in Rome when Prime Minister Berlusconi left office, but this is my first election outside the U.S. In the past two days, I’ve learned some real lessons that we as Americans can take to heart to help navigate our uncertain future and better embody the promise of our country.
The ability to look, listen, and feel leads to common ground. Mexicans have been very understanding of the Trump result because they feel similarly about President Peña Nieto, who was elected with 39 percent of the vote. Myself and other American colleagues were met both with empathy and a tough love, “been there, done that” attitude.
One of the best reassurances I received was, “Americans aren’t like anyone else. You see something, say ‘I’m going to do this’ without knowing what you’re doing, and still find a way to get it done.” This is something I am most proud of about my fellow Americans, and I am happy that is part of our reputation.
It’s clear that optimism and grit are our calling cards as a nation. Our country’s foundational principles are based on great ideas that we recognized in others and wanted to build upon. It’s time to consider how that applies to us in the present day, and how it informs the future we want.
Watching leaders like Secretary Hillary Clinton accept defeat with poise and aplomb, President Barack Obama remind us of the ultimate beauty of American democracy, and Vice President Joe Biden for his steady support helped me recognize that there is always more work to do.
It’s the firefighters reaching across the border to collaborate on a shared goal. It’s the women in tech who are excited about new possibilities and it’s the giddiness about taco trucks on every corner. For me, the important task ahead is to build a better community among hard working optimists and collaborate with those generating opportunities for shared success in North America. There is a bond between the U.S. and Mexico that goes beyond the White House. We have it pretty good, and I am grateful for the strength and industriousness we share with Canada and Mexico as we tackle what lies ahead.