“What if Beyonce was President.”

“No wait, what if Oprah was President.”

“No…I have a better one, WHAT IF DONALD TRUMP was President!” and we devolved into laughter.

I remember this exchange with a few friends in Middle School – joking around, each of us with a more outlandish fiction on who we thought could never be President. Ten years later I watched the returns in horror as Donald J. Trump in fact, became the 45th President of the United States. The child who understood how ridiculous it would be to have a TV personality (amongst a myriad of other, worse things) be President, now wondered as an adult how this could possibly happen.

Throughout my life I’ve never been particularly “proud” to be an American. The American deck remains stacked against me due to my race, gender, and sexual orientation. The only true benefit is my passport. American citizenship makes travel around the world, easy. Since I speak a few different languages, I don’t claim my citizenship, and I can pretend successfully that I am from anywhere BUT America. In fact, when I travel, I often distance myself from ‘my fellow Americans’. 

The American deck remains stacked against me due to my race, gender, and sexual orientation.

I’m now four years deep into embarrassment that our nation chose this man to represent us as the ‘leader of the free world’. In many conversations with friends around the globe,  beyond the usual questions, they also laughed. Because they saw what I’d comprehended as a child – a joke of a man running our country.

During our 2020 election season I avoided the news, and even dodged political conversation when possible. I hoped, prayed, and sent positive vibes into the universe for my thoughts around the best possible option, but I held little hope.

Through the last four years, as issues of race, class, representation, police brutality, pandemic and more boiled over, I grew ever more disgusted with the 2016 results. And to my horror, as 2020 approached, it looked as though my fellow millennials and the Gen Z crowd were not interested in making their voices heard. These issues that Americans prefer to sweep under the rug (or pretend don’t exist anymore since Barack Obama was president), were more out of control than perhaps ever before, though few would admit it. So I feared and believed we would again make a huge mistake. Gripped to the edge of my seat, I watched the election results for days. I think at times I forgot to breathe watching the returns and states go blue or red.

Finally the day came when beautiful words flashed across the screen, “Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States.” WOW. What a moment. I cannot capture the feeling, but for the first time in days I took a deep breath and felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. Not only would Joe Biden be the next president, but Kamala Harris would be the first woman and person of color to hold that office. WOW.

I won’t say things are better – there remains a lot of work to do. However I do now have hope moving forward. I have some restored faith in the American people, faith in the possibility of change, and dreams for growth.

Not to mention, for the first time in a LONG time, I am proud to be an American.