This post was guest-written by Eleanor Lopatto ’17
“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” – Donald Trump, Feb. 1, 2016
I took driver’s ed during the summer before high school along with about a hundred other Iowa teenagers. Once a week I had driving practice, during which a teacher put me in control of a powerful machine containing a classmate who had no choice but to trust me with their life. All of us were able to get our learning permits at 14 – a remnant of a time when most children in Iowa would have been proficient drivers by that age anyway, having needed to operate heavy machinery on their families’ farms. One day the instructor guided me through driving on the interstate for the first time. We took an exit ramp onto an empty rural highway, and I found myself driving the only vehicle on a completely straight, flat, and deserted stretch of road. “Okay,” he said. “Want to try something fun? Pick up speed.” I cautiously pressed on the accelerator as he edged me on, and soon we were breaking 70 mph. Then, with no warning, he pulled the emergency brake.
I felt a similar whiplash when I first saw that Donald Trump was the projected winner of the presidential election. For the past four years, I felt like our society had been moving in leaps and bounds in the right direction. After waking up on Wednesday morning and confirming the election results, I sobbed for hours. I haven’t been home since June, and I had been longing for the comfort of my friends and family in Iowa. That morning, I was no longer sure that I would be welcomed there. I was presented with data that proved how prejudiced and hateful my fellow Midwesterners can be. As someone who is female-identifying, queer, and disabled, as someone whose experiences of sexual harassment are still seared into my mind – I no longer felt safe in the place where I was born.