For you it is November 9th, 2016. Despite all odds, Donald Trump is president. Mike Pence, governor of your home state of Indiana, is his VP.
You are 17 right now. You were born into a world run by George W. Bush. You spent your whole childhood hearing your parents yelling at the tv, angry at the Texas governor in the White House.
You grew up in Obamanation. You saw months of “YES WE CAN” and “CHANGE” stickers going up, and a magnet your family still has get put onto your refrigerator. You heard your mother’s sigh of relief when Barack Obama was announced the 44th president. That was half your lifetime ago.
You spent the last year following the campaigns. You were not surprised by Hillary Clinton running again. You “felt the Bern” of the somewhat radical Independent candidate previously unknown to you, Bernie Sanders. You laughed off the wild reality tv star Donald Trump’s campaign.
Months went by. Bernie and Hillary were fighting hard leading up to the primaries. Republicans slowly started to drop out. Big names like Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Chris Christie left the race. Bernie didn’t do good enough in the primaries, which was upsetting to most of your friends, your older brother, and your mom, who all voted for him. Ted Cruz fell off, defeated, in May.
It was down to Hillary and Trump.
You followed the comments made at their rallies. On their social media. You heard a lecture about the election from Josh Gillin of Politifact at Indiana University over the summer. You won an award for an opinion piece you wrote on Trump. As the election day grew closer, you watched every presidential debate. You analyzed them in class.
Last night, you stayed up until 4 A.M. to see the results of this election. You sat through excruciatingly slow interviews, political analysis, and different predictions. You couldn’t turn away from the blue and red maps, the aggressively American backgrounds, the anxious masses.
The tired tv hosts were right, it was a nail-biter.
As Trump gave his victory speech, you wept.
You wept for the months you spent wishing this wouldn’t happen. You wept for the 1920’s suffragettes, for the descendents of MLK and Cesar Chavez, for the Orlando victims. You wept for me. The people I joined. The people who will join me.
I am dead.
You learned in your final moments that homophobes look like normal people. They are not all rednecks with beer guts wearing ten-gallon hats. They are more elusive than that. They can be dressed smart. They can have friendly voices. Familiar names and faces.
A friend of a friend of a friend of a friend killed you. Someone you live near. You might have passed them in a car. In the mall. In the school hallways. It was someone that people you knew, knew. You probably could’ve gotten their Twitter handle if you had heard their name before.
You were killed in a city that VP Pence had once stood in.
People tried to learn about your killer. Were they someone you knew? Someone who just went crazy? Someone who couldn’t handle who you held hands with?
You were too young, the local news anchors said. Your school administration said. Your mom said.
Mike Pence didn’t say anything at all.
Your friends didn’t say much. They cried. They withdrew. They wore baggier clothes. They bought switchblades. They washed “*****” and “ladyboy” off of your tombstone. They wondered about joining you, voluntarily and not.
The school newspaper’s headline: DEAD AT 17.
No one thought it would happen to you, except you. You stayed up late at night, imagining your funeral. The first thing you did in the morning was practice for your wake. Every time you left your house, you were a dead man walking.
No one believed this more than you did.
The news anchors said it was just one of a string of murders. People said it was an isolated incident. Your friends said it was a hate crime. Your mom said it was the worst thing that ever happened to her.
There was no question that you were gone, even when they found you- chest jumping. There was only one thing to wonder: who was next?
Not an if, but a when.
I hope the when is never.
All my love- to you and everyone else,