Opinion

My Picture Went Viral After Hillary Clinton's Defeat. Here's How I’m Channeling My Grief

It’s been several days now and I still cannot untangle and categorize the rest of the emotions I wore on my face that night.

Supporters of U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react at her election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016.
Lucas Jackson, Reuters

My name is Jaime Nabrynski and you may recognize me as “the crying girl” at Hillary Clinton’s election party at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Multiple photos and videos were taken of me sobbing that night, used by media outlets all over the world the morning after the election. Since news of Donald Trump’s victory officially broke, I’ve received dozens of texts, emails and Facebook messages from devastated friends, family and strangers alike, letting me know that my tears in those photos represented what they too were feeling that night. The photos capture so much, but the words to describe those feelings we share? I don’t know if I have all of those yet.

A bit about me: I’m a 29-year-old Caucasian female residing in Brooklyn, NY. I smoke marijuana with my parents. I’ve dated women. I’ve never had an abortion, but I’ve depended on Planned Parenthood on multiple occasions. I believe our environment is doomed. I believe every single immigrant that calls the United States home should damn well be allowed to stay here, no matter what other people of their same skin color or religion may have done.

I was at the Javits Center to celebrate not just the election of our first female president, but her progressive promises, comfortably surrounded by my fellow excited liberals. I snuck into the special upper-level section where I stood arm-in-arm with my coworkers in front of the podium where Clinton would make her acceptance speech at the end of the night. Securing that great spot beside the podium would be my last smile of the night.

It was after 11:00 P.M. EST that Trump was announced the projected winner of Iowa, among other battleground states. With Trump holding an electoral lead of 228-209 over Clinton, the mood at the Javits Center began to plummet. Though there were many hopeful people surrounding me staying positive as the race was far from technically over, something knocked the wind out of me and I erupted with tears.

It was an immediate and visceral reaction to a Trump presidency as its reality began to coagulate right before my eyes: What if I need a abortion in the future but Roe v. Wade has been overturned? What if he really bans Muslims? What if one of his biggest champions, David Duke, revitalizes the KKK? What if he pulls the trigger on those nuclear bombs? That is pure terror in my eyes.

As it became increasingly apparent that Trump was going to become the 45th president of the United States, the faster the camera shutters were going off all around us. A network television station approached me for an interview on my opinion of the night, but it never aired: They pointed the lens on my face but I was a deer in headlights. I couldn’t form a complete sentence – I babbled, I choked. I was in shock.

It’s been several days now and I still cannot untangle and categorize the rest of the emotions I wore on my face that night:

I am sick with guilt for not seeing this coming. Did I do everything in my power to prevent this outcome? Does my power not lie in the fact that I’m a good person with an incredibly large heart and open mind? If that’s true, I certainly squandered it by being one of the many liberals comfortably dismissing the loudest of the Trump supporters as crazy bigots instead of seriously considering the silent majority.

I’ve woken up each morning since sick to my stomach after re-reading Trump’s 100-day plan. There is nothing anyone can say that would have reversed my vote.

But the only way I can continue to get out of bed is to believe that there is a difference between those desperate for a change from the broken system and those that mean “deport all of the immigrants” when they say they want to “take America back”.

At this time, I’m incredibly ashamed of this empathy I posses. But it’s also what makes me more human than anyone that voted for Trump, that I can say with delirious certainty.

Where exactly do I stand and what in God’s name are we supposed to do?  

There are things that I just don’t know:

Is America Already Great? Or was America Never Great?

Do I pour hatred and blame on white supremacists and poor Middle America after they screwed our entire country? And can I do that while simultaneously harboring a shred of compassion for the desperate that felt no other option than to put their faith in a sexual predator/reality TV star?

Am I supposed to be mad at Gary Johnson for stealing Hillary’s votes in Florida? Or at Hillary for not being Bernie Sanders?

At the protest in New York I marched in on the night after the election, was I supposed to reject our democratic system and chant “Fuck The Electoral College!” or focus on rejecting Trump and his values by chanting “Fuck Your Wall!”

Do I wait four years before bringing a child into this mess? Eight years? Or do I make sure I procreate ASAP so that he/she can grow up to be another loving member of society to combat the hatred?

And things that I do know:

America is my home, I’m not going anywhere. Jokes aside, I hope the rest of you don’t move to Canada either. We have so much to fight for.

I don’t know how to hate. They forgot that ingredient when they made me. I have more effective weapons in my arsenal.

I will continue to support politicians that I believe in, and will make a more concerted effort to engage in discussion, as painful as it is, with people that I don’t agree with, instead of shutting them out.

I will continue to protest! And to donate frequently to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and other organizations I fiercely stand with.

Where do we go from here? I don’t know. And that's why my face says more right now than my words ever could.

But instead of continuing to cry, I’ll make a pledge to challenge every Trump supporter I come across to answer me: Why? Why did you vote for Trump? And if you are his supporter but one that does not condone the hate and the bigotry he built his campaign on, then I beg of you, with every tear I left on the Javits Center floor, to please speak up, act up and prove that to the rest of the world.