You have every right to feel the way you do, it's your right. You have every right to feel fearful, unsure, and confused, angry. I've felt that way for over 500 days, experiencing all of the same feelings that you are so suddenly feeling today.
Prior to today you were fulll of hope, courage, surety. Prior to today you were certain of your future, and this morning you woke up feeling devastated. You held a light that you believed in, and you held it high. You held strong to your beliefs for months upon months, in the very same way that I did. I held back my opinions publicly, because I knew it would only create a gap in our friendship, were I ever brazen enough to speak my voice to you. I held back in my public opinions because I understood clearly that my beliefs and opinions and feelings could not be wavered by your very strong voice, and losing your friendship or love, wouldn't have been worth it to me to make my voice as loud as yours, even though it was my right to do so. I stayed quiet for the sake of argument, while holding steady and strong to my beliefs, my feelings and opinions. They were mine, yours were yours. And while I quietly and respectfully listened to your opinions and beliefs, I was careful to applaud you for your courage in speaking out, while you encouraged me, and even thanked me, for staying neutral, while you spoke softly in your negation of my beliefs and opinions, while you negated anything that I believed in. I appreciated you for all that you are, and I hoped that you would still appreciate me for all that I am.
I, out of respect for you, stayed more quiet than I should have. Engaged with my fellow man less than I should have. Spoke my voice less than I should have. In the beginning, when I still believed that two people could have differing opinions and debate maturely and healthily, I didn't deflate when you ridiculed me for my side of the argument, I didn't deflate when you loudly expressed your hate for my own opinions, beliefs and feelings. But the beginning of my awareness that only your opinions mattered, that only your feelings were justified, that only your beliefs were to be heard; did in fact quiet my voice, because I love you, and I appreciate you.
But you did not change me, in fact you gave me other perspectives to look at, which I humbly did. Some of your perspectives helped develop in me a greater understanding and appreciation for your beliefs, opinions and feelings, and in doing so, some of my thoughts on many things you felt so strongly about, were postively changed in my heart forever. I thank you for that. I thank you for the opportunity to have been allowed to see and appreciate the world through your eyes.
And now this morning, as I continue to respect your unwavering emotions, as I continue to truly love you no matter the outcome; I am fully aware that my quiet voice left unspoken, is the same voice held by many. It is the same voice that was finally heard, as quiet as it was. It is the same voice that produced an outcome that you didn't think could ever happen. It is the same voice that, though silent in audio, stayed strong to who I am when I walked into that voting booth yesterday, and filled in with the provided pen, the little circles that allowed my voice to be heard. I didn't know what the outcome would be when I placed my vote in that ominous grey machine, I only knew that no matter the outcome, that my voice, in the shape of little, carefully colored in ovals, was finally going to be heard.
In the early morning hours of a Country desperately in need of repair, I became elated, I became encouraged, and I celebrated and I laughed and I cried. I fell asleep with the kind of ease and hope that I had not felt for years. When I awoke to a new sun rising up above the horizon, relishing in the hopefulness that I had fallen asleep feeling, my elation was quietly replaced with sadness.
Sadness in my acute awareness that you wanted to deflate my rightful, God given, and even Government given chance at a new beginning, the moment I turned on the news. Sadness and utter awe that you didn't just want to voice your despair, you wanted to take away my chance at a feeling of celebration and happiness. You wanted to shut down my voice that was filled with elation the moment that my voice was finally heard. You wanted to accuse me of not loving my lgbt neighbors, employee, loved ones, or Muslim employee who, though thousands of miles away, had become like family to me over the years. You wanted to accuse me of hating my very black, and very good friend who is part of my family, who is my brother. You wanted to tell me that my Latino best friend of 20+ years no longer mattered to me. You made valiant attempts in accusing me, who is very much a woman, of not supporting my fellow and very strong women. You wanted to tell me that I just crushed the joy of my very gay, and very best friend (that I love with all of my heart and soul.) You wanted to explain to me how I, a solid Christian who loves her God with every piece of her being, just brought evil into this world.
You were loud this morning, as you towered over me in your own rhetoric of responses to the outcome that this great Nation voted on.
You were taller than me when you voiced your disbelief and hate towards my decision. But you did not take the wind out of my sails, you did not take away my beliefs, opinions and feelings; because today my voice was finally heard, and today my voice was loud, and even though you have turned your face from mine, sure in your belief that my decision has killed my already dying America; I still love you, and I still respect you. I will not rain on your right to your feelings of despair and fear, because I am all too aware that had the tables been turned, I would be the one experiencing those very feelings of fear and despair. But know this, had it been my voice not heard today, I would not have tried to take away your right to celebrate, or to deflate your happiness, or your hope. I would not have accused you of hating your fellow man. I would however, have shaken your hand and congratulated you on a battle well fought, and on a battle won.
But the tables turned in another direction this go 'round, and my voice was heard today, my turn at salvaging America, was given to me today, my opinions and beliefs and feelings were finally allowed to ring true for me today. And one thing rings clear and loud and true this morning, as I sit here quietly celebrating my turn; That I do have a voice, and this isn't just your America, she is my America, too.
Amanda Smith, Wyoming Photographer of the American West.