I went to bed Tuesday night, like much of America, in a state of disbelief.
Donald Trump was not my candidate (neither was Hillary Clinton), but he had become our president-elect.
It felt surreal. I felt powerless.
I wondered how the years ahead would look.
But I awoke Wednesday morning, my husband next to me, our infant daughter murmuring softly at our bedside, our toddler soundly sleeping in the next room.
I looked out the front door and down the quiet street and had a thought: This is what matters.
This is what I can control. This is my America.
My Facebook feed that morning was a perpetual stream of despair, with one friend after another posting a dirge for the death of our nation.
A longtime friend lamented that her sons would not have Hillary Clinton to model what a strong woman should be.
All I could think was, shouldn’t you be that woman?
Another friend assailed those who voted for a third-party candidate.
“This is on you,” she wrote.
As if ceding authority over one’s conscience were somehow the American thing to do.
The melodrama was understandable in the aftermath of a stunning election result, but I found the undercurrent troubling for this reason: We as Americans are far too invested in whom we select as our leader.
If that sounds strange, bear with me.
The president was never meant to possess unilateral power.
Authority was not meant to be concentrated at the top but dispersed to the states, the communities, the people.
The presidency has become too powerful, and that’s why Tuesday’s election has caused so much alarm.
When a candidate we dislike, disagree with or we believe to be unqualified is elected, we should not feel the collapse of our nation is nigh.
Indeed, our unique form of democracy was designed to guard against that very result.
But over the years, we have become too dependent on the federal government, not just in a material, entitlement and financial sense, but an emotional and intellectual one.
We have ceded too much authority to Washington, not only over how we live, but what we believe.
As much as Americans claim to hate Washington, it’s where we look for answers when we should be turning to our neighbors and communities.
Some Americans have taken to the streets, protesting the result of Tuesday’s election.
Others are seeking to leave the U.S. — Canada’s immigration website crashed Tuesday night.
But neither of these responses is fruitful.
If the election of Donald Trump makes you feel powerless, it’s because you have allowed it to.
You needn’t look beyond your front door to find opportunities to restore your own sense of sovereignty over your life.
Go to a city council meeting, a school board meeting.
Vote, not just in federal and state elections but in local ones — the ones where the candidates are your neighbors, people you can actually come to know and trust.
Volunteer. Run for local office.
After all, that is where the decisions that most affect your day-to-day life should be made.
Our Founders knew the smallest building block of society is the family.
Let’s not forget, that is where our real power lies.
America begins within our families and grows outward; it doesn’t trickle down from the top.
Be an example to your children by helping people, doing good, getting involved in what happens around you.
No matter who is in the White House, what happens in your house is what should have the greatest impact on your children.
Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org